ECPN spring webinar: Pathways into Conservation Science

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is pleased to announce that our next webinar “Pathways into Conservation Science” will take place on Friday, April 22nd from 12-1pm (EST).
The program will feature three speakers: Dr. Tom Learner, Head of Science at the Getty Conservation Institute; Dr. Gregory Smith, the Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art; and Dr. Robyn Hodgkins, the Charles E. Culpeper Fellow in the Scientific Research Department at the National Gallery of Art. The presenters will share their own diverse training experiences, touching on the history of education in conservation science and the current pathways into the field. ECPN hopes that the webinar will provide guidance to individuals considering careers in conservation science, current students and post-doctorates entering the field, as well as inform emerging conservators.
The format of this webinar will be Q&A style. ECPN is seeking question submissions prior to the webinar broadcast. Please submit your questions as comments to this post, or contact ECPN’s Professional Education and Training co-Officer, Elyse Driscoll at Questions will be accepted until the morning of the webinar. Selected unanswered questions may be addressed in an AIC blog post following the webinar.
This webinar is free and open to all AIC members but you must register! To register, please click here. You will receive an email with information on how to connect to the webinar shortly before April 22nd.
If you miss “Pathways into Conservation Science” or wish to watch it again later, it will be recorded and uploaded onto the AIC YouTube channel.  For a listing of past ECPN webinars, please visit our archive on AIC’s blog Conservators Converse, our Wiki page, or AIC’s YouTube channel.
About the Presenters:
Tom Learner is head of the Science Department at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI); he oversees all of the Institute’s scientific research, developing and implementing projects that advance conservation practice in the visual arts. As a GCI senior scientist from 2007 to 2013, he oversaw the Modern and Contemporary Art Research initiative, during which time he developed an international research agenda related to the conservation of modern paints, plastics, and contemporary outdoor sculpture. Before this, he served as a senior conservation scientist at Tate, London, where he developed Tate’s analytical and research strategies for modern materials and led the Modern Paints project in collaboration with the GCI and National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Dr. Learner holds a PhD in chemistry from Birkbeck College, University of London, and a diploma in the conservation of easel paintings from the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Dr. Gregory Dale Smith received a B.S. degree from Centre College of Kentucky in anthropology/sociology and chemistry before pursuing graduate studies at Duke University, where he was as a National Science Foundation graduate fellow in time-domain vibrational spectroscopy and archaeological fieldwork. He held postgraduate positions at the British Library, the V & A Museum, the National Synchrotron Light Source, and the National Gallery of Art. In 2004, Dr. Smith joined the faculty of the conservation training program at Buffalo State College as the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Conservation Science. In 2010, Dr. Smith was hired as the Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art where he established and now operates a state-of-the-art research facility to study and preserve the museum’s encyclopedic collection. Dr. Smith’s research interests include undergraduate education at the Arts-Science interface, assessing pollution off-gassing of museum construction materials, and understanding the chemical degradation of artists’ materials. Greg is a Professional Associate of the AIC and has served as an associate editor of JAIC for the past 10 years.
Dr. Robyn Hodgkins is the Charles E. Culpeper Fellow in the Scientific Research Department at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), Washington, DC. She received her PhD in Chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before starting at the NGA, Dr. Hodgkins completed a conservation science internship at Tate Britain, and conservation science fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute. Dr. Hodgkins’ interests include understanding the effect of environmental conditions and pollutants on museum objects and artists’ materials using corrosion studies and environmental monitoring, and developing methods for the identification of paint constituents.

Upcoming ECPN Webinar: Demystifying the Publishing Process in Conservation

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is pleased to announce that our next webinar “Demystifying the Publishing Process in Conservation” will take place on Thursday, November 5TH from 12-1pm (EST).
The program will feature three speakers who will share insights from their own publishing experiences: Curator/Conservator Sanchita Balachandran has published in a variety of venues; Research Scientist Michele Derrick served as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC); and Conservator Carolyn Riccardelli is AIC’s Director of Communications. The presenters will discuss a range of topics including publishing platforms, the process of writing a peer-reviewed article, collaborative writing, and funding. ECPN hopes that at the conclusion of the webinar, the prospect of publishing will seem less intimidating to conservators at all levels.
ECPN is seeking question submissions for the Q&A session following the presentation. Please submit your questions as comments to this post, or contact ECPN’s Professional Education and Training co-Officer, Elyse Driscoll at or ECPN’s Chair, Fran Ritchie at Questions will be accepted until the morning of the webinar. Unanswered questions will potentially be addressed in an AIC blog post following the webinar.
Attendance is free and open to all AIC members! Registration is required. To register, please visit will receive an email with information on how to connect to the webinar shortly before November 5th.
If you miss “Demystifying the Publishing Process in Conservation” or wish to watch it again later, it will be recorded and uploaded onto the AIC Youtube channel.  For a listing of past ECPN webinars, please visit our archive on AIC’s blog Conservators Converse, our Wiki page, or AIC’s Youtube channel.
About the Presenters:
Sanchita Balachandran
Sanchita Balachandran is the Curator/Conservator of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She teaches courses related to the technical study and analysis of ancient objects, as well as the history, ethics and practice of art conservation. She completed her graduate work in art history and art conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
Michele Derrick
Michele Derrick is the Schorr Family Associate Research Scientist at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where she has worked since 1995. She was instrumental in the development of CAMEO, an online database for information on materials used in conservation and works of art. Prior to 1995, she worked as a scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles for 12 years. A chemist by training, Michele’s expertise is in the area of infrared microspectroscopy and she is the author of Infrared Spectroscopy in Conservation Science (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1999). She was also the editor–in–chief of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation from 2002-2014.
Carolyn Riccardelli
Carolyn Riccardelli is a conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art where she is responsible for structural issues related to large-scale objects. From 2005-2014 her primary project was Tullio Lombardo’s Adam; she was the principal member of a team of conservators and scientists conducting research on adhesives and pinning materials, as well as developing innovative methods for reassembling the damaged sculpture. She is an active member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), and is currently serving on the AIC Board of Directors. Carolyn holds a B.A. in anthropology from Newcomb College, Tulane University and an M.A. from the Art Conservation Program at Buffalo State College.
Posted on behalf of Elyse Driscoll, ECPN Professional Education and Training co-Officer

