Call for Participation: New Annual Meeting Event “A Failure Shared is Not a Failure”

AIC members from all specialty groups are invited to attend and participate in the event “A failure shared is not a failure: learning from our mistakes,” happening on Saturday, June 2nd, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — click here to add it to your Sched. We will gather and share our cautionary tales, including treatment errors, mishaps, and accidents, with the idea of helping our colleagues not to repeat them.

Discussing mistakes is a hot topic that has already been embraced by others in our community. Two examples of events scheduled during the month of May are: “Mistakes were made,” a regular feature at the American Alliance of Museums conference, and the lecture “Conservation Confidential” hosted by our conservation colleagues across the pond in the Independent Paper Conservators’ Group.

Participants can speak for up to 5 minutes; if you prefer to remain anonymous, a reader will be happy to present your tale on your behalf. If you are unable to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting but would like to submit a tale to be read by one of our organizers or a colleague, please reach out.

Screens to project PowerPoint slides containing your images/video will be available (16:9 format), and a Dropbox folder will be made available for submissions. Please also bring your presentation on a USB Drive (highly encouraged). Time permitting, audience members inspired by their colleagues will be welcome to present. If appropriate (and acceptable to the speaker), the floor will be opened for questions and discussion following presentations. Extra points for suggesting safeguards and solutions!

Please note that this is a forum for sharing personal mistakes and solutions only. Participants are requested not to name other persons, organizations, work places, and avoid politics—institutional, national, and global!

The event will include a cash bar, so come, relax, unwind, share, laugh, groan, and learn. We plan to publish the event for those who wish to be included.

If you are interested in participating or have questions about the event, please contact Tony Sigel at or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at by May 10th.

Please include 2-3 quick sentences introducing your topic and indicate whether you plan to use a PowerPoint with images and/or video.

See you in Houston!

Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) Seeking a Liaison to Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP)

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is seeking candidates for the position of liaison to the Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP) specialty group. This is a one-year term position, with the potential to renew for another year. It is open to early-career conservators who are currently working in private practice and are members of CIPP.

The liaison would join ECPN’s growing Specialty Group Liaison program, and serve as a connection between Specialty Group leadership, ECPs in your specialty group, and the larger ECPN community.

Both ECPN and CIPP’s charges and current leadership can be found on the AIC website here and here, respectively.

CIPP Duties and Goals:

  • Conference Calls with CIPP Officers (first Wednesday of the month)
  • Subscribe to CIPP Officer listserv
  • Assist with developing CIPP programming targeted toward emerging conservators (such as Annual Meeting programs, webinars, resource guides, blog posts)
  • Participate/co-author one CIPP article in AIC News
  • Provide content for updating the CIPP website
  • Produce a summary of activities for CIPP biannual report to AIC Board of Directors
  • Funding may be available to offset the registration costs to attend the annual meeting

ECPN Duties:

  • Conference Calls with ECPN Outreach Officers (1-2x/year)
  • Conference Calls with ECPN Officers (1-4x/year)
  • Disseminate information pertinent to the ECPN community (e.g. BigTent forums andspecialty group listserv)
  • Make at least two short entries on BigTent updating the ECPN liaison community on upcoming or successful initiatives
  • When appropriate, advocate for ECPs in specialty group meetings and promote specialtygroup initiatives to ECPs
  • Assist with the AIC Wiki edit-a-thon on specialty group web pages in consultation with specialty group chair and ECPN
  • Provide support to ECPN entries on the AIC blog
  • Publicize ECPN webinars (two organized annually)
  • If present at the annual AIC meeting, attend the specialty group business meeting and give the ECPN update presentation (talking points will be provided by ECPN Officers); promoting ECPN programming
  • Stay connected via Facebook and ECPN posts on the AIC Blog
  • Brief Spring Report: a short summary of the work done by the specialty groups and how it affects the ECPN community and how this information was circulated.

Please send a CV and brief statement of interest to ECPN’s Outreach Officers at by August 4, 2017.

45th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, “Less is More/Recapturing the Subtleties” by Adam Novak

For the first BPG Session of a treatment-themed AIC Conference this year, Adam Novak, a paper conservator at Daria K. Conservation, LLC in New York gave his presentation on a topic that is very important but not often discussed in the field: using one’s senses to determine the appropriate treatment for an item. With a multitude of treatment options available, the conservator is (ideally) able to control the outcome and intensity of the treatment by understanding the effects of time, moisture, conductivity, and expansion on the item. Adam referred to the thorough research and presentation at last year’s AIC meeting by Amy Hughes and Michelle Sullivan on minimally invasive treatments using gels as an example of how the conservator can control the treatment.

