Welcome 2018-19 ECPN Officers!

As incoming Chair, I am pleased to introduce the officers of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network for the 2018-2019 term.

ECPN is grateful for the dedication and service of our outgoing officers Alyssa Rina and Emma Schmitt; our Regional, Graduate Program, Specialty Group, and Committee liaisons; and our outgoing Chair, Rebecca Gridley. We wish you all the best and hope to see you involved in future AIC and ECPN initiatives!

2017-18 and 2018-19 ECPN Officers at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Houston: (left to right) Rebecca Gridley, Kari Rayner, Marci Jefcoat Burton, Jen Munch, and Quinn Morgan Ferris
2017-18 and 2018-19 ECPN Officers at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Houston: (left to right) Rebecca Gridley, Kari Rayner, Marci Jefcoat Burton, Jen Munch, and Quinn Morgan Ferris

Meet the 2018-19 Officers:

Kari Rayner, Chair

Kari graduated with a BA in Art History and a second major in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University. She holds an MA in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Art Conservation with a specialization in paintings conservation from the Conservation Center, the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Kari interned during her graduate studies at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, Germany; and Modern Art Conservation in New York, NY. She completed a post-graduate internship at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge University from 2015-2016 and has since returned to the National Gallery of Art as a Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation. Kari previously served ECPN as Vice Chair (2017-18) and Webinar Coordinator (2016-17).

Evelyn (Eve) Mayberger, Vice Chair

Eve holds a B.A. in Art History with a concentration in Asian Art from Wesleyan University (2010). In 2016, Eve graduated with a M.A. and M.S. degrees in art history and conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University where she specialized in objects conservation. She has worked in the conservation departments of the Olin Library at Wesleyan University, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Historic Odessa Foundation, Small Collections Library at the University of Virginia, National Museum of the American Indian, Worcester Art Museum, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (fourth-year internship). In addition to museum work, Eve has participated in excavations at Sardis (Turkey), Selinunte (Sicily), Abydos (Egypt), and el Kurru (Sudan). Currently, Eve is the Mellon Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She previously served for ECPN as Outreach Co-Officer (2016-18).

Kat Fanning, Professional Education and Training Co-Officer

Kat is currently a Preservation Associate and Archivist at the Center for Jewish History. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Chemistry from Southern Connecticut State University. Kat completed her MSLIS with certification in Conservation and Digital Curation from Pratt Institute’s School of Information in December of 2017, and was awarded the Pratt Circle and Outstanding Merit awards. This will be Kat’s second year serving ECPN.

Quinn Morgan Ferris, Professional Education and Training Co-Officer

Quinn is the Senior Conservator for Special Collections at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign. She started there as the Rare Book Conservator in 2016, where she continues to be responsible for the conservation treatment of rare and unique bound library materials. She is also an adjunct lecturer at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. Quinn was an Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in Library and Archives Conservation, and graduated with a MA in Arts History and an Advanced Certificate in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center. Quinn has been a member of AIC as well as the Guild of Book Workers since 2011. This will be her first year serving ECPN.

Jen Munch, Webinar Coordinator

Jen holds a BFA in Fine Art, awarded jointly by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University. Jen is currently a graduate fellow in the Buffalo State program in Art Conservation, specializing in the conservation of paintings. Jen has interned or worked in the conservation departments of The Phillips Collection, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, the private practice Rika Smith-McNally and Associates, and the Conservation & Maintenance Program of the Cambridge, MA Arts Council.

This summer, Jen is conserving easel paintings and John LaFarge murals within the private practice Gianfranco Pocobene Studios. In the Fall, Jen will begin a year-long graduate internship at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. This is Jen’s second year serving as ECPN’s Webinar Coordinator. Previously, Jen served as an ECPN Regional Liaison to Boston (2015-16).

Caitlin Richeson, Outreach Co-Officer

Caitlin holds a BFA in Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2012). She is currently a graduate fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, majoring in objects conservation with a minor in preventive conservation. She has completed internships or contracting work with Glenstone, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Navel History and Heritage Command’s Archaeology and Conservation Lab. Currently, she is completing a summer internship with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which will be followed by internships at the Stedelijk Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. This is Caitlin’s second year serving as the Outreach Co-officer.