Coping with Professional Rejection: Advice from Conservators in the Field; compiled by ECPN

Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN)
Coping with Professional Rejection: Advice from Conservators in the Field

The field of conservation provides opportunities for rewarding and enriching work. As in other areas of life and other competitive fields, most of us in conservation have also experienced the disappointment of rejection and can lend an empathetic ear. Internships, graduate school, fellowships, jobs, conference presentations and papers– not scoring something that you’ve been working towards can be difficult to cope with, even when you’re aware that it is a challenging goal. It may be comforting to know that even the most accomplished conservators have experienced rejection in some form; in fact, greater ambition can lead to more frequent rejection. A few of us on the ECPN board have reached out to peers and supervisors, as well as others in related fields, to hear how they’ve coped with rejection and to compile some of their advice for emerging professionals. Below are some of those anonymous responses. We plan to carry this momentum of thinking creatively about navigating opportunities in conservation and related fields into future ECPN programming, so stay tuned. Of course, much of what is reported below is subjective, so if you have further advice to offer, please comment at the end of the post and share your story.

Coping with Rejection:

When talking to supervisors, people on hiring committees, and program chairs for conferences and publications, the advice most frequently offered was to recognize that rejection is not personal. There are many, many factors that go into selection decisions that you will be unaware of when applying. For example, there may be a planned upcoming exhibit at a museum that the public does not know about. One candidate may have experience that relates to this exhibit and you do not. You have good rapport during the interview, but ultimately the other candidate is better suited to the undisclosed future needs of the lab. The upside is that the institution now knows you and perhaps will contact you in the future when another position opens (something that has actually happened to respondents).

The phrase “everything happens for a reason” can feel a little too cheerful when you’ve just received disappointing news, but for most people, there is truth in that statement. Perhaps an even better opportunity or experience will come your way! One person that we interviewed remembered the time she was declined for a prestigious summer internship. Her back-up plan for that summer turned into one of the most important projects in her early career– an opportunity that eventually led to a published paper and a fellowship. Think about times in your life when this sort of thing has happened to you, and find comfort in unknown possibilities.

Some respondents mentioned that they really wanted a job or fellowship for reasons other than the job itself (i.e. the institution, geographic location, etc.) and being turned down made them realize they would not have been a good fit in the actual position. Sometimes rejection happens to a qualified individual because their personality is not a good fit for the particular lab or institution. Some workplaces might have need for a bubbly personality to help balance out a shortage of energy around the lab. On the other hand, another conservation department is looking to add a calming presence to their space. Graduate programs are known to aim for a sense of diversity and overall harmony amongst the personalities of the students in an entering class. It’s practically impossible to anticipate the needs of the hiring manager or interview panel, so just be your authentic self and have a certain level of faith that you will end up in the right place for you. It may seem counter-intuitive, but even decisions partly based on personality aren’t personal.

There are many articles written on “not getting the job” advice through other fields. Here is a small sampling:

“10 reasons you didn’t get the job (reasons you can and cannot control)”

“6 reasons you didn’t get the job that no one told you”

“How to ask for feedback”

Seeking Feedback:

Though it may not feel like it initially, remember that rejection can be an opportunity to grow. Turn a disappointing moment into a constructive one by requesting feedback and using that information to become an even stronger applicant when you submit your next application. If the bad news is delivered over the phone, politely ask the person if it would be possible to receive feedback on why you didn’t get the job, or how you could strengthen your application for next time. If you receive a non-acceptance email, reply in a way that is professional, being careful not to burn bridges. This a small field and you are likely to meet this person again. And you never know if another job will open up in the future. Graduate programs expect to provide feedback to applicants, as do places that regularly host interns and fellows. Even if someone is not used to providing feedback, if asked nicely, they will usually respond politely. Try not to be defensive about the feedback you receive, even if it stings. Taking constructive criticism to heart will make you a stronger candidate for future interviews.

Previous ECPN webinars have addressed how to make the most of your pre-program experience, strengthen your applications, and how to self-advocate. The webinars are free to watch on the AIC YouTube channel,

Conferences and Publications:

It may not be possible to seek feedback when your abstract is not accepted for a conference or publication. Just as in a work environment, you never know what the other abstracts provide – they may be more applicable to the theme of the conference, or together develop a theme that does not include your paper. It can be helpful to try smaller conferences (like regional groups) or allied fields for presentations, and smaller publications (like newsletters or a guest spot on an established conservation blog) for written work. Even though your work was not accepted by one outlet, does not mean that it is not worthy of publication or presentation! If you are unsure where to submit next, or what to do after your abstract or paper has been turned down, ask your mentors and peers for feedback; they may have advice on other submission options or suggestions to help refine your idea.