The primary concern in conservation is obviously the effectiveness of a treatment, but the possible repercussions of the treatment on an object in the future is a concern. Adam spoke of how every treatment carries with it both risks and benefits, and as conservators we can control how invasive (and how effective) we would like a treatment to be. Drawing from conservation’s relatively short past, it is apparent that reversibility is key and often “less is more.” The less invasive the treatment, the better the longevity for the object. This is of course balanced with the efficacy of the treatment as well, which Adam mentioned.

Adam gave a few examples of different paper treatments involving different kinds of media in excellent detail, describing how he approached each object with the idea that one’s “senses are as important as the science.” Which is to say, if you can detect the subtleties of the paper surface, quality of the ink, etc. then you are more able to control your treatment in such a way to retain the integrity of the work. Ideally, if the conservator is honed in on the subtleties of the item being treated, then the overall outcome of the treatment will have little trace of invasion. This quote was integral to the message of the presentation, and appeared twice(!):

As the treatment “toolbox” grows and changes moving in to the future, taking a closer look at qualities of an item to be retained after its treatment and cleaning will become more important and certainly more achievable.

Improved Respirator Fit Testing at the AIC Annual Meeting

The Health & Safety Committee is happy to announce NEW and IMPROVED respirator fit testing for the Annual Meeting in Chicago! We have listened to your feedback and have modified the process to make fit testing more accessible.  The new program includes:

  • An online lecture–no more conflicts with Annual Meeting programming!
  • More options for medical evaluations. Medical evaluations will be provided through AIC (and are included in the price of the fit test) OR you can still see your own doctor.
  • CIPP members get a discount! FREE Fit Test if you sign up for the CIPP Seminar.

Appointments are limited, so register now!

Why Get a Respirator Fit Test?

The AIC Fit Test Program is specifically designed for conservators, particularly those who are self-employed or who do not have a respiratory protection program provided through their employer.

Whether you are using hazardous chemicals in your laboratory or working with mold-infested artifacts after a flood, you need to be sure you are protected with a properly fitting respirator. Do the elastic straps still pull tightly? Do you need a new type or size due to facial changes resulting from weight gain or loss or surgery? Are you using the right kind of protection for your hazard?

OSHA requires individuals be fit tested on an ANNUAL basis to assess the condition of both the respirator and the user. If you perform work that requires the use of a respirator your employer MUST provide the appropriate respiratory protection, medical evaluation, training, information and fit testing–even disposable dust masks are considered by OSHA to be respirators requiring proper fit testing.

It is important to be proactive in your own health and safety and to follow OSHA recommendations and protocols, even if you are your only employee.

What is Involved?

The AIC Respirator Fit Test Program consists of three parts in order to be compliant with the OSHA standard:

(1) An OSHA Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire completed by the registrant and reviewed prior to the fit test either with the Chicago-based clinic contracted by AIC (included in the registration fee) or with their own healthcare professional (at their own expense).

(2) An informational lecture (~ 1 hour) and quiz, which can be completed online prior to the meeting.

(3) An individual fit test (about 15-20 minutes/person) at the Annual Meeting.

Fit test appointments will be available on Tuesday, May 30 (9am-5pm) and Wednesday, May 31 (8:30am-11:30am).

Both the lecture and fit test will be conducted by a qualified Occupational Safety Professional or Certified Industrial Hygienist.

Registrants can bring their own respirator if they already use one and/or try on a selection of sample respirators. They will be contacted directly by the Health & Safety Committee to provide the link to the online lecture, to discuss medical evaluation options and to schedule appointments.

How to Register:

Registration for a fit test can be completed through the AIC Annual Meeting online portal.

This year, the Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP) Specialty Group is generously funding fit testing for its membership.  CIPP members who register for the CIPP seminar, Innovative ‘Tools’ to Enhance Your Business, can also sign up for a FREE fit test. Can’t attend the seminar? You are still eligible to sign up for a fit test for the reduced rate of $30 (a 50% discount from the regular registration fee). If you aren’t currently a member, add CIPP to your AIC Membership Renewal to receive this benefit ($25).

