Advocacy Alert: IMLS Reauthorization Introduced in Congress

We received this important advocacy alert from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) today. Please take a few minutes to let your Congressional representatives know how important IMLS is to conservation, museums, and our cultural heritage.
Note: The links below will take you to the AAM website where you can use their template tools to quickly reach your representatives.
IMLS Reauthorization Introduced in Congress; Contact Senators Today!
Late last week, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced S. 3391, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2016, joined by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). This bipartisan legislation, which the Alliance worked with others to help craft, would reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services for six years and advance many of the Principles for IMLS Reauthorization endorsed by the museum field.
“The Museum and Library Services Act of 2016 will strengthen IMLS and enhance its ability to serve museums nationwide. Our field is lucky to have a supporter on Capitol Hill like Senator Jack Reed, and I’m grateful to him for working so closely with us on this proposal,” said Alliance President and CEO Laura L. Lott. “Now, this bill and the valuable improvements it contains need our help. With the congressional calendar running short, it is an especially important time to build momentum behind this legislation.”
Ask your Senators to cosponsor the Museum and Library Services Act of 2016.
The legislation:

  • Formally authorizes a 21st Century Museum Professional Program, to improve the recruitment, preparation, and professional development of museum professionals, especially those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Maintains the agency’s existing authority to support museum activities at both the state and regional level, while adding regional museum collaboration to its “Purpose” section, akin to how state museum collaboration is currently referenced.
  • Adds a new emphasis on ensuring that every American has access to high-quality museum experiences to the “Purpose” section.
  • Maintains and augments the agency’s research, data collection, and analysis about museums and libraries.
  • Establishes new reporting to ensure that the agency sufficiently collaborates with museum and library organizations at the national, regional, and state level on its research and data collection activities.
  • Includes additional federal entities on the list of potential interagency partnerships, allowing IMLS to expand its collaborative efforts with other agencies and magnify support for museums and libraries.
  • Updates the agency’s governance, so that it operates more closely in alignment with other federal cultural agencies.

Ask your Senators to cosponsor the Museum and Library Services Act of 2016. P.S. Debate continues in Congress on legislation needed to keep federal agencies operating past September 30. Negotiators and analysts continue to express optimism that a deal will be struck, but the clock is running out. See AAM’s most recent advocacy alert for more details on how programs that impact museums have fared so far during this year’s appropriations process.

Advocating for Conservation and Museums This Fall

As summer turns to Fall and Congress moves back into session, we are entering what could be an active time for Museum Advocacy, both before and after the November election.
While Congress has not yet enacted any of the 12 annual appropriations bills into law, the House and Senate have each completed some work on their Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding proposals. There may also be an upcoming vote on a
stop-gap bill to keep the Federal Government Open.

The chart below compiled by AAM shows how the FY 2017 bills compare to FY 2016 current funding for some programs impacting museums:



 FY 2017 HOUSE


 IMLS Office of Museum Services

 $31.3 million

 $31.3 million

 $31.9 million

 National Endowment for the

 $147.9 million

 $149.8 million

 $148.4 million

 National Endowment for the Arts

 $147.9 million

 $149.8 million

 $148.4 million

 NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning

 $62.5 million


 $62.5 million

 Smithsonian Institution

 $840 million

 $863 million

 $860 million

 State and Tribal Historic
Preservation Offices

 $56.9 million

 $58.9 million

 $57.9 million

 Civil Rights Movement sites

 $8 million

 $11 million

 $10 million

 Save America’s Treasures


 $5 million


 National Park Service Operations

 $2.370 billion

 $2.435 billion

 $2.406 billion

Considering that the total allowable funding for FY 2017 domestic spending is essentially frozen at current levels, the numerous small increases for museum-related programs are an encouraging start. However, none of these totals have been finalized and they could all be altered significantly in year-end negotiations. Even if you have done so before, it would be helpful to let your legislators know where you stand on issues affecting museums and conservation. Visit the AAM website, where you will find many advocacy templates that you can personalize and use for this cause.

Get in touch with your representatives now to create a strong link and enhance the value of any future communications with them about legislation up for vote. Please be on the lookout for AIC advocacy alerts in the coming weeks. 