Marci Jefcoat Burton, Outreach Co-Officer

Marci Jefcoat Burton holds a BA in Forensic Chemistry and a Minor in Art History from California State University, Sacramento, and she graduated with an MA in Conservation from the UCLA/Getty Conservation of Archeological and Ethnographic Materials program in 2018. Marci is currently interning with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum). Other experience includes the technical analysis of synthetic polymeric materials with the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), treatment of polyurethane (PUR) foam with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM), as well as the research and treatment of painting, textile, paper, photograph, and ethnographic objects with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, and various private conservators in San Francisco.

J. Riley Cruttenden, Communications Co-Officer

Riley holds a B.F.A. in Sculpture from Ohio State University (OSU). After working with Blick Art Materials, Riley returned to OSU as a graduate teaching associate in the history of architecture while pursuing pre-requisites for art conservation. At OSU Riley also worked to coordinate undergraduate research events for the university and contributed to research in mass spectrometry with the Badu Research Group. In 2017 Riley graduated from the University of Glasgow master’s program in Technical Art History, where he was the recipient of a 2016-17 US-UK Fulbright Award. He has completed internships with Ohio State University Libraries, the Glasgow School of Art, the Rijksmuseum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. He is currently a pre-program intern based in Columbus, Ohio.

Candace Kang, Communications Co-Officer

Candace holds a B.A. in the History of Art with a Museums Concentration from Smith College. She is currently a Conservation Technician for Special Collections at the Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center, and has completed internships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As an undergraduate, she worked extensively in the frame conservation lab of the Smith College Museum of Art and has treated historic frames from a variety of collections across New England, including the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Previously, Candace served as the Boston Regional Liaison for ECPN.

AIC Board and AIC Staff Liaisons:

Molly Gleeson, AIC Board Director for Professional Education

Molly is the Schwartz Project Conservator at the Penn Museum. Since 2012 Molly has worked in the museum’s open conservation lab, “The Artifact Lab: Conservation in Action.” In the Artifact Lab, she treats artifacts in full public view, interacts with museum visitors daily, blogs about the ongoing work in the lab, and regularly gives presentations about conservation. In addition to the outreach in the Artifact Lab, Molly is currently working as a project conservator for the Penn Museum’s Egyptian Galleries reinstallation project. Molly completed her M.A. in 2008 at the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. Molly is a Professional Associate member of AIC and has been the Board Director for Professional Education since 2017. She previously served as a co-chair of the Archaeological Discussion Group (ADG) from 2016-2018 and as the Chair of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) from 2011-2013.

Kate Lee, AIC Outreach Coordinator

Katelin joined the AIC team in May 2015 and after roles in meetings, membership, and marketing, now serves as FAIC’s Outreach Coordinator. She promotes awareness of the conservation field within the public and provides membership with opportunities to reach new audiences. She also manages AIC’s social media presence and assists with content creation, development, advertising sales, and community management. Katelin has experience in a variety of fields, including technology research, textile and garment design, and elementary education. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a BA in History and Theatre and holds a master’s degree from New York University in Visual Culture and Costume Studies. This is her third year serving as ECPN’s staff liaison.

Sincere thanks once again to ECPN’s 2017-18 officers, who have shown great dedication, effort, and teamwork in furthering ECPN’s mission this past term! We have a number of new initiatives we will be pursuing further during the 2018-19 term, and we hope that our ongoing projects will continue to provide valuable resources for pre-program candidates, graduate students, and emerging conservation professionals.

2018-2019 Open Officer Positions for the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network: Call for Applications

Are you an emerging conservation professional who wants to advocate for the issues that matter most to you and your peers? Do you want to help AIC develop resources and programs specifically for early-career conservators, conservation scientists, and collections care specialists? If so, please consider applying for one of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network’s (ECPN) open officer positions! To learn more about the network, please visit the ECPN page on the American Institute for Conservation website. Our Network description, charge, and current leadership can be found here.

ECPN is currently accepting applications from pre-program individuals, graduate students, and recent graduates for the following positions:

  • Vice Chair
  • Professional Education and Training Officer
  • Outreach Officer
  • Communications Officer

Please see the following document for position descriptions: 2018-ECPN_Open_Position_Descriptions. All positions will serve a two-year term beginning June 2018, just after AIC’s 46th Annual Meeting.

The Vice Chair is expected serve a one-year term, transitioning to Chair for an additional one-year term. No previous ECPN experience is necessary to apply. The current ECPN Vice Chair, Kari Rayner, is available to discuss this position over email or the phone.