From the “Sessions” checkout screen, select the “Respirator Fit Test” option and the appropriate registration status (Regular, CIPP Member or CIPP Seminar Attendee) and proceed to checkout. AIC will confirm your status eligibility prior to contacting you about scheduling a specific appointment.

We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!


The Committee would like to thank all the members who completed our online survey!  Fit Test organizers are making sure to address all the helpful comments, questions and concerns. 


44th Annual Meeting & 42nd Annual Conference – Book and Paper Session, May 15, “All Over the Map: Bringing Buffalo’s Stars of Cartography to Light (One Lining at a Time) by Stephanie Porto

Stephanie Porto, Owner and Paper Conservator at Niagara Art Conservation, presented an engaging talk on the conservation of maps depicting the rapid growth of Buffalo, New York from 1805 to 1909, which were exhibited in “You Are Here: Buffalo on the Map.” Stephanie’s talk perfectly balanced the technical treatment aspects with contextual information on the maps themselves.

Image and exhibition outline found on:
Image and exhibition outline found on:

Stephanie outlined the history and interesting facts of each map requiring conservation treatment. From the 1833 map, which detailed the area one year after Buffalo had been incorporated as a city, to the 1847 map which demonstrated the increase in commerce on the lake, and the 1893 Christian Homestead Association map, which included the salacious representation of 75 houses of ill fame.
Their conservation treatment needed to be completed in a limited timeline, and while six out of eight of the maps required linings due to poor quality paper, Stephanie found that traditional wet paste lining was not going to be possible in most cases. She included some great references that she had consulted on dry lining techniques:
Sheesley, Samantha. 2011. “Practical Applications of Lascaux Acrylic Dispersions in Paper Conservation”. The Book and Paper Group Annual 30: 79-81.
Jamison, Jamye. 2013. “Tip: Lascaux Linings in the Treatment of Park Plans for the Cleveland Public Library”. The Book and Paper Group Annual 32: 82-83.
Stephanie’s lining mock ups initially had an issue with sheen and planarity, but she was able to solve both problems using cellulose powder and a combination of Lascaux 303 HV and 498 HV. She outlined the specs of each adhesive, noting their difference in sealing temperatures (498 HV is higher) and final film elastic description (498 HV is hard and 303 HV is tacky). Stephanie described her preparation of the lining paper, beginning with rolling a 2:1 Lascaux 498 HV and 303 HV mixture onto silicone release Mylar with a brayer, allowing to dry, and ironing the dried adhesive film onto the lining paper, and using a printmaking baren to apply pressure after the film and paper were cooled. The map was placed recto up and the prepared lining paper was aligned underneath, the sandwich was flipped and smoothed by hand, then ironed from the center out. After being cooled, the lined map was pressed between Tycore panels. She then discussed the specific treatments of particular maps requiring linings.
The 1850 map depicting an 1805 Buffalo rendered in ink on watercolor paper required the removal of pressure sensitive tape, suction washing and cleaning, dry lining, and overall stretch-mounting.
The 1888 relief printed map could not withstand a backing removal, and so the treatment went forward with consolidation of delaminated paper with wheat starch paste set with a tacking iron, and a dry lining was applied with the original textile backing still in place.
The 1909 relief printed map was heavily water-damaged and retained evidence of previous conservation intervention. The map was consolidated with methyl cellulose, and was lined overall with the backing still in place with a Beva 371 film, and stretch mounted onto a foam board.
The 1893 color lithograph map required the removal of pressure sensitive tape, a temporary facing of 4% w/v Klucel G in ethanol during the backing removal, and a dry lining.
The 1833 hand colored lithograph was in the poorest condition with many detached fragments and a varnish layer. After the varnish was removed with ethanol, and the same temporary facing was applied, the backing was removed dry and the verso was then sanded to remove the adhesive residue. After lining with the Japanese tissue Okowara, the backing paper itself was hand toned with acrylics to integrate losses.
All the temporary facings were removed and loss compensation was completed by pouncing the Japanese tissue with cellulose powder and dry pigments. Finally, we got to see an excellent use of old chemistry textbooks in the pressing and flattening of the maps!