44th Annual Meeting – Saving and Preserving Family and Local History from Natural Disasters: Addressing Challenges from the Recent Earthquakes in Japan

This panel, presenting on the response to the tsunami in Japan in 2011, was composed of Masashi Amano, Kazuko Hioki, Tomoko Yasuda Ishimaru and Daishi Yoshihara. Drs. Amano and Yoshihara are both historians, and Ms. Yasuda is a conservator in private practice in Tokyo. Ms. Hioki is a conservator in the United States, and special thanks goes to her for her excellent translation during the question and answer sessions.
The presentations brought to light a number of interesting cultural differences that may be surprising to an audience from North America. The majority of public records (according to Dr. Yoshihara, the number may be as much as 90%) are held privately, rather than my public or governmental institution. This means that when a disaster occurs, it is often difficult to find out who is a stakeholder, what records are involved, or even where those records are. Often, historic sites contain records, but just as often records, historical and modern, can be found in attics and in community centers. This would include tax information, birth and death records and legal documents.
The prevalence of natural disasters in Japan makes creates another important It si very difficult for insurance companies, a very conservative business in Japan, to provide coverage in the event of a natural disaster. This means that public institutions and private collections cannot rely on the insurance industry to pay for recovery companies, and as a result, recovery companies have a much reduced presence in Japan. The end result is that, when natural disasters occur, Japanese individuals and institutions cannot rely on the same emergency response structure that we in North America.
The presenters spoke about their work helping disaster recovery after the 2011 tsunami, but much of their presentations focused on Shiryo-net (the Miyagi chapter which responded to the tsunami has an english language blog). Shiryo-net is a grassroots organization of historians and volunteers who respond to disasters specifically to deal with conservation issues, such as finding out where in a town records may be kept, rescuing those records, and performing triage treatment whenever possible. Shiryo-net formed after the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in 1995, and has grown to 24 regional chapters across Japan.
Since its inception, Shiryo-net has focused on saving those 90% of documents that are not in museums, libraries and archives. Its activities are entirely funded by membership dues and donations. The organization first came into contact with conservation on a more formal basis in the wake of a flood in Hyogo prefecture in 2004. During this disaster, they were able to work with conservators to develop first aid treatments that could be taught easily to volunteers, and the difficulties they encountered encouraged them to host workshops and become a center of volunteer training for conservation volunteers. When another flood occurred in Hyogo in 2009, the response was much quicker, and the level of care given to documents was much better. Shiryo-net is now an experienced organization, and focuses on leadership training and volunteer education as well as disaster response.
The second major focus of the talks given by the presenters was on Shiryo-net’s response to the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami. The obvious difficulties of working in a disaster area were present, as were the difficulties of working with a large, non-professional force. Over the course of the recovery, Shiryo-net worked with over 5,000 volunteers, and had to develop techniques for training, supplying and managing such a large and ever-changing population. Because of the scale and scope of the disaster, salvage operations were ongoing as much as three years after the disaster. Since the tsunami, Shiryo-net has rescued more 70,000 items, with at least 50,00 items still in storage waiting to be treated.
The presentation was informative and engaging. It was interesting to hear about the different challenges faced in a different country, and how those challenges have been met or overcome. I would like to thank the presenters again for being so forthcoming with their talk materials as I prepared this post.

44th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 17, "Salvaging Memories: The Recovery of Fire-Damaged Photographs and Lessons Learned in Conservation and Kindness," by Debra Hess Norris