Please direct questions to Kari Rayner at ecpn.aic.vicechair@gmail.com. To apply for an open officer position, please submit a brief statement of interest and your resume to Kari by April 13, 2018.

45th Annual Meeting – Paintings Specialty Group, May 31st, “The Monopoli Altarpiece: Rediscovery and recovery of a Cretan-Venetian masterpiece,” by Caitlin Breare

Caitlin Breare’s excellent talk on the Monopoli Altarpiece, a seven-panel polyptych in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was part of a morning of presentations focused on challenges encountered during treatment of painted wood. The fifteenth-century altarpiece originated from the city of Monopoli in southern Italy, but – as became clear during Caitlin’s presentation – it represents an amalgamation of styles. This city was on a trade route between northern Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, and both Venetian and Cretan painting clearly influenced the aesthetic. The altarpiece’s format and use of European poplar for the support is consistent with Italian construction, suggesting that a Venetian workshop may be responsible, while the painting materials and style are consistent with Cretan technique.

The treatment and research of this work, which had previously been deemed unexhibitable, was begun in 2015. Technical analysis revealed a great deal about the altarpiece’s materials and artist’s technique. Caitlin compared the work’s Cretan aesthetic to the Byzantine style with relation to the elongated figures and gilded background. The original gilding consists of burnished water gilding over a yellow ochre preparatory layer. While a yellow bole might be considered unusual in other contexts, this was a common material for gilders in Crete to employ. The use of a mixture of umber, black, vermilion, and white as a base tone for the flesh was also standard practice for Cretan painters.

Infrared reflectography showed that the underdrawing between the seven panels is consistent. Meanwhile, examination of the X-radiograph indicated the presence of scored lines under the paint in each panel, presumably to give texture to the wood before application of the gesso. Such scoring has been observed in the works of other Cretan painters. Examination of tool marks resulted in an exciting discovery: from the way the tool marks match up, the two panels with the saints directly on either side of Virgin seem to have been switched at some point in the past. Reconfiguring the panels also makes more sense compositionally, as the saints’ postures now direct the viewer’s eye towards the Virgin.

Restoration consisting of oil gilding was easily distinguishable from the original water gilding and was removed in the course of treatment. Treatment also involved grime removal and the reduction of a discolored, locally applied coating, probably consisting of drying oil; fortuitously, the coating appears to have protected the paint in some areas.

The greatest challenge encountered during treatment was the presence of calcium oxalate on the paint surface. The formation mechanism of this highly-insoluble brown layer is unknown, although Caitlin postulated that perhaps it may be linked to a coating applied over azurite. Another hypothesis is that fungus may be the source. In any case, chelators and mechanical removal were used to reduce the layer as much as possible. Now that the work has been cleaned, George Bisacca will be completing the structural treatment of the panels in the near future, and the altarpiece will be returned to the MFA for compensation.

For more on the altarpiece’s examination and conservation, there is a detailed summary on the MFA’s website: Conservation in Action: Monopoli Altarpiece. Although the language in the text is directed towards the general public, the post includes great images and time lapse videos of the treatment.

Study of the calcium oxalate layer and methods for its removal were prominent focuses of this treatment, and Caitlin hinted during the question and answer session that she will be looking further into medical techniques that reduce kidney stones as a potential solution for the removal of this type of layer. I look forward to seeing how Caitlin’s research progresses!

45th Annual Meeting – Paintings Specialty Group jointly with Research and Technical Studies, May 30th, “Re-examining Old Findings and Inferences: The Study of a Magus at a Table by Jan Lievens,” by Shan Kuang

This presentation by Shan Kuang focused on the technical analysis and reattribution of Magus at a Table from Upton House, National Trust.

Multiple versions of this composition exist, variously attributed to Rembrandt, circle of Rembrandt, Lievens, copy after Lievens, and so on. The attribution of this particular work has long been contested. The painting was listed as an original Rembrandt, then reattributed as a “copy after Lievens” after a 1983 examination. Dendrochronological analysis conducted at that time indicated that the tree from which the panel was fashioned was felled after 1660. Additionally, samples were taken and examined in cross section, and the results of this analysis seemed inconsistent with the painters’ techniques.

