Throughout 2014, FAIC has been investigating the digital landscape of our profession to chart and better define its features and complexity at present, and to develop a forecast of its future development. With this research, FAIC is evaluating digital resources as they are currently used in our field, as well as what we as conservators need from future digital tools, software, or networks. To date, this research has taken the form of a survey of online resources and series of live meetings.
FAIC wants to hear from you via our online forum to discuss the current and potential uses, strengths, and challenges of digital tools. This loosely moderated discussion is open to both AIC members and non-members.
Our initial set of discussion topics include:
– Do you use any collaboration software (e.g. Basecamp, GoToMeeting, etc.) within your institution or for joint projects with other institutions/professionals? Which do you prefer? What are the short-comings?
– What is your greatest concern in using digital or online resources?
– What forms of digital documentation and/or data instrumentation do you use in your practice? Which are must useful/problematic?
– What are your favorite programs/apps for conservation documentation and why?
Please join our discussion of invited peers and conservation professionals and help FAIC to evaluate and understand our digital environment. For questions or to suggest a topic, email the FAIC Digital Landscape Project Assistant, Ayesha Fuentes, ayesha.fuentes[at]gmail[dot]com
In order to address some remaining questions from the recent webinar ‘Beyond the Prerequisites: Preparing for Graduate Education in Art Conservation’, ECPN asked our five presenters (Peggy Ellis from NYU, Ellen Pearlstein from UCLA/Getty, Debbie Hess Norris of Winterthur/Univ. of DE, James Hamm of Buffalo State, and Rosaleen HIll from Queen’s) to reply to our audience. Their individual responses have been summarized below. If you have any additional questions or concerns on our webinar topic, remember that you can always contact individual programs or reach out via ECPN officers and our Facebook page.
The recorded webinar is available at http://youtu.be/Rfc-l4iZHAs.
1. If an applicant who has exceeded the required amount of experience takes a break from conservation internships to pursue other academic/artistic endeavors, how will it affect her/his application?
All five respondents reply that because conservation is a multi-faceted field with an interdisciplinary focus, work in other fields is highly encouraged. The development of academic, artistic, research, or other skills is an asset and often helps an applicant if her/his interests can be connected to a topic within conservation. Additional fields of study or experience could be chemistry, biochemistry, art history, anthropology, studio arts, museum studies, environmental science, collections management, or any other number of related fields. Furthermore, one respondent notes that: “Each person’s life path is unique. What appears to be ‘taking a break’ may, in retrospect, be the absolute best possible path to a successful career in art conservation (or something else!).”
2. If an internship with a conservator is not available in my area, are there other kinds of experience that are desirable?
While conservation experience is an important, if not always mandatory, part of one’s pre-program work, our webinar presenters suggested several ways to become involved with conservation and broaden an applicant’s knowledge of collections management and preventive care. These include working with a registrar or archivist; working at smaller and/or local institutions like archives, libraries, or historical societies and museums; gaining laboratory and handling skills by volunteering to process archaeological finds or mount samples for scientific analysis, possibly at a local university; working in an art supply or framing shop. In order to keep yourself informed about the conservation field, be sure to take part in local conferences or workshops. Join AIC as a Student member and take advantage of on-line conservation courses and other resources. Finally, be sure to look into AIC’s (or CAC’s) Mentorship Program to check for local professionals who might be willing to mentor via email or Skype.
3. If someone hasn’t been successfully admitted after a few years of applying, what alternatives do you suggest s/he take to remain in the profession?
Becoming a registrar or collections care manager for an institution, gallery, or contemporary artist is a recommended career path. Other suggestions include working in arts advocacy or pursuing an advanced degree in museum studies, museum education, library sciences, archival studies, or a related field in the sciences.
4. Is it better to have a long internship experience at one institution or short periods of time at several?
Our presenters agree that there is no single answer to this question. They note that it is important to be exposed to a variety of materials and practices, and that the quality of the supervision is a key factor in gaining skills and knowledge. Short-term (e.g. once or twice/week for a few months) projects may be less successful in this respect though they may be valuable in other ways.
5. Is an applicant’s age taken into consideration?
All five programs agree that age is not a factor in admission. However one respondent adds that, at any age, ’applicants must demonstrate an openness to learning, curiosity, initiative, and a passion for the preservation of cultural heritage’.