Remembering Other Options:

When entering a small competitive field, like conservation, a savvy long term strategy is to have a “Plan B.” Thinking about career alternatives does not mean you are less dedicated to your career goals. Instead, see your “Plan B” as an alternative path to professional success, which may or may not intersect with conservation in the future. Set parameters and create a timeframe for yourself by realistically considering how much time, energy, and financial resources you want to spend on achieving your goal. It’s important to remember that the path to being a conservator is often not a straight road from an undergraduate degree and pre-program internships to graduate school and a great job. People enter conservation with a diverse range of experiences, sometimes after spending years in another field where they have developed other useful skillsets. Many conservators have shaped successful careers by making decisions and finding opportunities that were outside the path of institutional fellowships and jobs. For example, one conservator we interviewed had to move to a new city with her family. The new location did not have a conservation job available, so the conservator worked as a curator for seven years until a conservation job opened. Working as a curator helped the conservator understand how all departments in a museum work together for preservation, and ultimately this understanding made the person a better conservator and an indispensable employee.

Plan B

Preservation and collections care are not only the responsibility of conservators but are managed by professionals working in many fields. Below we have compiled a very brief list of museum departments, careers, and fields of study that are essential to the preservation of cultural heritage.

-Collections Care departments, including collection managers and registrars, play an integral role in the acquisition, safe storage, transit, and display of objects. Like conservation, professionals in these fields often have a background in art history, anthropology, studio art, or museum studies.

-Chemical and Materials Science departments within universities and other institutions offer fascinating careers for those with a strong science background. Working in analytical research brings a different perspective to future conservation projects and forms connections to researchers and scientists.

-Museum Education is an evolving field that is dedicated to helping visitors better understand and engage with museum collections. Working with many departments across a museum, educators develop and run

programs that relate to works in a collection or special exhibition. Through teaching and outreach museum education plays a vital role in enhancing the public’s knowledge of and access to cultural institutions.

-Development and Fundraising is an essential part of all cultural institutions. Successful development campaigns not only facilitate the construction and expansion of museums, but the acquisition and long-term care of collections.

-Public policy for cultural heritage is a critical aspect of preservation. This is particularly true during periods of war and political turmoil when invaluable objects of art and cultural heritage can be threatened by looting or destruction.

-Library and information science has long been an allied field to conservation through the preservation of books and archives. As a developing field that is shaped by technology, areas of specialty also include database engineering and management, information analysis, and web development.

-Moving image archivists focus on the preservation of film, video, and digital media. Graduate programs are offered at a few major universities in the United States. Follow the links below to find out more about the field and graduate programs.

Association of Moving Image Archivists,

Selznick School of Film Preservation,

New York University,

University of California, Los Angeles,

Private Practice

Don’t forget about private practice! Conservators who have completed training can consider joining or starting a private conservation practice as a great way to create their own opportunities in the field, especially if there are scant institutions with conservation jobs in a particular area. FAIC offers an online course for establishing a conservation practice, and joining the AIC specialty group Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP) can provide a network of support. ECPN is partnering with CIPP at this year’s AIC Annual Meeting in Miami for a discussion panel that includes established and emerging private practice conservators. The panel will be from 4-6pm on Wednesday, May 16th, 2015 and is followed by the annual ECPN Happy Hour from 6-8pm. See the AIC website for more details.

ECPN is planning future resources for developing “alternative” career paths and working in private practice. In the meantime, an ECPN-hosted Q&A Webinar with established private practice conservators can be found on the AIC YouTube channel (“Considering Your Future Career Path: Working in Private Practice”), as well as a written synopsis of the main portion of the webinar on the AIC blog Conservators-Converse.

Your Advice?

Art conservation is a competitive field in part because the people who pursue it are passionately driven. As we continue to advocate and educate, we will create more opportunities and more qualified candidates. Responding well to constructive criticism and expanding our concepts of the “ideal path to a conservation career” can be very helpful when dealing with rejection. What do you think? How do you cope with disappointment? What was your path to the field?

ECPN Webinar – Presenting Talks and Posters

Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) Webinar:
Presenting Talks and Posters
Wednesday, March 11th at Noon EST
Registration Page:  Click here to visit the registration page
Conference season is quickly approaching!  If you are busy working on a poster or presentation, or even preparing for graduate school interviews, join the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) for our upcoming webinar Presenting Talks and Posters on March 11th at Noon EST.  ECPN is excited to feature two conservators with professional experience in presentations, Katie Sanderson and Ariel O’Connor.  The speakers will discuss writing an abstract, putting together an effective PowerPoint, presenting a talk, and creating a poster.  ECPN is seeking question submissions for the Q&A portion.  Please contact ECPN Chair Megan Salazar-Walsh at or Webinar Coordinator Fran Ritchie at for questions.
Registration: Click here to register for the webinar.  Closer to the date, you will receive an e-mail with information on how to connect to the webinar.
If you miss Presenting Talks and Posters or need a refresher, it will be recorded and uploaded onto the AIC Youtube channel.  For a listing of past ECPN Webinars, click here (or visit the AIC Youtube channel).
Webinar Presenter Bios:
Katie Sanderson Katie Sanderson is an Assistant Conservator of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She earned her M.A. in Art History and C.A.S. in Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where she is currently a member of the adjunct faculty. Prior to her current position, she held the Andrew W. Mellon Research Scholarship in Photograph Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and worked in labs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Better Image, and New York Public Library. Her current research involves measuring color change in photographs over time using a spectrophotometer and micro-fade tester. The main goal of this work is to develop a better understanding of the effects of exhibition and climate conditions on photographic materials.
Ariel O’Connor Ariel O’Connor is currently an Objects Conservator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Prior to Air and Space, Ms. O’Connor was an Assistant Objects Conservator at the Walters Art Museum, Assistant Objects Conservator and Samuel H. Kress Fellow at the Harvard Art Museums, and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her research focuses on materials and technology in archaeological Asian art. Her archaeological fieldwork includes seasons at the Aphrodisias Excavations, Mugello Valley/Poggio Colla Archaeological Project, and Gordion Excavations Project. She holds an M.A. and C.A.S. in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College.
Don’t let this bad presentation happen to you!
The ECPN webinar program seeks to provide resources for issues faced by the conservation field, especially emerging conservators.  “Emerging conservators” are defined as those with 7 or fewer years of experience (which includes schooling and pre-program).  Contact a member of the ECPN Board for ideas on future webinar topics.