New scholarship on Lievens provided the impetus to reexamine the attribution, and the work was sent to the Hamilton Kerr Institute for treatment and study in 2014. At this time, dendrochronology specialist Ian Tyres revisited the prior dating, questioning the methodology used and ultimately rejecting the 1660 date. This once again opened up the possibility that Rembrandt or Lievens had a hand in the painting.

New imaging technologies showed that an initial sketch had been revised significantly in the final composition and that the color of the table had been revised. Furthermore, macro X-ray fluorescence scanning revealed pentimenti that had been previously undetected by X-radiography. An arc of foliage that had been painted out by the artist was particularly notable. These changes indicate the likelihood that the painting is an original artwork rather than a copy. Additionally, such extensive reworking is fairly common for Lievens.

Previous analysis of the cross sections from the painting had concluded that copper green was present, which was used as evidence against attributing the painting to either Lievens or Rembrandt. However, re-examination of the cross sections indicated that the element copper actually corresponds to blue particles and that a mixed green is present, which is in line with the practices of both artists.

In light of this new information, the painting was reattributed to Lievens based on stylistic grounds and consistency of materials and technique. Shan presented this research logically and effectively, and the analysis of this painting provides an impressive case study of how re-examination of paintings – utilizing new research and improved technologies – can lead to exciting discoveries and contribute to our understanding.

ECPN’s Follow-Up to the Spring Webinar on Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes – Survey Results

During the month leading up to ECPN’s webinar “Picking Up the Pieces: Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes as an Emerging Conservation Professional,” which took place on April 7, 2017, ECPN disseminated a survey over various conservation listservs and the ECPN Facebook page. The purpose of this survey was to increase transparency regarding mistakes and inspire a dialogue on this subject in the field. Responses were requested for the following prompts:

  • “Please describe a conservation-related mistake or setback you have experienced, and how you responded to, managed, and ultimately resolved this issue.”
  • “What did you learn from this experience?”
  • “How have you taken precautions to avoid the reoccurrence of this mistake?”

Sincere thanks to the individuals who participated in this survey! Twelve responses were received, with the majority of respondents choosing to remain anonymous. These answers contained some incredibly valuable pieces of advice and words of wisdom. If we look at these submissions through the lens of different categories of error, as webinar presenter Michele Marincola discussed, one response fit into the category of rule-or knowledge-based error, an “error of ignorance”; two responses fit into the category of “setback”; and nine responses fit into the category of “errors of execution – errors of planning or performance.”

An “error of ignorance” is a type of mistake that involves the lack of knowledge or skill required to complete a task, often complicated by a bias towards what has worked in the past. The case recorded in the survey described inappropriately transferring a treatment procedure learned from textile dry-cleaning methods to a birchbark basket. The author noted that this incident occurred approximately thirty years ago and pointed to the danger of becoming over-confident in one’s knowledge. As Michele mentioned during the webinar, this is precisely the sort of mistake that tends to happen more commonly in the early stages of one’s career, but the rapidly expanding knowledge base in conservation can make us all susceptible to this type of error.

For the two setbacks, the first response described multiple attempts applying to conservation graduate schools, and the second addressed difficulty with managing client expectations. Both of these examples stress the importance of communication, having a realistic perspective, and staying mentally flexible.

The rest of the responses dealt specifically with mistakes made during treatment. “Errors of execution” is a category that indicates a situation where the conservation professional knew how to execute a treatment step, but failed to do so for whatever reason. Of these types of responses, two involved instances of misplaced tacks damaging paintings, and two involved damage to artwork due to impact from nearby equipment (a microscope in one case, and a camera setup in the other). Another involved failing to properly secure the artwork itself. These are not uncommon errors and could all be considered errors of planning, in which proper precautions would have mitigated the risk of damage occurring. Isabelle Brajer states in her article “Taking the Wrong Path,” that “collective errors often have more impact on our profession, largely because of increased exposure.”[1] It is acknowledging the prevalence of this sort of mistake that allows us to develop preventive rules of thumb: for example, collecting tacks in a jar, or always tying paintings to an easel. Some of the other mistakes took the form of errors of execution: a chisel slipping when removing plaster from a stone relief; unintentionally dissolving part of a paper artifact weakened by mold; or grabbing the wrong bottle when preparing an epoxy.

One respondent mentioned feeling stressed at the time of the error and subsequently developed strategies for slowing down, focusing, and mentally preparing to approach a treatment. Individuals generally described themselves as “devastated” or “horrified” when these instances occurred, but it was acknowledged that the mistakes were valuable learning experiences.

