Certification and You

With AIC’s new survey it seems emerging conservators everywhere are thinking about, talking about, and coming up with new questions about certification. What do you want to know about certification? What are your concerns and ideas?

We’d like to give the emerging conservator community the opportunity to have these questions answered by a member of the certification committee. Please email your questions and comments to Amber Kerr-Allison at amberkerr@aol.com by August 1st. Please note if you would rather have your questions remain anonymous. We will try to have all your questions answered and post them on the AIC Emerging Leaders blog as soon as possible. Although we will probably not have everything answered before Tuesday’s survey deadline, we will certainly get the information to you before the official Certification vote this fall.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some questions we’ve commonly heard to get you thinking:

· Seven years of prior experience is required before a conservator can take the certification exam. What will count towards that experience? Why have an experience requirement at all?

· What exactly does the test certify a conservator for?

· Why take expensive classes and workshops for recertification credit rather than simply taking the certification exam again?

· How will becoming certified differ from obtaining a degree in conservation?

In addition, we are aware that there are discussions happening on various conservation email listserves. Since not everyone is a part of each of the specialty group conversations, if you are interested in summarizing the discussions that you are privy to, it might benefit the group as a whole. Please email Amber (amberkerr@aol.com) if you would like to summarize recent specialty group or other listserv discussions.

This is an exciting time to be part of the field of conservation and a great opportunity to get involved.

Time for change?

Time for change?

There are some important issues that the conservation field need to deal with, and perhaps this new network is a forum in which this could be achieved. I just want to pick up on one that hasn’t really been mentioned, but is a serious issue.

Pay for newly qualified conservators and Interns (pre and post graduate)

Why is the pay so low?

I think a lot of the issues have been discussed already in an excellent article entitled “the salary conundrum” it is also worth reading many of the comments as well:


However, one additional reason that I can think of is the use of unpaid pre-program interns throughout the museum world, including conservation. Unpaid interns are a means of museums getting the work they need doing for free (based on the need of interns to get experience to get into school). If this free labor was not available the museums alternatives would be two fold, firstly to not do the work (but this would of course lessen their chance of receiving the all important donor’s money) or two to pay for the work to be done…. Our preferred option of course, as it would give museum professionals a job and also look after our collective heritage. This situation is of course not the fault of the interns, but, it is the fault of the museums, and the university courses that demand experience. So I question whether this issue could be resolved as well, paying interns would be a start, and lessening the amount of time conservators need to be interns would also help as this would in theory lessen the amount of interns a museum would have freeing up work for newly qualified professionals.

What to do?

I would suggest that AIC as the body that represents the profession in the US, needs to follow the lead of professional bodies the world over and demand for its members acceptable pay and conditions. For example, the Institute for Conservation (ICON) in the UK has the following to say: (for dollar amounts essentially double the figure)

“Icon seeks to foster recognition of the responsibility held by conservators in protecting and preserving the world’s cultural heritage. The high-level skills required for this vital role should be recognised in status and salary levels. We recommend that the minimum salary for conservators should be £20,895 and conservation technicians should be £17,000. We also recommend that the stipend (not salary) for interns undertaking workbased learning be £14,000.”

They go on to say:

“Starting salaries and career progression for conservators employed in institutions should be no lower or more restricted than for those alongside whom they work. Icon supports the principle of parity across the heritage professions”

It is important to note that these figures aren’t just pie in the sky dreams; they have translated into actual practice:

“For the guidance of employers seeking to determine appropriate salaries for conservators, we provide the following average figures based on a study of all conservation jobs advertised with Icon in 2007:

  • Newly qualified conservator – average – £21,115
  • Qualification and some experience required – average – £23,443
  • Professional Accreditation (PACR) or considerable experience required – average £27,351
  • Senior/management roles – average – £36,971”

It seems to me that these bracketed suggested pay grades could quite easily be a part of AIC policy, and I see no reason that the Emerging network could not lobby for such a situation. There would need to be research undertaken to establish exactly what those grade boundaries should/could be.