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but its  worth is immeasurable when all other possessions are lost. The efforts of  the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation can  be described, therefore, as invaluable. For the past two academic years, Debra Hess Norris and the faculty, staff, and the graduate students of the WUDPAC program have undertaken recovery projects for photographs damaged by fires and floods. In addition to the rigorous course load of the Photographic Materials block at WUDPAC the classes of 2017 and 2018 have added examination, documentation, and treatment of between 240 and 260 photographs, or  about 25-35 photographs per student.  Their goal was to help people and families who have just survived heartrending disaster.
On Christmas Day in 2014, Ricky and Traci Harris lost their three sons and Ricky’s mother to a devastating house fire. Searching for any way to lessen their grief, friend and WUDPAC PhD candidate, Michael Emmons, sent this image to Ms. Norris via text message:
Emmons & Photos
One of the firefighters had taken the time to collect the fire-damaged photographs and lay them out in the Harris’ garage. Mr. Emmons coordinated with Ms. Norris to have the 260 photographs brought to the Winterthur conservation labs where the first-year graduate students began examining them for treatment. Each individual photograph had a unique variety of damage. By working closely with Mr. Emmons as the Harris family liaison, the students were able to approach treatment with approval and context from the family. The emotional nature of the project was the biggest, but not only, struggle for those involved. Condition concerns ranged from minor planar distortions to an irreversible white haze to the bleeding of inks and dyes. After minimizing the smell of smoke by storing the photographs with zeolite and blotters, students focused on surface cleaning and flattening. The stabilized photographs were then housed in polyester sleeves with zeolite-containing papers to increase the ease of future scanning.
May 24th, 2015 a flash flood hit central Texas with waters reaching 33 feet high in a matter of hours. 30 lives were lost and over 1,000 homes were damaged. As with the Arno floods that formed the theme of AIC’s 2016 Annual Meeting, compassionate volunteers and first responders attempted to salvage photographs and other personal belongings. Local archivists were able to do much in the recovery of the photographs, but 240 of the most severely damaged were sent to Winterthur for their new graduate students. The types of photographs sent ranged from tintypes to digital prints, negatives to photo albums and all suffered severe damage ranging from flaking and delamination to inactive mold. Although there was a wider variation in materials than the fire-damaged photos from the previous year, the primary treatment concerns remained surface cleaning and flattening but also included consolidation, tear mending, and unblocking. Each student was also able to choose one photograph for loss compensation as both an educational exercise and an attempt to make the most severely damaged images more cohesive. In both projects, students progressed from dry to wet cleaning techniques as detailed below and routinely used microscopic examination to assess their progress and analyze different techniques.

dry cleaning technique wet cleaning technique

Left: Dry Surface Cleaning Techniques, Right: Wet Surface Cleaning Techniques

Different approaches were also needed for fiber-based supports vs. resin-coated supports, again detailed below:

approach for fiber based support approach for resin coated support

While the educational opportunities of these projects were immense, what I find truly remarkable is the way they inspired and reflected compassion and benevolence both inside and outside the field of conservation. The subject matter clearly resonates with many of us as there was not a dry eye by the end of Ms. Norris’ presentation and the Q&A section was filled with heartwarming remarks and suggestions for how to continue and spread these outreach efforts. Additionally, the public reactions to various press and social media resulted in an inundation of offers for volunteer work, especially for the Harris family. So I would like to end with Ms. Norris’ call to action, “As a profession we must seek ways to share our skills and knowledge broadly, to be a visible presence following unthinkable tragedy, and a known resource for families facing the potential loss of their treasured photographs.”
Debbie ackn
For details on D4 and its use in photograph conservation, Ms. Norris suggests Shannon Brogdon-Grantham’s abstract entitled “New Approaches to Cleaning Works on Paper and Photographic Materials” from the 2015 Biannual PMG Meeting.

Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference — Paintings Session, May 17th — "Using Web-Based Projects to Promote Conservation and Engage Diverse Audiences" by Kristin DeGhetaldi and Brian Baade