43rd Annual Meeting, Joint ECPN/ CPIP Panel Session, May 13 “ Emerging Conservators in Private Practice”

This session was one of the major reasons I chose to attend AIC 2015 annual meeting. Speaking to a conservator who started a private practice within five years of graduating from a conservation program planted a strong seed for me. Megan Salazar-Walsh, session moderator, launched the event tapping into panelists’ hindsight “What you wish you knew starting out that you know now as a conservator in private practice?
During the panel session, four conservators in private practice across the spectrum from the fledgling to established practices of five and ten years shared insights on a variety of topics from workspaces to work/life balance and the challenges of being a business owner. The panelists were: Anna Alba, a paintings conservator in the Pittsburgh area, and proprietress of established in 2014. Stephanie Hornbeck, a senior objects conservator who established Caryatid Conservation  in Miami in 2010. Lara Kaplan, founder of Lara Kaplan Conservation LLC, an objects conservation-focused firm in Baltimore in 2005. Cynthia Kuneij-Berry, senior paintings conservator in Chicago, who was in private practice for off and on for years and established her business in its current form, Kuneij-Berry Associates in 2005, and Emily MacDonald-Korth,a painting and architecture conservator with studios in Miami and Los Angeles for Longevity Art Preservation LLC and a second venture, Art Preservation Index.
The major benefits of private practice are the flexibility, whether in geography or time for raising children, and the independence combined with the satisfaction intrinsic to art conservation. The challenges of course are inherent to running any business such as marketing and educating clients and unpredictability in workload. After finishing her fellowship, unsolicited contract work started Laura Kaplan on the private practice path; after two years she wholeheartedly embraced private practice conservation.  Laura acknowledged and diffused some myths saying that going into private practice straight after training is completely doable. A conservator can have an equally rich and rewarding career in private practice as in a traditional museum position.
The panel overwhelmingly recommended interning in private practice during the pre-program and/or graduate school years to make a more informed decision. Anna Alba had worked with two private conservators before graduating and hence she had insight into the both the good and bad aspects of private practice life. One of the biggest challenges of private practice is that one never really gets to leave work at work. Also, as a business owner, a conservator is doing whatever needs to be done from being the cleaning lady to the accountant as well as scientists and art conservator. Other challenges cited by the panel included education clients, learning not to over-commit, and contact negotiations can drag on with institutions and approvals. Best summary quote about private practice from the panel was “No one thing is hard, but everything can be overwhelming.” The AIC online course for establishing a practice came highly recommended as a starting point for anyone considering private practice.
Collaboration Remains Key
 Collegiality and cooperation among conservators were mentioned repeatedly as essential to the successful private practice. When objects conservator Stephanie Hornbeck chose Miami to set up her conservation practice after leaving the Smithsonian, paintings conservator Rustin Levinson whohad  practiced in Florida for decades was extremely helpful in identifying people and organizations that could use object conservation services. Later, the two collaborated on the conservation of Louise Nevelson sculptures for the Perez Art Museum that was covered in a documentary. Laura Kaplan noted that the Baltimore area is a supportive and cooperative community despite hosting many objects conservators; often subcontracting for each other as needed on large contracts. Similarly, Emily MacDonald-Korth mentioned consulting with classmates and former supervisors when dealing with a technically challenging project.
Getting Started in Private Practice
The first step is speak to conservators in private practice and at institutions who are taking private work; it is an essential part of due diligence to understand how pricing is working in the regional market. The panelists also emphasized that being a good colleague also means charging fair market prices. The conservation field has problems with adequate compensation, so undercharging as a new conservator in private practice will exacerbate the issue, noted Laura Kaplan.  The rigorous experience and education associated with conservation graduate school means that a conservator fresh out of fellowship possesses the skills and professionalism to be a qualified, ethical conservator in private practice as well as at an institution, and to charge accordingly.
All the panelists had rented work spaces for their labs. Loft or converted industrial spaces that attract artists also work for conservators. Laura Kaplan noted it’s important to have a space that feels professional so clients can come and feel good about leaving their artworks. Two of the conservators had live/work spaces. Features like loading dock or 10 ft bay door become important given the potential size of art works. Anna Alba has opportunity within her building to rent extra space as needed. Recommendations for set-up include having everything on wheels for adaptability, using Ikea for cabinets and storage, creating work surfaces with trestle legs and hollow frame wood doors. The rented studio provides some psychological benefits, creating a clearer mental boundary and giving some structure to the business. A favorite tidbit regarding equipment investment comes from Emily MacDonald-Korth, always get a deposit for a treatment and use the deposit to buy needed equipment and supplies for that project. Hence one avoids the trap of spending on unnecessary expensive equipment just for the sake of buying it. Cynthia Kuneij-Berry as a painting conservator always had a solvent cabinet in her studio space.  She invested in a ventilation system in her current studio feeling a higher standard now that she has employees since regretfully she’s had conservation friends who died from cancers related to workplace hazards. She found consulting with engineers, insurance agents, and lawyers valuable in addressing safety needs. AIC has some upcoming online courses on lab safety and risk mitigation.
An exciting trend for private practice is there are some large underserved art markets in North America. Stephanie Hornbeck acknowledged market need was a major factor for establishing her practice in Miami, Florida. She wanted to stay on the East Coast overall, but a noncompete clause made it impractical to stay in Washington DC.  She recognized that Florida was underserved with numerous museums, a major art fair, and only three institutions had conservators. With her background at the Smithsonian, she saw a need and niche for a museum conservator for 3-D art and now works with fourteen museums in the state. With half of AIC membership being conservators in private practice and the movement toward outsourcing across the United States economy, private practice conservation will likely remain major professional trend for art conservators. A future trend mentioned by CIPP leadership is interest for senior conservators in private practice transitioning their businesses to the next generation of conservators.
It was clear for all panelists the rewards outweighed the challenges for private practice. The types of projects in private practice offer variety and broaden horizons and the opportunity to shape your practice and move professionally in directions of interest, such Stephanie Hornbeck’s work with art conservation in disaster areas. The happiness on clients’ faces when they see their artwork post-treatment is really memorable.  Another reward is spending most of your time in studio and on treatments instead of mundane meetings. Last but not least, the people in your professional life can be a major reward with the opportunity to pick your coworkers, and hosting pre-program and graduate interns who bring updates in technology and education to the studio, and continually meeting new people as clients.

