Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference – Research and Technical Studies Session, May 17th – “Ensuring Maximum Impact for Conservation Science” by Marie-Claude Corbeil

Right off the bat, Dr. Corbeil noted that the title of the talk should probably be a question rather than a statement, because nobody has all of the answers, and this talk was not going to be a definitive guide to conservation science. She noted that conservation science still has some issues – it can be very expensive to complete scientific research projects, and thus there is a reliance on government funding, which can be fickle in a number of ways. Through these challenges, Dr. Corbeil’s aim was to show how the CCI operates, raise questions about the efficiency of the approach, and understand how best to ensure maximum impact for conservation science.
The CCI has three main categories of work: research and development, expert services, and knowledge sharing, all of which are interconnected, and which relate to the community that CCI serves. Dr. Corbeil spoke specifically about a number of examples of this work, including dripping paint on works by Alfred Pellan; authentification of works by Jean Paul Riopelle in conjunction with the Getty; fading paint on Rothko murals; and various pesticide surveys of textiles.
Of these cases, the Rothko question had interesting implications. With the Rothko, the institution asked for the analysis to be completed, and result showed the presence of a fugitive pigment. A monitoring program was enacted in response to this. Dr. Corbeil mused on a few topics – was the analysis really necessary, given that many Rothko works have these fugitive pigments? Would the exhibition decision have been different without analysis? Is the monitoring necessary, given that degradation of these fugitive pigments is inevitable?
The pesticide surveys also brought up an interesting chain of discussion, involving the repetition of analysis for different clients. If enough data has already been collected to generate guidelines and predict the results of surveys, is it necessary to continue to analyze separate collections? Dr. Corbeil noted that it has been an inescapable fact that people want to test their own collections, even if previous applicable results are available. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it also points to the idea that services rendered for one client may be broadly applicable, and that dissemination of results will always be significant.
Dr. Corbeil concluded that the key elements for success involve choosing the right research question, engaging in collaboration, transparency in methodology, and effective dissemination. Within this context, one of her previous statements resonated with me – she stated that results are disseminated “in the traditional way” at CCI. I wonder if there is a benefit to looking into non-traditional routes for the sharing of knowledge, since that is one of the areas Dr. Corbeil indicated was most important for the success of conservation science? I look forward to future discussion of this topic, and the bright future of conservation science as a whole. Keep up the great work, CCI!