Thanks to museums that publicize our projects and the growing acceptance of on-site treatments, conservation is increasingly in the public eye. But these efforts can only reach so many people, and they tend to be temporary events or installations. Nowadays, we have a way to spread information to the interested reader, however far away they might be, and to archive information for far longer than is usually possible in the physical world. Thus, the question becomes: since knowledge can be disseminated and stored this way, if it can’t be accessed that way, does that research really exist?
Hence, the growing importance of a conservation project website.
First to be discussed is the Kress Technical Art History website ( The site approaches a discussion of conservation by focusing on an in-depth exploration of methods and techniques, built around the painting reconstructions completed by Kristin and Brian. Each reconstruction has a section of the website, with a different page for each layer of the painting, but they also have a physical life that also educates: The originals are distributed to museums along with pigment kits, to be used as didactic tools in museum galleries. The website has additional informational pages that cover historical materials and techniques, examination and scientific methods, a vocabulary primer, and links to other resources, including painting reconstructions done by other people. The depth of the website is frankly astounding, as every page seems to link to more detail and further research: from the Historical Methods/Techniques, you can click “inorganic pigments” and find a slideshow of the raw materials being prepared, a PDF of a chronological list of pigment usage, and a link to a video showing the extraction of lapis lazuli. Not only is this a valuable resource for anyone diving into historical painting techniques, but interested pre-programmers will find its resources invaluable for Winterthur’s “copy, reproduction or reconstruction” portfolio requirement.
The second project to be covered was the two-year conservation of the monumental Triumph of David at Villanova. The project’s website ( combines not only a timeline of the treatment but a walkthrough of its restoration steps, in-depth reporting on the scientific analysis done, and the ability to view different stages of work and analysis as segments of the whole image. Kristin pointed out that while many institutions are wary of publicizing such sensitive information about the state of their artwork, the Triumph had literally no reputation to uphold: its original assessment had marked it as an insurance loss. The transparency of the Triumph project is refreshing: discussing the decision-making process behind each step and explaining current methodologies. The website is an experiment in laying out a painting’s history on the table, pointing out where there’s room for more research, and inviting the next participants to the table.
Kristin closed the talk with the introduction of MITRA (Materials Information and Technical Resource for Artists). Conceived as a revival of the much-missed AMIEN forum, it will connect artists, conservators, scientists, and educators to discuss best practices. As an interactive forum, hopefully it will become a well of expertise to draw upon when confronted with the misinformation that plagues much of the internet. Though the forum will initially focus on paintings, it will expand as it grows to cover a wide range of topics—wider than its predecessor—including contemporary art materials and concerns, textiles, sculpture, storage, murals, photography, and whatever else the public clamors for, I expect. It will be hosted by the University of Delaware when it is launched, hopefully in the Fall of 2016.

Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Conference – Objects Session, May 17, "Facing the Past for Action in the Future: Cultural Survival in Native America", by Kelly McHugh

The official theme of the joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Conference was “Emergency! Preparing for Disasters and Confronting the Unexpected in Conservation”, however, a series of talks diverged from the theme, discussing instead the role of the conservation profession in supporting social inequality and established colonial structures: Kelly McHugh’s was one such dark horse.
She began her talk with the disclaimer that her talk would contain much self-reflection. This proved a successful approach to a difficult topic, the marginalization of Native Americans within the United States of America (Canada’s crimes against First Nations groups were not addressed). By expressing her position within the framework of her own experiences, McHugh made her message approachable, sharing blame in the problems she brought to light. As McHugh noted, conversations on reconciliation can be difficult as they bring up paralyzing feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and guilt. She stressed that in addressing injustices, it may feel to Americans that the legitimacy of the origin myth of the USA as the Land of the Free is undermined – an idea expressed by Walter Echo-Hawk in his book, “In the Light of Justice”.

Chota Memorial. From National Geographic’s East Tennessee River Vallery Geotourism MapGuide

McHugh began by discussing Tellico Lake, TN where she and her family vacation. Until recently she was unaware that the lake, created as a result of the construction of the Tellico dam, covered two sacred Cherokee sites, Chota and Tanasi. The construction of the dam, which was delayed for years due to an endangered fish called the snail darter, was not hindered at all by the sacred status of the sites, which were later commemorated through the naming of golf courses and the creation of a lakeside memorial. Tying her talk into the overarching conference theme, McHugh pointed to the irony of those responsible memorializing destroyed sites lost through an intentional, man-made disaster. McHugh went on to emphasize the significance of her own ignorance of Chota and Tanasi as symptomatic of the societal blindness to aboriginal issues, which was particularly uncomfortable for her after 19 years of employment at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Tanasi Memorial, erected in 1989. From National Geographic’s East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide.

She then directed the audience’s attention to other sacred Native sites harmed in the interest of industry and tourism. She addressed the inadequacies of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, even noting that the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 fails to give First Nations tribes the right to completely barre all disturbance of sacred sites. She highlighted one location successfully protected from development for an army training facility, Medicine Bluff, which was done so by culturally educating the judge in the case, by inviting him to the site and having him walk with a religious leader. She also cited current threats to Native American heritage, notably encroaching sea levels from climate, requiring the displacement of tribal villages.
The Inupiat village of Kivalina, Alaska, is threatened by coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

Stressing the inherent connection between human rights and authority over cultural patrimony, McHugh showed the importance of generating awareness of these issues all the while not separating Native history from our own. McHugh called for true collaboration between museums and native communities, noting that NMAI was getting closer to such a relationship and highlighting other significant organizations like the School for Advanced Research and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums. She suggested the use of listening sessions and the creation of collaborative collections care initiatives to allow for sharing in the responsibilities of problem-solving on equal ground.
Overall, the message McHugh delivered was an important one – that as conservators we need to do more to recognize and respect the essential connection between cultural heritage and community, that we cannot ignore the human element in favour of remaining a neutral observer to the struggle for recognition of human rights for First Nations peoples.  There is no neutral position, inaction and ignorance only support the inequality founded on colonialism and racism. McHugh gave an important call to action: true collaboration or bust!