I personally think these are much more serious issues than whether AIC introduces a certification procedure. There are already little financial rewards for qualifying as a conservator, without solving this issue first I would question whether certification might simply be adding a new barrier to emerging professionals?

I would hope to see the network take a lead on this issue, and to develop a strategy to take to AIC to come up with a means of solving these issues. We as professionals should also consider how we can work together outside of AIC to improve our conditions, and also to improve the public and institutional face of conservation, for if people don’t know what it is we do, and why, how can we expect anyone to care if we are underpaid for our training and skills. AIC needs to take on some of these “Union” issues, or alternatively conservators need to form a union. Perhaps both would be ideal!

I’d like to suggest that this network work with the other emerging museum professional organizations that have already begun to work on these issues (both in the US and abroad), and to research and strategize an approach for the conservation profession. Is anyone else tired of expending our time for pocket change; I believe it is clearly time for a change!

These are just some of my initial thoughts on this issue; I’d love to hear the thoughts of others….

Si Se Puede,

Daniel Cull.

Other Emerging Leader Groups

Hey emerging conservators, it’s time for you to get to know your peers, to share your work, and to get informed about the larger world of conservation. AIC is actively working to form a group that will serve the needs of emerging conservators. Do you want to have a say? A role? Do you have an opinion about what that this group should become?

Lucky for us, there are already some models to look at. AAM now has an Emerging Museum Professionals Group, and a group of recent graduates in Canada just started the Canadian Association of Emerging Conservators which has just been accepted as an ad hoc committee of the Canadian Association for Conservation. Although their missions and scope are probably different from what this group is likely to become, it is helpful to be able to look at what has, and has, not worked for them.


The EMP group was started by a handful of AAM’s emerging staffers who recognized that people new to the museum field needed a better roadmap for career development and networking. This page isn’t about us though. It’s about you. Please share your ideas with us and get involved.” (taken from the AAM website June 6, 2008, www.aam-us.org/getinvolved/emp/index.cfm)

The EMP group have presences on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and have a Google Discussion Group. AAM/EMP staff created a kit for those interested in planning an event that lays out very clearly the steps needed to have a successful event. Meet-ups have started around the country. In April 2008, there were events in Washington D.C. and New York City. At the annual AAM meeting in April, there were several EMP events, including question and answer sessions with established professionals, and open mic night at a local bookstore.


“The Canadian Association of Emerging Conservators (CAEC-ACRE) has been formed by the six post-graduate interns in the first cycle of the re-instated Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) advanced internship program. Observing the imminent retirement of many veteran CCI staff members, and finding themselves in an ideal situation to form a group, the interns determined to form an association whose main purpose is to address the issue of the ‘knowledge gap’ in the field, to aid in efficient succession planning and to work to promote the interests of new conservation professionals.

The CAEC is pleased to announce that as of a vote taken on May 6th at the Canadian Association for Conservation (CAC) Board meeting, the CAEC is an official Ad Hoc Committee of the CAC. This status is meant to be temporary, meaning that in a year’s time a vote by the CAC membership at large, to be taken at the 2009 Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, will determine whether the CAEC is to become a regular CAC Standing Committee. The intervening year will be an opportunity for both the CAEC and the CAC to test the waters in terms of a working relationship and to begin the task of tackling the issues that are of greatest concern to emerging conservators.” (taken from the CAEC website June 6, 2008, http://caecacre.wordpress.com/caec/ )

YMP Blog

There is also a young museum professionals blog that is “dedicated to new museum professionals which is a more open forum. There is a link to the blog on the AAM/EMP website, but it seems to be run through a team of contributors, not through AAM. Some of their recent posts include:

· Museums: A Hot Bed of Liberalism? – Jun 5, 2008

· The Salary Conundrum – May 8, 2008

· Report on the next generation of nonprofit leaders – Mar 6, 2008

If you know any further information about this blog we are interested in hearing!

So Now What?