ECPN Webinar- Beyond the Portfolio: Your Conservation Career

Beyond the Portfolio: Your Conservation Career
Join the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) for their next webinar discussing career development for the emerging conservator on Thursday, October 16th from 12:00-1:00pm EST.  Suzanne Davis, Associate Curator and Head of Conservation at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, will present information on:

  • applying for fellowships and jobs
  • negotiating compensation
  • developing your career after graduate school

About the presenter: Suzanne Davis has been developing her post-graduate career since graduating from the NYU program in 1998.  She is a Professional Associate member of AIC and has been promoting advancement in the field as the Chair of the Objects Specialty Group, a member of AIC’s Education and Training committee, and a mentor for ECPN’s Mentoring Program.  Suzanne presented an energizing talk during the ECPN Portfolio Symposium at the 2013 AIC Annual Meeting that was so well received we have invited her to speak once again on career development.
ECPN is seeking question submissions for the Q&A session following the presentation.  Please e-mail ECPN Chair Megan Salazar-Walsh at or ECPN Professional Education and Training Co-Chair Fran Ritchie at if you have specific questions you would like the speaker to address.
 To register for the webinar, please click on this link.  ***Post-webinar UPDATE: The webinar recording is now on the AIC Youtube channel. Here’s the link:
This webinar will focus on developing a career beyond graduate school and will not touch on managing your portfolio.  For portfolio advice, see Suzanne Davis’s blog post on the AIC blog:
“Portfolios and Career Transitions:  Pre-program, graduate, and post-graduate portfolio tips.” The webinar will be recorded and available for future viewing on the AIC YouTube channel (link below).
The ECPN webinar program seeks to address issues faced by emerging conservators.  “Emerging conservators” are defined as those with seven or fewer years of experience (including schooling and pre-program).  ECPN strives to rotate webinar topics between those that are specifically pertinent to pre-program, graduate, and post-graduate emerging professionals.  Links to past ECPN webinars can be found on AIC’s YouTube channel and are listed here:

ECPN Webinar Archive

Miss a webinar hosted by the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN)?  Search the AIC YouTube channel, or check out the topics and links below (as of September 2015):
“Presenting Talks and Posters” with Katie Sanderson and Ariel O’Connor; March 11th, 2015; Blog post follow-up.
“Beyond the Portfolio: Your Conservation Career” with Suzanne Davis; October 16, 2014
“Beyond the Prerequisites: Preparing for Graduate Education in Art Conservation” with Margaret Holben Ellis, James Hamm, Rosaleen Hill, Debra Hess Norris, and Ellen Pearlstein; July 16, 2014
“Get Involved! Conservation Education, Outreach, and Advocacy” with Teresa Myers, Richard McCoy, and Sarah Barack; April 23, 2014
“How to Make the Most of Your Pre-Program Internship” with Emily Williams, Thomas Edmondson, Ayesha Fuentes, Lianne Gordon; September 24, 2013
“Considering Your Future Career Path: Working in Private Practice” with Paul Messier, Rosa Lowinger, and Julia Brennan; November 30, 2012; Blog post synopsis.
“Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Independent Research” with Debra Hess Norris; July 26, 2012
The ECPN webinar program seeks to address issues faced by emerging conservators.  “Emerging conservators” are defined as those with 7 or fewer years of experience (which includes schooling and pre-program).  ECPN strives to rotate webinar topics between those that are specifically pertinent to pre-program, graduate, and post-graduate emerging professionals.  

ECPN Webinar “Get Involved! Conservation Education, Outreach, and Advocacy”: Follow-Up Q&A

ECPN Webinar “Get Involved! Conservation Education, Outreach, and Advocacy”: Follow-Up Q&A

On April 23, 2014, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) hosted an hour-long webinar titled “Get Involved! Conservation Education, Outreach, and Advocacy.”

The program featured three speakers with experience working in various aspects of conservation education, outreach, and advocacy: Teresa Myers, private practice conservator who participated in the American Alliance of Museum’s Museum Advocacy Day in 2011; Richard McCoy, an arts and cultural consultant with an established history of writing for digital and print publications, teaching in graduate programs, and creating innovative web projects; and Sarah Barack, private practice conservator and co-chair of AIC’s K-12 Educational Outreach subcommittee.

During the program, the speakers shared their experiences as supervisors and pre-program interns, respectively; contributed to guided questions; and answered audience questions.  The recorded webinar can be found on AIC’s YouTube channel (or click here). 

Included below are the questions that could not be addressed during the program with responses from the speakers.

What are some tips you have for emerging conservators who would like to get involved with outreach and advocacy? What can they be doing short and long term to make an impact?

Teresa Myer: As I mentioned during the webinar, I found the Museum Advocacy Day event to be incredibly educational regarding the mechanics of advocacy. It’s a great place to start. It’s well organized, very clear and focused and well worth attending. Looking at longer-term activities, finding ways to foster relationships with Congresspeople and state-level legislators as well will boost your impact. Another way to be involved is simply to talk about your advocacy activities with other conservators and museum professionals. Hopefully, the more people realize how straightforward and achievable this activity can be, the more they will join in. As Ruth mentioned, there is a real strength in numbers; the more voices there are speaking to a common point, the more weight the point carries.