Other thought-provoking and impactful excerpts from the responses are listed below:

“You may think you won’t drop that tool, spill a solvent, or lose track of your tacks. I believe it’s safer to assume you will do all of those things and more. Anything that can go wrong probably has gone wrong for someone and it could easily go wrong for you. It’s not defeatist to acknowledge the commonality of human error and take appropriate preventive measures.”

“Sadly, one remembers one’s mistakes more vividly than one’s successes.”

“I think many of us have a strong inner voice we hear or a feeling that we have right before something goes wrong. This incident made me learn to listen to that voice, and know that when I ‘hear’ it, I need to put down my tool and stop for a moment.”

“We put so much effort into avoiding mistakes that sometimes we forget to acknowledge they exist. I think that can lead to an unfortunate dichotomy between the theory and reality of how we will react to those situations.”

“I spent many, many years focusing on my treatment work, and neglected to get out there and meet colleagues, write, speak, share. I regret that for many reasons. So I would say that an important part of your professional life is to reach out, in whatever way feels right for you. Mentoring, outreach, committee involvement. There may be periods in your life when you are sidelined from treatment work, and you will be glad for the other avenues.”

As Tony Sigel, another of the webinar presenters, mentioned in his response to a question about reluctance to discuss mistakes, both individuals and the profession must be willing to change for this attitude to shift. Redefining the culture in conservation to enable free discussion of mistakes and setbacks can only happen one conservation professional at a time, and I would like to commend these individuals who were willing to share their experiences!

Please visit ECPN’s post on Conservators Converse following up on the webinar for Q&A and Further Resources.


[1] Brajer, Isabelle. 2009. “Taking the wrong path: learning from oversights, misconceptions,failures and mistakes in conservation. Examples from Wall Painting Conservation in Denmark.” CeROArt 3: L’errer, la faute, le faux. Accessed 2017.


ECPN’s Follow-Up to the Spring Webinar on Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes – Q&A and Further Resources

ECPN’s webinar “Picking Up the Pieces: Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes as an Emerging Conservation Professional” took place on April 7, 2017 and featured presentations by Ayesha Fuentes, Geneva Griswold, Michele Marincola, and Tony Sigel. Please see the previous blog post announcing the webinar for more extensive biographies of our speakers, and visit AIC’s YouTube Channel for the full recording of the webinar. Many thanks to the speakers, my fellow ECPN officers, and the AIC board and staff who made this program possible!

Several questions from viewers could not be addressed during the webinar due to time constraints; however, the panelists have generously answered them here. This post also includes an extended bibliography and further resources. A supplemental blog post will discuss the responses to the survey ECPN disseminated requesting stories of mistakes and setbacks.


How would you suggest opening a dialogue with your supervisor about mistake-making at the outset of a pre-program or graduate internship? How can you initiate a discussion about how to respond and what sort of institutional protocol to follow in the case of an accident?

Michele Marincola: Since this can be an unfamiliar or even awkward topic to broach, I suggest mentioning/describing the webinar and how it prompted you to think about mistake-making in an internship. Then ask if the company or institution has a preferred protocol to follow in the event an accident with an artwork occurs. Most museums have an Accident Report form that the security department initiates – this form may or may not be sufficient. In addition, not all mistakes cause visible damage, and the ideal protocol to follow might be a discussion rather than a form to fill out. Your question could be a great way to open the dialogue and effect positive change!

Doctors long ago instituted what are called M&Ms (Morbidity and Mortality reviews) after a patient in their care dies. They admit failure to their colleagues in order to teach and learn. Over the decades of my career conservators have shown consistent resistance to the discussion of treatment failures. I think there must be some powerful forces acting upon us that we haven’t discussed. What might they be? Could one possibility be that there is a kind of profession-wide fear of shaming that has prevented individual conservators from doing what this webinar attempted, to learn from failure? 

Tony Sigel: I think “shaming” is both too harsh, and too simple a term to describe the issue. The reasons why conservators are reluctant to discuss and acknowledge mistakes are many, and start with simple human nature—when your job is to preserve and protect works of cultural property, it is very difficult to admit that you have caused harm. An unwillingness to confront and admit mistakes is true of most people–in all professions. Modern science and ethics-based art and artifact conservation is relatively young as a profession, and from birth has fought to create its own identity separate from the disdained practice of restoration, and the depredations of unlettered previous restorers.