43rd Annual Meeting, Private Practice + Health & Safety Luncheon, "Studio Design Challenges: Creating a Safe and Practical Space" by Jeff Hirsch, William Jarema, Dan Klein and Roger Rudy

Whether or not you were lucky enough to have attended the luncheon on create safe and practical conservation studios, you will be happy to know that the entire PowerPoint is available on the Health & Safety site ( The presenters are architects and engineers with EwingCole, and were extremely generous in sharing their expertise. Having conducted numerous interviews with conservators in private practice (mostly paintings and paper), and toured many studios and labs, the presenters were able to provide specific examples of both challenges and solutions. The luncheon was divided into 2 sections, each with round table presentations followed by time for questions.
During the first section, the discussion focused on ways to identify and understand risks (probability and severity). Practical tips were provided to ensure safe storage for chemicals both at the work space and in cabinets. A broad discussion about workplace design started with information about different types of buildings, concerns about adjacent spaces, and the importance of accounting for all people who might be in a studio space (including children and pets). Fire prevention, detection, and suppression were covered. The section on ergonomics included a tip that I particularly appreciated – a board for step aerobics can provide adjustable heights for conservators working at tall tables.

Example of one of the many height-adjustable boards for step aerobics.

The second section included information about air flow and exhaust. Since many conservators are concerned about the management of fumes, this generated a lively discussion with many questions. The PowerPoint includes a number of helpful charts, tables, and equations to help conservators determine the ventilation needs and capabilities of their spaces. Also included are case studies with practical solutions to ventilation needs, as well as links for helpful online resources.

42nd Annual Meeting – Paintings Session, May 29 “Illumination For Inpainting: Selecting an Appropriate Color Temperature” by Steven Weintraub