Richard McCoy: I think getting involved in a community is the best way to get involved, however you want define “community.” Your community might be local, national, or international. Working with folks on a common goal in a larger project is a very good way to make an impact in educating others about the need to care for cultural heritage, and therefore advocate for your profession.

Sarah Barack: Getting involved with your local community at first— see where there is a need and/or opportunity. For instance, going to open houses to meet people at local schools; volunteering with local groups that already have ties to the community, etc. I think the first step is really just making connections with people and once that has been established, it is easier and more natural to find ways in which you can promote conservation.

Regarding long term versus short term, hopefully short term smaller projects might lead to a more permanent or deeper activity. If particular conservators enjoy outreach activities, I would encourage them to think big picture, so that they can align their efforts with a larger strategy— whatever that may be. For instance, to be part of a school curriculum, or part of an annual arts fair or weekend, etc.

Besides conducting a wiki search, how else will people know about the articles that are being written through Richard’s class?

RM: A drive goal I’ve been working towards is to change how people find information when caring for cultural heritage. What I mean is that when you search for something on the Internet (Google it), I think you should be able to find excellent information, either about a particular item of cultural heritage or how to care for it. Sure this is a big goal but really we have the tools to solve this, it’s just a matter of getting more people working to the same end. 

SB: Links from other websites are certainly a great way to drive traffic to any particular site.

The more students hear about conservation the more, presumably, applicants we will have for conservation graduate programs. How can we make more jobs and paid opportunities for the people we are recruiting to prevent an overabundance of conservators in a small job market?

TM: At this point there are a fairly consistent number of graduates each year because of the limits the programs put on the number of students they will accept each year. But it could certainly expand in the future. There will never be a shortage of work; entropy is on our side. The limiting factor seems to be funding and the value put on conservation by the people setting the budgets. So how do we increase the available funding? Advocacy! As a conservator in private practice, I believe that it is up to me to improve the job market I’m functioning in. Though I did have an excellent experience with advocacy, I have found that I use outreach more consistently to build my local job market. I’ve done lectures, workshops, visited museums, and been on the board of our state museum association. I’m a CAP assessor as well. People won’t make room in their budget for something that’s not on their radar; it’s up to all of us to stay visible.

RM: I think conservators need to start thinking about how they can be helpful in caring for cultural heritage inside and outside of cultural institutions. Too often we narrowly define our profession to be almost principally about conservation treatment. Well, I don’t think there are that many jobs that will be growing in that kind of work. But if conservators are able to demonstrate that they can do all sorts of other things then they may find themselves able to gain more employment.

SB: I don’t know if greater awareness does really lead to greater practical interest (e.g. applications) — I don’t know if we can make that link in such a clear way. Rather, I think greater awareness among students means that down the road, our future investment bankers, doctors, lawyers, etc., will hopefully appreciate and support our field—hopefully leading to more funding. It is such a niche field at the end of the day, and demands such a wide array of skills and abilities that it naturally filters itself. Still, the question of supply and demand is a good one— and whether the professional market demands the amount of supply we have created is a valid discussion. I don’t know the answer; anecdotal information and personal stories are not the full picture. We really need a better grasp on what all the graduates and mid-career folks are doing to understand.

When advocating by way of Wikipedia articles, for example, is there a concern that it actually devalues what we do since people may use these articles to attempt their own treatments?

RM: To answer your question in a word: no. There is a clear need to have better information out online because people are looking for it. My concern is around getting good information in highly visible places; I’m not worried about what people will do with good information.

And remember, Wikipedia is a freely available online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; it’s not a place to publish how to guides. If the articles published in Wikipedia are of high quality, they can only serve to reduce misunderstandings and point people to good and reliable sources.

On the other hand, I think that the amount of questionable or bad information on the Internet is problematic and dangerous. Take for example the stuff that’s on places like “WikiHow,” which does publish how to guides that will teach you things like How To Clean a Painting in 12 Easy Steps. I think we might see that kind of thing as a call to action.