The conservator is the standard bearer of a new profession, and the pressure is great to be an authority, translating modern “science-based” conservation to owners, curators, archaeologists, to be able to answer all questions and consistently carry out treatments, to create safe environments, and the myriad other duties that are involved. Add to that normal human ego, the fear of possibly losing one’s position and livelihood, and, within the profession, the lack of a culture and organized structures that allow examination and discussion of setbacks and errors, and you have a broader view of the situation.

Error is an unavoidable and normal consequence of human endeavor, but is essential to its development. To solve our particular problem, both individual conservators, and the profession must be willing to change our culture and restructure itself, perhaps by creating appropriate venues to acknowledge these valuable lessons, learn from them, and encourage discussion.

The examples of mistakes we’ve discussed have generally centered around treatment, but one of the mistakes/sestbacks submitted to ECPN dealt with not having adequately managed the expectations of the owner of a cultural heritage object. Another spoke about the regret of having focused disproportionately on treatment and neglecting to engage with writing, speaking, and meeting others in the field. Could you comment on what other sorts of non-treatment mistakes we tend to encounter as conservation professionals?

Ayesha Fuentes: I’m not sure these are mistakes so much as they are part of professional development. Communicating our decision-making processes and limitations should be part of our expertise. In both of these challenges, the conservators learned how to manage the expectations of both the clients and themselves. Our professional contribution is often our technical skills and knowledge, and that’s been the emphasis in education, but I think there is an increasing awareness of how conservation relies on a larger skill set that includes consultation, communication and project management.

Have you ever had to describe a mistake that you’ve made in an interview? If so, how did you broach the subject?

Geneva Griswold: I have been asked in several interviews to describe how I overcame a situation that did not go as planned. The topic has never been presented as a “mistake,” however the intention of the question is the same: to illustrate how you think and to assess your ability to adapt. I find that juxtaposing two situations can be helpful; the first defines the challenge, and the second shows how you applied lessons learned in the first. Being aware of your mistake, setback, or failure is the important part, as is thinking reflexively about how to improve. If you feel uncomfortable broaching a mistake made during treatment, instead consider setbacks that occur in communication between team members, poor time estimation, or failing to meet a deadline. There are many ways to illustrate your ability to think critically, so prepare your best response prior to the interview and be confident in broaching the subject when it arises.

Thank you once again to Michele, Tony, Ayesha, and Geneva! ECPN is grateful to the speakers for their participation in the webinar and for sharing their research and thoughts on this topic. If you have additional comments or questions on this subject, please email ECPN.aic.webinar@gmail.com.

Please see the following resources for more information on this subject.

Extended Bibliography

Brajer, Isabelle. 2009. Taking the wrong path: learning from oversights, misconceptions,failures and mistakes in conservation. Examples from Wall Painting Conservation in Denmark. CeROArt 3: L’errer, la faute, le faux. Accessed 2017.

Fuentes, Ayesha and Geneva Griswold. 2012. The ‘Dead-Bucket’: An Inexperienced Conservators Guide for Evaluating Setbacks. 2012 Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation Conference, the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.

Marincola, Michele. 2010. Blink Twice: Making Mistakes in Conservation. Paper Presented at the 38th Annual Meeting, Milwaukee Wisconsin, May 13, 2010.

Marincola, Michele and Sarah Maisey. 2011. To Err is Human: Understanding and Sharing Mistakes in Conservation Practice. ICOM-CC Triennial Conference, Lisbon 19-23 September, 2011: preprints. 

Mancusi-Ungaro, Carol. 2003. Embracing Humility in the Shadow of the Artist. In Personal Viewpoints: Thoughts about Paintings Conservation, edited by Mark Leonard. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.

Recent Setbacks in Conservation 1, 3, 4. 1985. Ottawa: International Institute for Conservation-Canadian Group, 1985.

Related Resources


Brown, Brené. “The Power of Vulnerability.” TEDxHouston, 2010.

Brown, Brené. “Listening to Shame.” TED2012.

Goldman, Brian. “Doctors Make Mistakes. Can We Talk About That?” TEDxToronto, 2010.

“Making Mistakes,” TED Radio Hour Podcast, 2013.


