Preparing for the 45th Annual Meeting: ECPN’s Updated Tips for Conference Attendance

In anticipation of the 45th Annual Meeting in Chicago later this month, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network has updated our “Tips for Conference Attendance.”





















Access a PDF version of this Tips Sheet, which includes hyperlinks, by clicking here. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

ECPN Interviews: East Asian Art Conservation

To promote awareness and a clearer understanding of different pathways into specializations that require particular training, the Emerging Conservation Professional Network (ECPN) is conducting a series of interviews with conservators in these specialties.  We’ve asked our interviewees to share some thoughts about their career paths, which we hope will inspire new conservators and provide valuable insight into these areas of our professional field.  This post is continuing our series on East Asian Art Conservation, where we have posts from Sara Ribbans and Yi-Hsia Hsiao.

This post is continuing our series on East Asian Art Conservation with Hsin-Chen Tsai, an Associate Conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the Asian Conservation Studio. In 2008, she graduated from National Tainan University of Arts in Taiwan, where she specialized in Asian paintings conservation.  She received a BFA degree in Art Education with a thesis in Art Education from the Department of Art at the National Changhua University of Education.

Hsin-Chen will be presenting at the upcoming 45th AIC Annual Meeting in Chicago on the treatment of the Korean Buddhist Sutra that she mentions here– we invite you to hear more at her presentation!

Continue reading “ECPN Interviews: East Asian Art Conservation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extended Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Resources

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

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

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

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


ECPN Interviews: East Asian Art Conservation

To promote awareness and a clearer understanding of different pathways into specializations that require particular training, the Emerging Conservation Professional Network (ECPN) is conducting a series of interviews with conservators in these specialties.  We are kicking off the series with Chinese and Japanese painting conservation, where we began with Sara Ribbans.  We’ve asked our interviewees to share some thoughts about their career paths, which we hope will inspire new conservators and provide valuable insight into these areas of our professional field.

In our second interview, we spoke with Yi-Hsia Hsiao, Assistant Conservator of Chinese Paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  She earned her BA in Fine Art from Tun-Hai University in Taichung, Taiwan and her MA in Asian Painting Conservation from the Institute of Conservation of Cultural Relics, Tainan National University of the Arts in Tainan, Taiwan.

Continue reading “ECPN Interviews: East Asian Art Conservation”

2017-18 Open Officer Positions for Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN)

Are you an emerging conservation professional who wants to advocate for the issues that matter most to you and your peers? Do you want to help AIC develop resources and programs specifically for early-career conservators, conservation scientists, and collections care specialists? If so, please consider applying for one of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network’s (ECPN) open officer positions! ECPN is currently accepting applications from pre-program individuals, graduate students, and recent graduates for the following positions:

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

All positions will serve a two-year term beginning June 2017, just after AIC’s 45th Annual Meeting. The Vice Chair is expected serve a one-year term, transitioning to Chair for an additional one-year term.

To learn more about ECPN, please visit:

Questions and position description requests can be directed to Rebecca Gridley, ECPN Vice Chair, at To apply for an open officer position, please submit a brief statement of interest and your resume to Rebecca by April 14, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Writing FAIC Grant Proposals: ECPN Interviews ETC


Recent recipients of the George Stout Memorial Fund Scholarship, a grant administered by FAIC that provides funding for emerging conservators to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting.



Between 2011 and 2015, the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC) awarded $2,064,962 through 462 grants and scholarships. $428,601 of this was given out in 2015 to 91 grant and scholarship recipients. While these numbers include larger grants such as Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellowships and publication grants, an important part of FAIC’s grant program is to provide professional development support for individuals to attend conferences and workshops and to pursue research projects. A full list of grants and scholarships is available here.

Emerging conservators are eligible for a number of these grants, including the FAIC / Tru Vue® International Professional Development Scholarships and George Stout Memorial Fund Scholarships  – the latter of which is reserved for pre-program individuals, graduate students, and recent graduates to attend professional conferences. Each grant has specific deadlines, eligibility, and application requirements – all of which are listed online. FAIC recently moved the grant application process online to make the process easier for the applicants and the reviewers.