42nd Annual Meeting – Awards

2014 AIC Annual Meeting honors creativity, vision, and experience with awards for professionals
Every year at the Annual Meeting, AIC honors distinguished professionals in conservation practice and education, as well as allied professionals who have contributed to our field.  The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network contacted the honorees for this year’s awards and asked them a few questions about their background and ideas on the current state of the conservation profession.
Monona Rossol has been honored this year with the AIC’s Special Recognition for Allied Professionals.   This award recognizes the work of valued colleagues from allied fields who have contributed to conservation with their expertise and spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration.
ECPN:  In a few sentences, tell us about your professional background.
MR: I have three degrees from the University of Wisconsin: a BS in Chemistry with a minor in Math, and two art degrees, an MS and MFA.  I was a co-founder of the first nonprofit dedicated to art safety in 1977, when I began working as an industrial hygienist.  In 1984, I was approved for full membership in the American Industrial Hygiene Association.  In 1987, I founded another nonprofit called Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety and am currently its president.
ECPN: When did you first become interested or involved in museum professionals’ specific industrial hygiene issues?
MR: I worked as a research chemist to put myself through graduate school for art.  It became apparent to me that many of the same hazardous chemicals used in the labs were also used in the Art Department but without any training, ventilation, or safety equipment.  My first lectures on this subject were in 1962 in graduate school.  When I set up my first art studio near Madison, WI, the State Historical Society was aware of my dual interests and asked me if I could do some conservation for them, especially painted furniture and ceramic conservation.  When I moved to New York City, I also did other objects work.
ECPN: What do you feel are the greatest strengths of the conservation profession today?
MR: The strength of the conservation profession today is in the growing number of conservators with strong backgrounds in chemistry and related sciences.  For example, when I OSHA-train young people at Winterthur now, I can discuss issues at a vastly higher level than I could have 30 or even 15 years ago.
ECPN: How did you first become involved with AIC?
MR: I’ve been an AIC member since 1981 and had a bit to do with their first Health and Safety Committee.  I would have trouble counting all the times I’ve done lectures, workshops and training sessions at AIC conferences and events over those years.
ECPN: Do you have any words of advice for emerging conservation professionals, as an educator, advocate, or professional?
MR:  Just keep studying.  I never stop taking courses and workshops and reading everything I can get my hands on.  I suggest we all do this.  Everything you learn about your profession can be useful at some point.  Besides, it’s fun.  If it’s not, you are in the wrong field.
Walter Henry was awarded an Honorary Membership this year by the AIC Board of Directors in recognition of his exceptional contributions to conservation in his work with online resources like CoOL and the Conservation DistList.
ECPN: In a few sentences, tell us about your professional background.
WH: I started out as a book repairer for the collections at Stanford in the early 70s. In 1978 there was a flood and over 54,000 books got wet. The woman in charge of that program […] was Sally Buchannan, who went on to be one of the finest library preservationists ever. The flood work lasted until about 1980. The money that we got from insurance and law suits funded the nascent conservation/preservation department. There was no budget for conservation staff […] so for the first six months I was the secretary.
I never had formal academic training in conservation. Don Etherington, who is responsible for more book conservators of my generation than anyone else, took me under his wing as my mentor.
I spent a lot of time at the computer center and my son came home one day with something that amazed me: a print out of a Usenet forum. Someone would make an outrageous comment and others would respond, on and on until the subject was dead.  Around the same time, work was being done to make searchable texts.  The DistList started in 1987 with an announcement on the bulletin board at the AIC annual meeting and grew from there. Managing the software started taking up more of my time, and I had more aptitude for that than for bench-work. Stanford was a wonderful place for me […] and they ended up hosting the DistList and CoOL for many years.
ECPN: What do you feel are the greatest strengths of the conservation profession today? And our biggest challenges?
WH: I want to rephrase that as ‘What’s changed in the last years in the field of conservation?’
I think one thing is the shift to a general expectation that you will go to a formal graduate training program, and finish with a certain base level of knowledge and some skill.  Another shift I’ve seen is in conservation technicians.  A big part of it was the late Carolyn Rose and her Requisite Competencies for Conservation Technicians and Collection Care Specialists.
The development of the specialty groups within AIC is both a good and bad thing. The first few meetings I went to […] I learned a great deal from attending talks in paintings and objects. Now you can’t afford to miss any talks in your own specialty, but the quality of the talks has increased. The professionalism of the organization has grown, it’s a stronger organization than it was, and I think everyone recognizes that.
ECPN: What about the future, how can the field improve?
WH: I’m not going to answer that […] because my opinions aren’t the ones you should be listening to. I did some stuff I’m half proud of, but my vision for the future of CoOL isn’t where it should go. The advancements in conservation will come from young people rather than from people my age, that’s all I can say.
Vicki Cassman has been recognized by AIC this year with the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for her career in the education and training of conservation professionals.
ECPN: In a few sentences, tell us about your professional background.
VC: I am a conservation educator, working for the last eight years at the University of Delaware, directing the undergraduate program in art conservation. Prior to this I taught anthropology and museum studies, and practiced as an itinerant textile conservator. My educational background includes a BA in Art History (UC-Davis), MS in both Art Conservation (University of Delaware) and Textile Science (UC-Davis) and a PhD in Anthropology (Arizona State University).
Conservation was a discovery I made while taking a gap year (1977) in college ‘to find myself.’  I was visiting a small museum while taking a traditional weaving course in Sweden and I asked a woman repairing artifacts what her job was called.  She said […] I could go to Stockholm and intern at the Nordiska Museum.  The director told me I should go back to the US and apply to the University of Delaware/Winterthur program, which he had recently toured and found to be very impressive.
ECPN: What achievements do you believe qualified you for the Keck award?
VC: I support my students and give them room to grow.  I believe in their abilities and if they work hard I will help them achieve their goals.  I am genuinely interested in teaching techniques and methods, and I am willing to try new things. I especially believe in active learning.
ECPN: How has the conservation field changed since you became a conservator? How do you think the field will evolve in the future?
VC: As I was finishing my conservation degree in 1985, preventive conservation was the new emphasis in the field, and I still believe this is vital and central to undergraduate art conservation education at University of Delaware.  Our new preservation challenge is in the digital world.  It will take a different set of skills and talents than we require currently for graduate school admissions. Designing a curriculum for digital, electronic, or time-based media preservation is an important challenge our field needs to address.
ECPN: Do you have any words of advice for Emerging Conservation Professionals or others who want to contribute to conservation and heritage preservation?
VC: The field is highly competitive, but we persist because we love the artifacts, and the stories and people associated with them.  Pursuing this field requires persistence and dedication.
Undergraduate art conservation programs are popping up around the country, and my advice when considering these programs, is to ask how many professional conservators are on the faculty, who can mentor on a regular basis.  In general, it is very possible to prepare yourself (without a program) for graduate admission for art conservation, but it is not easy.
Suzanne Davis is the recipient of the AIC’s Conservation Advocacy Award, which recognizes conservation professionals who promote and enrich our field through outreach and advocacy.
ECPN: In a few sentences, tell us about your professional background.
SD: I head the conservation department at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, where I’ve worked for 13 years. I also provide field conservation for the museum’s excavations in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa. Before the Kelsey, I was a conservator for the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Archaeology Branch.
ECPN: What do you feel are the greatest strengths and challenges of the conservation profession today?
SD: A huge strength is that conservators have amazing skill sets. We should be taking the lead in cultural institutions, not only directing collections management and preservation, but guiding development and fundraising efforts, and directly influencing strategic vision and mission.
Two major challenges I see for our profession right now are that it is insular and exclusive. Few conservators participate in allied disciplines by attending or presenting at allied conferences, or reading or publishing in related journals. Current grad school applicants in the U.S. need a lot of internship hours to be competitive, but museums can’t usually afford to pay interns for their learning experience. They pay with the staff time and resources they commit to training the intern [but] this system excludes anyone who can’t afford to take unpaid internships. The field is exclusive in more subtle ways and our methods for recruiting and fostering potential conservators could be updated to serve us better.
ECPN: What achievements are you most proud of that you feel qualified you for the Conservation Advocacy Award?
SD: I’m proudest of my day-to-day work with students. The Kelsey Museum has a long tradition of conservators who are active in teaching and service.  All the advocacy I’ve done is rooted in this belief. We never felt like we were “dumbing down” information, but distilling concepts to their essentials. Writing about them for a general audience was a lot harder than we expected.
ECPN: Do you have any words of advice for ECPs or others who want to contribute to conservation and heritage preservation?
SD: If you can match your skills and interests to an existing need, that’s a good way to contribute in a meaningful way. Think about places you can add value. If you’re at a museum, you could start writing for the blog, give a talk about your work, or collaborate with the education department to develop outreach products like tours or podcasts that focus on conservation. If you’re in private practice, you can use your website to talk about conservation in detail and write about work in the public sphere. All of us should share our work, not just through AIC, but through conferences and publications in allied disciplines. You can also look around your local community for ways to contribute and be an advocate for conservation.
If you’re considering graduate school in conservation, spend time researching other careers in the cultural heritage sector. Conservation isn’t the only way you can contribute, and there might be something you like better.
Conservation and heritage organizations like AIC almost always have open service positions, and some of which focus on outreach and advocacy. Know about opportunities like these and volunteer where you can. You might see a need or gap where others haven’t.  If you do, and you believe in it, don’t be afraid to advocate.
This year AIC also awarded the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for conservation education to Steve Koob (Corning Museum of Glass).
To learn more about AIC’s annual awards for members and allied professionals, visit  These interviews were conducted by email and in person by ECPN officers.  For questions, contact
– Ayesha Fuentes, ECPN Communications co-officer