Internships are an important part of preparing for graduate training in conservation. They are often volunteer positions and finding ways to manage the financial demands of working without monetary compensation can be a challenge. This is most often the case for pre-program interns but certainly graduate interns and even recent graduates can face similar issues.
Here are a few tips and resources for developing a strategy to address these concerns:
Of course the best way to make an internship financially viable is to be paid for your work. There are two strategies in applying for funding to cover the expense of your internship: You can apply on your own behalf, as an individual, or you can encourage an institution — such as a museum or historic site — with which you’d like to work to apply for funds to host a paid intern.
For individual grants, a good place to start can be with your undergraduate alma mater, even if you are no longer a current student. Most colleges and universities will provide information on available scholarships or grants that might be used towards funding internships as well as information on potential internship opportunities. And don’t forget to represent yourself: There are funding opportunities available specifically for women, minorities, new Americans, non-traditional students, and veterans and their families. The recently established Denese L. Easterly Conservation Training Pre-program Grant at Indigo Arts Alliance is open to individual applicants for funding for internships as well as other pre-program expenses such as additional required courses, supplies, and more.
For institutional grants, look for funding opportunities at the federal, state, regional, or county level with arts commissions or historic preservation offices. For example, the LA County Arts Commission offers funding for a 10-week internship at a ‘non-profit arts organization’. Check AIC’s ‘Grants and Scholarships’ page, especially the section on ‘Outside Funding Sources’, as some of those listed are national grants open to institutions and provide money that can be used to host an intern.
Finally, if you’re applying for a grant or scholarship, don’t forget to check out AIC’s ‘Five tips for a successful scholarship application’, also available through their ‘Grants and Scholarships’ page. Grant-writing can be an essential part of work in the non-profit world and developing this skill is always useful.
Necessities and considerations:
There are several other aspects to developing a successful strategy for supporting yourself during an internship, paid or volunteer.
Health care is essential and finding it affordably priced can be tricky. With the new health care law, people may stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, which is an advantage since family plans tend to be less expensive than those for individuals. It is possible to shop online for insurance options via sites like the federally-supported www.healthcare.gov and many states are setting up similar online marketplaces. The amount you pay will depend heavily on the type of coverage you need or want. For example, if you are generally healthy, month-to-month insurance might be a cheaper option though your co-pay and deductible will be higher. Also, if you are interning with an organization that offers health benefits to its employees, you might ask about the cost of purchasing their plan, though it is less likely to be available for volunteers.
There are potential tax benefits to being a volunteer intern and it’s important to make the most of these, especially if money is tight. Certain volunteer expenses can be deducted on your annual tax return if you are interning for a recognized non-profit or 501(c) organization. Also, don’t forget to make the most of education credits if you are a current student or if you are paying interest on student loans. Lastly, if you need free or low-cost tax help, the IRS provides several options.
Other types of financial support:
If you are below a certain annual income, you may qualify for food assistance, though eligibility varies from state to state. Likewise, some public transportation authorities offer subsidized fare passes for volunteers, low-income members of the community, and/or in partnership with certain businesses and organizations.
Based on anecdotal evidence, there is a variety of strategies and resources developed to manage a volunteer, part-time, or low-pay internship. Here are a few from the experience of others:
- Work full or part-time in a paid position simultaneous to a part-time volunteer or low-pay internship. Look for paid positions with a flexible schedule or odd hours (e.g. mornings, swing shift). When seeking opportunities, consider those beyond working in a conservation lab which might contribute to your pre-program experience, for example in a frame shop, a library, as a set builder, or painting houses. Many of these jobs give you an opportunity to develop hand skills or technical knowledge related to conservation (e.g. the use of solvents, hand tools, or collections management systems). Remember that every job is an opportunity to develop important people and communication skills.
- Supportive friends and family might be looking for ways to help. One suggestion is to request professional memberships, community college tuition, bus passes, or supplies as gifts for your birthday, graduation or at holidays.
- If possible, especially while gaining pre-program experience, live at home and work locally. If you live in a big city, it may be easier to find experience in a major museum but if you’re outside a city, try looking at local historical societies and libraries where you might volunteer. These opportunities will put you in good standing to apply to other, more specialized or even paid internships.
No doubt there are many ways to manage the financial challenge of working as a volunteer intern that haven’t been addressed or represented here. We invite you to briefly share your suggestions or experiences on how you found, cultivated, or created resources during any of your pre-program conservation internships.