43rd Annual Meeting- Heritage Health Information Survey Results Revealed, and The Past & Future of Conservation Funding Panel Discussion

I, like many others, had been looking forward to hearing the results of Heritage Preservation’s Heritage Health Information Survey, HHI 2014. Unfortunately, at the time of the meeting those results were not yet available for sharing. Despite my disappointment in not seeing those results the session was well conducted and highly informative.
Dr. Connie Bodner, Supervisory Grants Management Specialist, Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) discussed support for programs addressing collection care priorities identified in HHI 2004 over the past ten years as well as her Institute’s continuing commitment in those areas.
The major priorities identified in the HHI 2004 report were:
• Institutions must give priority to providing safe conditions for the collections they hold in trust.
• Every collecting institution must develop an emergency plan to protect its collections and train staff to carry it out.
• Every institution must assign responsibility for caring for collections to members of its staff.
• Individuals at all levels of government and in the private sector must assume responsibility for providing the support that will allow these collections to survive.
Substantive progress has been made in responding to those priorities over the past ten years. Connie put forward as one outstanding example the Connecting to Collections – A call to action program which over four years raised awareness of collection care in many small to medium museums. In addition to distributing collection care ‘bookshelves’ to 3000 institutions, it created the internet based discussion list and webinar series that has now been adopted by FAIC as Connecting to Collections Care where it will be maintained and further developed.
Heritage Preservation’s Acting President Thomas Clareson provided a recap on the process of dissolution of Heritage Preservation set to occur on June 30, 2015. Many programs have been transferred to FAIC as detailed in our Executive Director’s communication in the May 2015 edition of AIC News http://www.conservation-us.org/docs/default-source/periodicals/aic-news-vol-40-no-3-(may-2015).pdf?sfvrsn=2. In addition, Heritage Preservation business archives are being transferred to the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the Saving Outdoor Sculpture (SOS) archives are being transferred to the University of Maryland. Digital resources for Heritage Preservation programs will continue to be made available through CoOL (even more good reason for each of us to financially support CoOL!)
The disposition of several programs is still being worked out. These include the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, HHI 2014, and the Conservation Assessment Program (CAP). There will be announcements about homes for these programs in the near future. The IMLS reiterated its commitment to continuing support for the CAP program.
Regarding the Heritage Health Information Survey, HHI 2014, while much of the 2014 survey was kept consistent with the 2004 version to allow comparison of results over time, there were some changes such as more information gathered on digital resources. The survey was sent out in October 2014 and data collection ended in February 2015. The response rate was about 20% based on 1800 responses from an estimated universe of 50,000 institutions.
The complete HHI 2014 report is now expected to be published in the fall of 2015. In addition to the report, brochures will be produced and press conferences scheduled. This could be an ideal time for collection care staff in institutions large and small to bring preservation issues and priorities to the attention of senior management and governance. Interestingly, survey response data files will be available on the IMLS website for download and further analysis.
High-level and long-term perspectives on foundation-based support for conservation training and practice were then offered by officers from three of our long-term, committed supporters: the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Getty Foundation, and Kress Foundation. Each discussed the history and underlying philosophy behind their ongoing support for conservation.
First, Alison Gilchrest of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation outlined its 46 years of support for conservation beginning with a grant to support Dr. Robert Feller’s work on photochemistry and light damage at the Mellon Institute. Since then 310 grants with a conservation component have provided funding totalling $191,433,145 – an impressive investment indeed. These have been targeted through careful selection to support strength and potential, information sharing and networking. Alison has begun to explore how grant resources have been distributed over time and across the field with a view to ensuring there is collaboration across the Mellon foundation to fulfill its mission “to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.”
Antoine Wilmering, Senior Program Officer then spoke of the Getty Foundation’s support for conservation which has included 1133 grants over the past 30 years and 287 grants over the past 10 years. The foundation is tending to support more broadly integrated projects which include research, development, training, capacity building, and dissemination. It is actively scanning the field for both what they read and hear and what they are not seeing and hearing to identify areas in which they can invest to best effect.
Max Max Marmor, President of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation was pleased to report his Foundation has supported more than 4500 Kress Fellows since 1961 and currently supports nine conservation fellowships each year. This is in addition to the substantial support associated with the conservation of the Kress collection itself, primarily through Kress Program in Paintings Conservation at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, and through such initiatives as the Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History (STITAH). Max believes that important priorities in the future will be sustaining the interest of young professionals in conservation and ensuring they will have adequate opportunities for development and employment, while also raising consciousness more generally in the importance of heritage preservation.
Numerous participants thanked the presenters and spoke to the benefits they had received through support from these foundations.
Robert Waller, Protect Heritage Corp.

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – Outreach to Allies Session, May 9, Collection Care Network Brainstorming Session: Table 1 – Mountmaking

The last presentation of the Outreach to Allies Session at the AIC Annual Meeting 2012 was an interactive session organized by the Collection Care Network. The leadership team of the network designed it as a way to identify priorities and projects for the network. Imagine nine groups of 7 to 9 people sitting around tables discussing the content of a nine different short videos. Each video presented a collection care challenge or question. The discussion aimed to suggest projects the Collection Care Network could develop that would provide tools to overcome the challenge or answer the question. Now imagine people engaged in conversation. So engaged they didn’t get up for food when asked to do so! So engaged they had to be asked a second time!! Now you have a very small idea of what the session was like. This particular post gives you more details about the discussion at Table 1. Look for the other 8 posts if you would like to review all the discussions.

Table One: I greatly appreciate the importance of good mounts both for visitor experience and for conservation so I was quick to volunteer to moderate the discussion at this table.  Due to the diversity of issues raised in the video and of perspectives around the table our discussions quickly became wide ranging.  Our table’s discussion dealt more with how we collaborate rather than what topics we deal with first.

The video: The video presenter was Shelley Uhlir, staff mount maker at the National Museum of the American Indian.  Shelley loved the idea of bringing together different but complimentary disciplines, of mount making and conservation.  She had seen the power of such collaboration in a mount-making forum held at the Smithsonian in 2010.  In that venue a wonderful conversation and exchange of ideas between mount makers and conservators took place.  Shelley hopes the CCN could make that sort of exchange available anywhere and anytime.   She went on to suggest a wide range of issues to address and kinds of information to exchange.

The discussion: Probably because the video was so clear and comprehensive in describing topics for interaction between conservators and mount makers the group discussion quickly turned to issues of how to facilitate exchange of information, particularly over the internet.  Concerns were raised about the person time required to maintain currency of information and several good suggestions were made.  The idea of having a credible source for information on the internet was especially appreciated and the importance of maintaining credibility emphasized.

The ideas for Collection Care Network projects:

  • Establish a Wiki or similar platform for sharing relevant information, especially providing links to the most reliable current information and not striving to reinvent the wheel.
  • Provide a venue for publishing reports on specific, small collection management and care related studies.  Such reports might be too narrow and focused for traditional publications but be valuable to colleagues facing similar challenges.
  • Establish dates for themed discussions, for example, selection and use of materials for mounts.
  • Possibly in conjunction with themed discussions, have a small group work intensively for two days to bring together a news report like summary of best current methods and information on a specific topic.

The contributors: Moderator – Robert Waller; Note Taker – Rob Lewis; Table participants – Priscilla Anderson, Jody Breek, Jennifer le Cruise, James Gilbert, Pip Laurenson