(Posted on behalf of Ayesha Fuentes by Fran Ritchie, ECPN Professional Education and Training co-officer)

42nd Annual Meeting- OSG + RATS Session, May 30, “Blue, Red, and Wound All Over: Evaluating Condition Changes and Cleaning of Glass Disease on Beads” by Robin O’Hern and Kelly McHugh

Glass disease, weeping glass, glass deterioration, funky glass* (*author’s description)–just a few of the many names used to describe the degradation of glass beads that museums have observed as a white precipitate/cloudy appearance and/or cracking and splitting.  If you’ve observed this in your collection, take notice- Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation, Robin O’Hern, is on the case.
O’Hern has taken advantage of the history of glass disease detection at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and begun evaluating how the different cleaning methods have fared over the years.  In 1999, Kelly McHugh (research supervisor and co-author) and Scott Carrlee performed a condition survey of the NMAI collection.  The collection was moved into a state-of-the-art storage facility after the survey, where the RH has remained constant, but at a higher level than recommended for glass pieces.  (The beads are present on composite pieces with hide, bone, shell, feather, hair, etc. and therefore the environmental controls must address as many materials as possible, not just glass.)  Some of the pieces were treated at that time, and others have been treated in the interim years.  Using the museum database, O’Hern found that 25% of the condition records that list glass beads as a material also list glass disease.  O’Hern has performed another survey, this time seeking to observe condition changes over the past 15 years in a selection of objects from the 1999 survey, to assess treatment technique (ie, which solvents worked best to reduce glass disease), and to discover susceptibility trends (which beads are the worst culprits).
To understand the beads, O’Hern provided background on history of use and manufacture.

  • Glass beads arrived after contact with Europeans in 1492
  • Pony beads were introduced after 1675
  • Wound beads were introduced after the late 17th century
  • Seed beads were introduced 1710-1840
  • Red beads were colored from copper in the 17th century, ruby red in the early 18th century, and selenium in the 1890’s
  • Blue beads were colored from copper or cobalt, but from 1640-1700, they were tin-rich
  • Beads can be made by pulling the heated glass, called “drawn,” or by winding heated glass around a rod, called “wound”
  • Glass is made from silica, alkali (to lower the melting point, but also makes it water soluble), and calcium carbonate (that turns to lime- it’s added to help stabilize the glass after the alkali)