So why do conservators prefer northern daylight for inpainting? In Steven Weintraub’s talk titled “Illumination For Inpainting: Selecting an Appropriate Color Temperature” which he presented in the Paintings Session at the 42nd Annual Meeting in San Francisco, he answered this question, as well as a few others about light sources and selecting an appropriate color temperature.
Steven explained how, in his opinion, it is the distribution pattern of skylight that helps make it so ideal. When diffuse skylight from a north-facing window enters a room, there is a “soft” directionality. This type of light distribution avoids the problem of harsh shadows typically associated with point sources of light. It also avoids the opposite problem of flatness due to the absence of shadows, a condition associated with diffuse sources such as over-head fluorescent lamps.
Using only skylight or daylight for inpainting, however, sets the conservator up for two problems: The first, as Steven mentioned in his abstract, is that the availability and control of northern daylight limits the amount of time, and the location in which it can be used. This becomes a real problem if you happen to be facing a tight deadline during the short winter days in the northeast, or like myself, have constantly changing lighting conditions, such as those during the bout of thunderstorms that we often have here during Houston summers. The second problem, which Steven explained in more detail during his talk, is that the spectral power distribution of typical sources of gallery lighting is pretty much the opposite to that of daylight. The result is that if inpainting is done only with daylight, it increases the risk of metamerism when exhibiting the artwork in an electric lighting situation utilizing a warm color temperature source.
It is for both these reasons that many conservators opt for a mix of electric light and daylight for inpainting, and when possible, test the matching of inpainting in the lighting conditions for which it will be displayed.
But, how does one choose an appropriate electric light source? Steven explained his research and suggested that selecting an appropriate color temperature with adequate color rendering properties was a key.
Apparently, color temperature in the range of 3800° Kelvin is the magic number. From Steven’s talk, I learned that color temperature within the 3800°K range is the transition point between warm to cool on the color temperature scale. Within this color temperature range, Steven theorizes that one gets the best balance of saturation with warm and cool colors.
Steven concluded his talk by illuminating a pair of reproductions of a very well known painting by René Magritte, demonstrating the difference in appearance of the image in various color temperature lighting conditions. This showed how the moderate (3800°K) range really did look the best.

42nd Annual Meeting – Engaging Communities in Collection Care Session: “Current Conservation Education and Practice: Are They Sustainable?”

