42nd Annual Meeting – Opening Session, May 29, "Social Participation as a Way for Sustainable Projects in Conservation of Worshiping Objects: The Case of Current Mayan Communities in Yucatán, Mexico" by Giovana Jaspersen

The involvement of source communities and practices that allow conservation to be sustainable within communities are hot topics in conservation right now, and Giovana Jaspersen presented a very interesting case study that covered both of these topics in the Opening Session of the AIC Annual Meeting 2014. She discussed the ways in which her team engages with Mexican communities, spaces where religion is a center of social life, and objects of worship are in frequent use.
The objects themselves were beautifully painted sculptures, which would be paraded around and put on display within the religious community. Jaspersen noted that previous restorations had been undertaken on some objects, using non-conservation friendly materials, such as automotive paint, which apparently imparts a high gloss that is seen as desirable.
She noted some significant problems in approaching these communities about the conservation of their objects, the most important being the challenges of communication. Other questions included ongoing conservation – how do you ensure preservation after the conservator has left the community?
Using a number of different approaches, from initial immersion to assistance and then intervention, she was able to develop a methodology which utilized a number of different media to engage and teach the community – lectures, plays and skits, brochures, and involvement of children in the community.
A number of themes seen in this talk were repeated in other talks and discussions, and are really important things for all conservators to consider. Reaching out to children is a great way to ensure that the conservation profession is sustained in the future, and engaging with conservation students ensures that the message about community involvement is spread among professionals.
Overall I really enjoyed this talk, and I think the most important takeaway was the statement that our profession is not just about material conservation, but sociocultural conservation. The only way we can achieve that is by projects such as this one!