There are several explanations for the cause of glass disease.  Too little or too much of the lime (part of the bead’s composition) may cause water to leach out of the glass matrix as ions that then form salt on the surface of the bead.  The environmental conditions, such as fluctuations in RH, or materials in proximity, such as semi-tanned hide, may accelerate glass disease.  As seen from the list above, the beads were manufactured over a range of time, in different ways, and in different places.
As you can tell, there are many factors to research when evaluating glass disease.  O’Hern addressed as many as possible while still managing the scope of the project.
Survey Results
Condition Change: By comparing condition of the beads today to past condition/treatment reports, 16% of the beads have more deterioration now than in 1999.  Measuring pH was used in addition to visual examination to determine condition.  Some beads that did not look bad had a higher pH (above 7), signaling glass disease.  Some beads that looked hazy did not have a higher pH, meaning no glass disease (perhaps hazy from manufacture).
Differing Manufacturing Techniques:  Wound beads have it worse than drawn beads–95% of wound beads have glass disease.  This could be because they have a compositional percentage of lime that is less stable.
Differing Colors: Black, red, and blue are the most disease-ridden.  O’Hern looked through the museum database and found that the entries with the most “glass disease” indicated had blue beads.  Blue beads are very clearly the “winner” of the glass disease competition, followed by red and black.
Treatment Techniques:  Here’s where it gets even more interesting.  The conservation literature and posts on the Objects Specialty Group list serve debate the use of three solvents to remove the salts on glass disease: water alone, ethanol alone, and a 1:1 water:ethanol mix.  By comparing the 1999 survey to her own results, O’Hern capitalized on real-time aging to observe how each solvent mixture fares over time.  Water-cleaned beads had a 50% rate of glass disease return; water:ethanol-cleaned had a slightly higher than 50% rate of return; ethanol-cleaned had the least amount of return at just under 50%.  However, when looking at the beads cleaned with ethanol over the same time period as those cleaned with 1:1 water:ethanol (removing the very oldest treatments), the rate of return for glass disease falls to 40%.
(Note: Acetone has also been listed as a solvent for cleaning glass beads, but since the NMAI doesn’t use acetone, it was not included in this research.)
Other Observations:
1. Measuring pH is essential because beads may look like they don’t have glass disease, but are actually more alkaline.  Measuring pH is also quick and easy- cut your pH strip to a small piece, slightly dampen it in deionized water, press it onto the bead for 3 seconds, and then determine any color change in the strip.
2. The most affected beads were those sewn onto hide, but the disease was present when beads were in contact with many other materials as well.
3. Although cleaning with ethanol is a better choice for long-term disease prevention, the solvent chosen should still depend on the substrate around the bead.
Advice from O’Hern:
1. Record treatment materials when removing glass disease.
2. Take BT and AT details of beads so you can easily compare for condition changes in the future.
3. Measure the pH of the beads… and RECORD THE RESULTS.
4. Have consistent monitoring of glass disease.
As an audience member, it’s always exciting to see a project that has results, especially on a topic that is not studied as extensively as it persists. This is definitely a postprint worth visiting for more details and results.
For other examples (and some “good” photographic examples), visit Ellen Carrlee’s project “What’s that White Stuff?” that she and (then WUDPAC graduate intern) Christa Pack reported on in Ellen’s blog:

42nd Annual Meeting- General Session, May 30, "Using Webinars to Tackle Conservation Misinformation in Ontario's Community Museums" by Fiona Graham

“Conservation is an elusive practice just outside of budgetary reality.”  Fiona Graham, a conservation consultant in Kingston, Ontario, received this comment in a survey filled out by a small museum in Ontario, and it made her take notice.  Museums believing that conservation only equates to (costly) treatment leaves no room for implementing best practices, taking vital preventive measures, and leads to a general misunderstanding of the basic principles of preservation.  Graham set out to change the perceptions of these museums and chose webinars as her format.
Who: Ontario’s Community Museums–roughly 300 institutions that range in size but are not art galleries, private collections, or national museums.  Only 14 have in-house conservators (in one case, 9 museums share one conservator!).  The collection care for the remaining 286 falls into the hands of non-conservators.
Why: 185 of those Ontario Community Museums receive operating grants from the Ministry’s Museum Unit to survive economically.  In order to receive these grants, the museums must meet regulatory requirements, including a conservation standard.  To assess the state of conservation and preservation in the museums, a questionnaire was distributed to the museums, and Graham and her team discovered some startling misunderstandings.  For example, many respondents believed that light damage was caused only by UV, that pesticides are still needed, and that cold temperatures are always bad for collections.  (Since they are in colder climates, it’s especially disconcerting to think of the expenses paid to raise temperatures in these museums.)
What was done:  To debunk misunderstandings at as many of the museums as possible, the Ministry funded two 1.5 hour long webinars.  The webinar format was chosen because it can reach a targeted audience, has wide accessibility and the ability to be interactive, is inexpensive to produce, and has been successful through the Ontario Museums Association (an organization that provides training in museum work).  After institutions answered preliminary questions on their registration forms, webinars were conducted as powerpoint presentations narrated live by a conservator using the icohere platform.  The first webinar, Conservation 2.0, was a “good practice” refresher course meant for non-conservators, while the second, Climate Control: what do you really need?, focused on misinformation hot spots.  Participants used their own computers and sent questions to a moderator who passed them to the conservator to answer.  The Ontario Museum Association posted the slide deck and audio to their website after the webinars ended.
More details?  The prep questions: Define what conservation means in the context of your museums? What question about conservation would you like answered in this webinar? What do you think relative humidity and temp levels should be in your museum’s collection areas? Do you monitor RH and/or T; do you actively control RH? (The webinars included a disclaimer that “this webinar is not a substitute for proper training.”)
Results:  The webinars were open to all, not just the Ministry-funded institutions, and 55 organizations participated during the live broadcasts.  The prep questions from the registration forms informed the content of the webinars.  There was positive feedback overall, with requests for more programs.  The negative feedback regarded the amount of detailed information on conservation.  Graham recommends being very clear on expectations.  The webinar team will be able to gauge the long-term results of the refresher courses during the next audit in 2018.
(Author’s comments: This talk was part of the general session on Engaging Communities in Collections Care.  The U.S. Heritage Preservation organization also offers webinars to help smaller institutions with collections care.  Their webinars are part of their Connecting to Collections (C2C) online community.  Past programs are available in their archives.)