The topic of sustainability was on everyone’s minds at the AIC 42nd Annual Meeting, and an evaluation of the sustainability of our own profession and its educational path was part of the program. Having recently crossed the threshold into an art conservation graduate program, I was particularly interested in hearing Paul Himmelstein, a private practice conservator and partner at Appelbaum & Himmelstein since 1972, assess the sustainability of such programs.
In order to better understand how the graduate programs have changed over time, Himmelstein opened his talk with summaries of answers to a questionnaire he had distributed to the nine members of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in the Conservation of Cultural Property (ANAGPIC). From the responses collected, he reported the following:
–       Most applicants today are female, compared to earlier ratios of applicants, who were closer to 50% female and 50% male.
–       The requirements for admission have increased, both in the number of required pre-program hours of conservation experience and in the number of pre-requisite courses.
–       All programs require two years of General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.
–       All programs are cost-free regardless of need.
–       Most applicants apply twice before acceptance.
–       Approximately 80 students apply per year.
–       The number of accepted students in each program has remained the same.
Himmelstein attributed these changes to a list of reasons. He surmised that the decreased number of male applicants is a result of the increased number of academic requirements and pre-program hours of experience. Men, he said, are more deterred by the extra years needed to complete these requirements as they are still driven by the “provider” mentality. He also noted that AIC is currently 66% female, but the majority of conservation leadership positions at major fine-arts institutions are held by men. He also pointed out that the majority of our demographic is white and middle-class. In response to the full-ride fellowships, Himmelstein predicted that the expense of supporting all students every year is not sustainable, given the number of students accepted.
Himmelstein continued by offering a list of proposed solutions. He suggested considering changing the grants to a need-based system. He also suggested adopting an admissions approach that simply rejects or accepts with no option for reapplying, as in medical schools and law schools. He also added that more men are entering the field of nursing, another female-dominated profession, as a counterpoint to the fact that our profession is losing men.
After stating that 50% of AIC members are in private practice, he advocated for a business-management component at the graduate level, in which conservators in private practice could share their experiences and provide mentorship at the post-graduate level. He said that new graduates “just aren’t ready” to begin careers in private practice. He also advocated for Kress scholarships for textbooks.
His solutions list continued to broaden outside the graduate school realm and included general suggestions for advocacy and outreach. According to Himmelstein, “Met[ropolitan Museum of Art] conservation projects are boring” and “conservation is hidden.” He feels that conservators are not working as important colleagues with other museum professionals; they also need to play a larger role in the fields of art history and archeology. He suggested presenting conservation treatment projects online, as in plastic surgery “before” and “after” shots. Viewers could scroll over the artifacts to watch them change. Himmelstein suggested that the public “expects us to be wizards,”and concluded with the statement, “We are not on a sustainable track, but I think we can be.”
Assessing the sustainability of our profession, especially in our current economic climate, is imperative. I agree that we must reexamine the number of students graduating each year to reduce expenses and to help control the job market, but not by selectively limiting funding or reducing a person’s chances for acceptance. Limiting funding at the graduate level would create an impossible financial position for most students. The demands of graduate school are such that no one is able, or even allowed, to work while in school. Unless a student is independently wealthy, then everyone falls into the “needs funding” category. According to Himmelstein’s report, average conservation students are not independently wealthy. Many internships at the graduate level are also still unpaid or partially paid, and students rely on their stipends to compensate. The current post-graduate income can also not sustain significant student loans. The “one strike you’re out” formula is also flawed. Many talented individuals who have made great contributions to our profession would not have become conservators if they did not get another chance to apply. Those who reapply show tenacity and dedication and our profession is shaped by those who participate.
I believe the decrease in male applicants is related to other factors and not because of the program requirements. Nursing is likely attracting more men because it has lost some of the “stigma” of a woman’s profession along with providing a relatively secure and well-paying job market. Conservation wages have fallen over time and the number of men in the field are likely reflecting this trend. In another life I pursued a degree in nursing and can attest that the increase in the number of men is not because less time is needed to get in to school. On the contrary, regardless of whether a student works to earn a bachelor of science in nursing or an associates degree in nursing, many hours of volunteer experience are required and many programs now require that a student become a certified nursing assistant before admission. This certification takes two months of full-time work or six months of part-time work in order to qualify for the state board exams. This work, in addition to the pre-requisites needed to apply, takes most individuals at least one year before they can apply to a nursing program. Some of the struggles we fight in conservation are not unique, but we are feeling the growing pains of a smaller and much newer profession, one that needs continuous advocacy in order to earn a living wage.
I agree that continuous outreach, both to the public and to colleagues in the humanities and sciences, is essential. Himmelstein touched on disseminating information to appropriate departments within schools. This is a particularly important task for me as a current graduate student, and a great way to continue advocacy for our profession. I was made fully aware of how important it can be to connect with other graduate students in the two weeks that followed AIC. From June 2-13, three classmates and I participated in the Delaware Public Humanities Institute (DelPHI). Applications to the course were open to all University of Delaware graduate students who work with material culture. Those two weeks were packed full of learning important skills such as navigating social media and presenting your project with concise and interesting language, and investigating what inter-departmental collaboration could mean for each of our disciplines. Plans to attend one another’s lectures and to share our research in one another’s classrooms are already underway for the 2014-2015 school year. I would like to hear other examples of these types of collaborations, because I am sure other wonderful ideas are being implemented.
The sustainability of art conservation is indeed an important discussion and I hope it is one in which conservators at all stages of their careers will participate.

42nd Annual Meeting – Conservators in Private Practice, May 28, "Greening your Conservation Practice."

Believing heat wheels work is like believing you can section off a part of a hot tub for peeing.

Headline speaker Monona Rossol began this year’s CIPP workshop with her characteristic flair when referring to the use of the heat exchange system with contaminated air streams. The system is often recommended to score points for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and served as an example of how greener practices may not necessarily be safer practices.  An Industrial Hygienist and health and safety champion for the arts community, Monona is the founder of Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety (ACTS). If you don’t leave one of her lectures concerned about everything you have ever come in contact with, you should at the very least have a better idea of how to navigate your way through the jargon of government, industry and product health and safety information.
The beginning of Monona’s talk introduced the pitfalls of blindly accepting the safety information provided by government regulatory organizations and manufacturers. In her explanation of many of the acronyms associated with chemical classifications and exposure assessments, Monona emphasized that it’s what we don’t know about chemicals that is the most concerning. For example, phrases such as “not listed as a carcinogen” and “generally recognized as safe” do not indicate that the chemical is not toxic, but may mean that it has never been tested. She also reviewed the improved chemical labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), as outlined by the new OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Even though SDSs are better than their predecessors, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), they still are limited by lack of information. Finally, she discussed commercially manipulated and undefined “green” phrases like all natural–just because something comes from nature does not make it is safe–and biodegradable– chemicals can breakdown into compounds that can be more toxic than what you started with.
So what can we do as conservators and consumers to protect ourselves, the others we work with and the environment?