21st Century Salary Agenda

For all of us who care about salaries in conservation and museums, here is a great post on the Art Museum Teaching blog. I missed it in Feb. because I was working in the field with little internet access, but just read it in my review of the 700+ emails that accumulated while I was gone. It’s worth it, especially for the re-posted salary agenda from authors on the Leadership Matters blog.

Advocacy Alert: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner closes Illinois State Museum! Act Now!

In a move harmful to the people of his state and to the preservation of its history and culture, Governor Bruce Rauner has closed the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and its four satellite institutions.  While trying to eliminate a budget deficit, this closure threatens income to the state from cultural tourism, deprives school children of educational opportunities, and impedes research into the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois.  In the long run, the closure of the Illinois State Museum threatens the security and future existence of the artifacts, records, and educational resources held in trust by the museum for the citizens of the state.
Please contact Governor Rauner to advocate for preservation of the cultural property held by the museum and for public access to its collections that allows for research and discovery.
Note – The above link will take you to a comments page managed by Governor Rauner’s office. While the state of IL is pre-selected you can change it to your state. The form asks you to pick from a list of issues. You would select “Closure of State Museums”.

Advocacy Alert: Comment on proposed changes to laws regarding trade and transit of African elephant ivory

Advocacy Banner
Please Act Now!!
An urgent message to AIC members from AIC President Pamela Hatchfield:
In response to an unprecedented rise in illegal poaching of the African elephant driven by the demand created by the ivory trade, US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) has responded with proposed amendments to existing laws to increase protection of the African elephant. These efforts are in tandem with CITES international efforts and an executive order by President Obama in 2013 to combat wildlife trafficking. Most recently, FWS has amended language in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 4(d) rule to incorporate certain restrictions on international and interstate trade and transit of African elephant ivory. While we strongly support the premise that the African elephant must be protected, we also want to protect cultural heritage. The two goals are not mutually exclusive. FWS has invited the general public to comment on the proposed changes through 28 September 2015.
The AIC code of ethics states, “III. While recognizing the right of society to make appropriate and respectful use of cultural property, the conservation professional shall serve as an advocate for the preservation of cultural property.” Accordingly, we must take a stand for the protection of cultural property, including items made with ivory.
We have crafted the comment below for your use, but you should feel free to alter or add to it.  The more comments received, the more likely it is that our concerns will be heard. We urge you to submit your comments to the FWS portal so that AIC’s voice is heard as they finalize these changes.
You may submit comments electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Search box, enter FWS–HQ–IA–2013–0091, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’
You may also submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–HQ–IA–2013–0091; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: BPHC; Falls Church, VA 22041.
Note that all comments will be publicly posted on

Dear ______,

I am a member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), an organization formed specifically to protect cultural heritage properties, including those fabricated from or incorporating materials derived from endangered species.

As a conservation professional, I support elephant conservation efforts and respect laws that halt illegal trafficking of new raw and worked ivory. At the same time, we must seek the protection of cultural property that was obtained in full compliance with legal regulations at the time of acquisition. Therefore, we advocate for protecting permitted, legally acquired worked ivories from unnecessary destruction, destructive testing, and possible confiscation.

As a member, it is essential for me to state my position on this important issue. While I wholeheartedly support efforts to protect elephants, I wish to call attention to the fact that present efforts to protect African elephants from extinction could also result in inadvertent damage to historic cultural artifacts that are made of or with ivory. Please consider the following recommendations while finalizing all proposed changes to the 4(d) rule:

  • Protect legally acquired worked ivories from destruction, destructive testing, and possible confiscation.
  • Accept documentation that reliably establishes ownership dating to 1976 or before (pre-Convention) as proof that the ivory was legally obtained, and as antique if documentation demonstrates a history over 100 years.

With thanks for your attention to these critically important concerns,


(Your Signature Here)