So now is the time to think about what you as an emerging conservator, or you who were once an emerging conservator, want from this group. Please fill out the survey and keep checking this blog- and leave comments. We anticipate discussions of Certification and other topics to begin popping up soon! In case you have a question you do not want to publicly post, and would like to respond to us as emerging conservators, please email Rachel (Buffalo ’07) or Laura (NYU ’08) at art.conservation.nation@gmail.com.

The Emerging Leaders Network Survey

Your network needs your voice! To best gauge the direction in which the Emerging Leaders Network should go, we would like to extend this short survey to you. We want to make sure that we can gather the most information we can on how best we can serve our constituent members. Your answers to this survey will be kept confidential.

Please forward the survey to your colleagues. Results will be analyzed and reported on the Emerging Leaders Network Blog.

Amber Kerr-Allison to Serve as an Advisor on the Certification Task Force

Please join me in welcoming Amber Kerr-Allison as the new Emerging Leader Network advisor on the AIC Certification Task Force! Please see the short bio below for more information about her.

Amber Kerr-Allison, Graduate Fellow
Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
Class of 2008
Prior to entering the field of conservation, Amber spent nine years working as a manager in marketing, design and business development for Motorola, Inc. She completed her undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art History and a minor degree in Glass Blowing. During her undergraduate studies, Amber interned with private conservator Cleo Mullins at the Richmond Conservation Studio and was an active member of the Virginia Conservation Association, where she served as Publication Chair. After graduation, Amber relocated to Raleigh, NC where she interned at both the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Regional Conservation Center and the private conservation studio of Ruth Barach Cox. To further her experience, she worked at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she assisted in the relocation and storage of the collection during the museum’s renovation and compiled a preventive care and general housekeeping manual for the museum. She is currently a third-year graduate fellow in paintings conservation at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Her 2006 summer internship was at the Château de Parentignat in France under the direction of Dr. William Whitney, professor of Paintings Conservation at the Sorbonne and the Institute Français de Restauration des Oeuvres d’Art (IFROA) and her second summer internship was at the National Museum of American Illustration conserving a mural by American artist James Wall Finn. She is completing her internship year at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Lunder Conservation Center in Washington, DC, where she will continue as SAAM’s first Lunder Conservation Fellow after receiving her Masters of Science in Paintings Conservation this summer.

Please feel free to contact Amber with all your questions/concerns about the certification process by e-mailing her at amberkerr@aol.com.

Green Task Force – New AIC Initiative

During the AIC Annual Meeting in Denver, Paul Himmelstein presented a proposal signed by a long list of AIC supporters to develop a Green Task Force that will assist members and the AIC in improving and implementing environmental sustainability actions.

Therefore, AIC is seeking up to seven members to serve on the newly created Green Task Force, and we would like one of these seven to be from the Emerging Leaders Network.

This task force is charged with investigating implementation of green practices for AIC itself and the conservation profession. It will report to the AIC Board regularly through the director of Committees and Task Forces and will submit its recommendations within two years.

The Green Task Force will communicate through email and conference calls and should consider including corresponding members who can provide additional expertise to assist in completing the charge. To be considered for service, please send a letter of interest to Cathy Hawks at cahawks@aol.com by August 1, 2008.

The Emerging Leaders Network Survey

Two very active members of the Emerging Leaders Network, Rachel Penniman and Laura Brill, have drafted a survey in order to gauge the best direction in which we should take this group. Many of you received a draft copy of this survey. If you did not, please e-mail Ryan Winfield at rwinfield@aic-faic.org for a copy. The survey is a work in progress, so please feel free to read through the survey and put your comments and suggestions here. We will gather and consider all these additions and changes before sending the survey to the wider membership.

Welcome to the Blog!

The Emerging Leaders Network within AIC now has a presence on the web in the form of a blog! Though still a work in progress, the blog is up and running and available for you to begin communicating with one another in a public forum.

If you would like to post to the blog, e-mail the body of your text to me at rwinfield@aic-faic.org with the word “blog” on the subject line.

In the mean time, if you have any questions about the Emerging Leaders Network or your membership in AIC, please let me know by using the contact info to the right and below.