ECPN Spring 2017 Webinar Announcement — Picking Up the Pieces: Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes as an Emerging Conservation Professional

On behalf of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN), I’m pleased to introduce our upcoming webinar, Picking up the Pieces: Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes as an Emerging Conservation Professional,” taking place on Friday, April 7th from 12-1 pm EST.

Pressure to avoid mistakes, particularly during treatment, can hamper discussion within the field of conservation regarding how to actively prevent and recover from setbacks. Although it is unfortunate when they occur, acknowledging that mistakes are fundamental to learning can be especially crucial to the development of early-career professionals. This webinar aims to provide a greater understanding of the most common causes of errors, tips for minimizing the probability of mistakes, and strategies for dealing with setbacks.

ECPN has invited a panel of four speakers to explore this topic: Michele Marincola, Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Conservation of the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Tony Sigel, Senior Conservator of Objects and Sculpture at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard Art Museums;  Ayesha Fuentes, PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and Geneva Griswold, Associate Objects Conservator at the Seattle Art Museum.

Attendance is free and open to all AIC members. Please register here to watch the webinar. If you are unable to view the program on April 7th, or are not a member of AIC, the full video will be recorded and uploaded onto the AIC YouTube Channel.

ECPN would like to increase transparency regarding mistakes and inspire a broader dialogue on this subject in the field.  We want to hear from YOU with your stories of mistakes and setbacks! Please take this short survey describing your experiences. You can be a conservation professional from any career stage, and you may opt to remain anonymous.  With your permission, we will be sharing select experiences during the webinar and in a follow up discussion on AIC’s Blog  Conservators Converse.

We hope you will join us for the webinar on April 7th and that our viewers will gain a new appreciation of mistakes as fundamental to learning, an increased awareness of the sources of error, and practical strategies for avoiding mistakes.


Please see the below biographies to learn more about our speakers:

MICHELE D’ARCY MARINCOLA  is Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Conservation of the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and managing conservator for NYU’s Acton Collection at Villa La Pietra in Florence, Italy. Before joining the university’s faculty as department chairman and professor of conservation in 2002, she was Conservator for The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Professor Marincola’s research interests include the conservation and technical art history of sculpture, as well as the history and ethics of art conservation. She designed and led a series of summer programs in technical art history for art historians, including the Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History for college and university faculty (funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation), now co-organized with the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Summer Institute in Technical Art History for graduate students in art history (funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), which ran from 2011 – 2016. Professor Marincola is the editor of a recent edition and translation of Johannes Taubert’s Polychrome Sculpture, Meaning, Form, Conservation (Getty Publications, 2015) and is the author of numerous articles on the conservation and technical study of medieval wood sculpture and the history of its conservation in the United States. She is currently completing a book with co-author Lucretia Kargère on the conservation history and treatment of medieval polychrome wood sculpture, to be published by Getty Publications. This book project was awarded the 2015 FAIC-Samuel H. Kress Publication Award.

TONY SIGEL senior conservator of objects and sculpture at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard Art Museums. Apprentice-trained as a conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago, he has worked at Sardis, Turkey, most recently as supervising conservator. He has published and taught widely on conservation practice and technical art history. He received the Rome Prize in 2004, and co-curated the 20012-13 exhibition Bernini- Sculpting in Clay, at the Metropolitan and Kimbell Museum of Art. In September, 2016, he was appointed Robert Lehman visiting professor at Villa I Tatti, Florence, studying the techniques of Renaissance sculptural models.

AYESHA FUENTES is a research scholar and first-year MPhil/PhD in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London where she is documenting the history and use of human remains in Himalayan ritual objects. She is a graduate of the UCLA/Getty MA Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials and has worked in objects conservation in the US, China, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Cambodia and Sudan.

GENEVA GRISWOLD is an Associate Objects Conservator at the Seattle Art Museum, focusing on the preservation of SAM’s pre-modern collections. Prior to SAM, Geneva was the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and held positions at the Walters Art Museum and the Getty Conservation Institute. Her archaeological fieldwork includes seasons at Herculaneum and Abydos, Egypt. Geneva is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials.

Please see the following links for publications on the topic of mistakes by our speakers:

Marincola, Michele and Sarah Maisey. “To Err is Human: Understanding and Sharing Mistakes in Conservation Practice.” 2011. 

Fuentes, Ayesha and Geneva Griswold. “The ‘Dead-Bucket’: An Inexperienced Conservators Guide for Evaluating Setbacks.” 2012.