  • Become a conscientious and informed user; understand and learn about the products in your studio as well as the language and limitations of hazard communication (such as manufacturer provided SDSs) and local and federal regulations.
  • Purchase products from companies that disclose the full ingredient lists and avoid products that have proprietary formulations.
  • Support laws such as California’s PROP 65, which requires the state to publish a list of toxic chemicals. Businesses must notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in their products or that are released into the environment. By allowing anyone “acting in the public interest” to enforce the law, it takes the responsibility for policing manufacturers and their harmful materials out of the hands of legislators and bureaucrats and into the hands of the people who are being affected by toxic chemicals (you!).

In the second half of her presentation, Monona discussed air quality and fume and particle extraction. She first reviewed the definitions of gases, vapors, fumes, dusts, mists, nano-particles and smokes; their associated health hazards; and types of filters that can be used. In her discussion of fume extraction, she cautioned that window fans and air conditioners are not proper ventilation and of the limited efficacy of portable, filter-based fume extractors. Her main point was that proper extraction involves a displacement system that exhausts to the exterior in concert with bringing in uncontaminated air from a source on a wall across from the exhaust (not from an adjacent wall or window). A clear path of air flow should put the conservator’s head directly in the stream. Filter-based extractors can be selective to the vapors and/or particles sizes they collect; only clear the immediate work area; do not provide clean replacement air; and have no indication of when the filter is no longer functioning properly. She stressed that when you are designing your ventilation system, you should consult a specialist with an industrial ventilation background. While there were too many points to discuss in a few hour workshop and certainly too many to adequately cover in a blog, Monona is always willing to respond to anyone’s concerns or review your studio set-up.

The remainder of the session focused on greener business practices. Chair of the Committee on Sustainability, Betsy Haude, outlined the committee’s activities over the past year, including several AIC News articles and making their wiki into an informative and useful resource.
Objects Conservator Sarah Nunberg, followed up with an outline of the results of a Life Cycle Assessment to look at the environmental impact of museum practices. Conducted in collaboration with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, students at Northeastern University performed four case studies using a computer program with a series of user defined parameters:  1) halogen vs. LED lighting, 2) solvents used for consolidation of stone, 3) loans and transport, and 4) HVAC systems. They concluded that the LED lighting was more energy efficient. In the second case, silane in ethanol proved to have the greatest negative environmental impact over B72 in xylene and B72 in acetone and ethanol; xylene had a greater impact than acetone/ethanol primarily due to its production. In their loan assessment they compared a loan going to Tampa, Florida and a loan going to Japan. Interestingly, they discovered that accommodating for the courier had the greatest environmental impact. Finally, their study also showed that shutting down HVAC systems every night decreased the energy costs by 40%, but that the overall energy impact also depended on the source. Seeing quantified data on these various museum conditions allows for a discussion on how museums can potentially reduce their environmental impact, while still considering the elements of maintaining and promoting their collections.
The final three San Francisco-based speakers discussed the various programs that are available for greening business in California.  Wendy Yeung of the California Green Development Program presented on how this government program works with local business to implement environmental protocols that are both sustainable and profitable. Anya Deepak, a Commercial Toxics Reduction Associate with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, discussed their program for artists, which is an outreach initiative to raise awareness among Bay Area artists on environmental and health issues associated with their art materials. The program is currently in the first phase of implementation and will eventually address disposal, safety and finding alternatives. Organizers discovered they were able to get remarkable participation and interest from all the studios they contacted by suggesting that the artists could have an effect on the environment by following these practices–a notably more positive response than when they tried to appeal to the artist’s personal health and safety. Finally, Anna Jaeger from Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup Global, discussed various electronic and tech-based programs for greener business administration. Her examples focused on the idea that it is more effective to change the situation or environment than to change an individual’s behavior. Tips included using smart power strips and multi-function machines; conducting virtual meetings; and purchasing refurbished electronics since the majority of energy use goes into their production.
The seminar concluded with a group discussion of what sustainability means to us and the field of conservation. Can artifact preservation and environmental preservation coexist? How can we make the annual meeting more sustainable? Should ventilation regulations focus on optimal human performance within that space or optimal environmental impact?