This brings us to the subject of this post: how to improve your applications for FAIC grants! Reviewing and awarding these grants is an important but time-consuming task, so FAIC relies on AIC’s Education & Training Committee (ETC) for assistance. Conservators from different career stages and specialties volunteer to serve on ETC, which is responsible for advancing AIC members’ knowledge of conservation practices by supporting continuing education and professional development endeavors. ETC also promotes educational issues within the field.

As many emerging conservators may be new to writing grant applications, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) interviewed some members of ETC to ask a few questions about the application and review process. Here’s what we learned:


ECPN’s Interview with ETC

  1. Review Process: What happens with an application once it is submitted? Who reviews it, and who makes the final decision?

For each application cycle, the Institutional Advancement Director for FAIC calls for volunteers from ETC to review applications, specifying the deadline and how many volunteers are needed. The reviewers are usually different people based on who can commit time to the process during the application review period. Three reviewers are assigned to read each application, and reviews are conducted anonymously. The reviewers receive instructions and reminders for the unique criteria for each grant.

Taking into consideration the specific grant criteria and the benefit of the project to the applicant (among other things), the reviewer assigns points for each of the selection criteria categories and provides comments to help clarify the ratings provided. ETC members’ ratings and review of the applications ensures a thorough and fair review process.

Next, the AIC Board Director for Professional Education works closely with the Institutional Advancement Director to tally the scores and review comments by ETC and submits the recommended awards for final approval by the Executive Director of FAIC and AIC and the FAIC Treasurer. The goal is always to administer as many awards as the budget allows to support the professional growth of AIC members.

  1. Audience: Who should the application be directed to? That is, who are you writing for (e.g. general audience, fellow conservators)?

Direct the application to your fellow conservators. ETC is made up of your peers — but it is important to keep in mind that ETC members come from a range of specialties. The reviewer may not know the significance of a particular project unless it is clearly defined and expressed. It is important to give details that explain the “why” —that is, why your project is relevant, timely, or important — so the reviewer can understand your thought process.

Because our field is small, there is a good chance that reviewers know some of the applicants. ETC members must also recuse themselves from a particular review if there is any conflict of interest (e.g., that member applied for a grant, or wrote a letter of support for an applicant).

ETC considers the applications based on the merit of a particular application, not with regard to whether you are a junior or well-seasoned conservator, or whether the reviewer is familiar with your work.

  1. Content: What are the major points in the application text to pay attention to? What level of detail is desirable when discussing your project?

Address the grant review criteria directly and pay attention to the parts that are unique to you and your application. Set up the relevance of the project first by describing it; the project description should be brief and straightforward. Then discuss how the project benefits you professionally. This is section with the most freedom: explain how the project is appropriate to furthering your professional development. It is more important to state effectively how you will benefit from your involvement–this is the part that really distinguishes the applications from each other.

So instead of listing your accomplishments, explain what you will accomplish — either by attending the conference, presenting your work, or pursuing your research. And be clear about your level of participation and whether you are attending a workshop or conference, or presenting. While your financial need is implied—you are applying for a grant, after all—you should still mention it. It is helpful for your case if the reviewer knows that your institution does not provide professional development funding, or has not provided it for a number of years.

Describing how you plan to disseminate what you’ve gained from the project is also an important factor. This doesn’t have to mean that you’ll write a book on the subject, but FAIC is interested in the most bang for the buck: how far will the benefits go if this person is selected for funding?

  1. Budget: What are the important considerations when reviewing a proposed budget? What costs should and should not be included? What is the best way to explain how you arrived at your cost estimates? What should you do if your estimated costs exceed the amount that can be awarded?

The budget needs to be complete and reasonable. Being stingy with yourself will not necessarily score you points, but you should not price out a luxury hotel and first-class flights. The Federal Government Service Administration (GSA) provides numbers that can be a great guide for drafting a budget. The online application form prompts you to consider expenses related mostly to travel and lodging, and additional explanation of expenses beyond this form is usually not necessary. While the grants don’t cover food, there is a place to fill out your estimated meal costs to show what you will be covering yourself.

Do not request for more than the maximum award; it may appear as though you didn’t read the grant description. If your projected costs exceed the maximum award, fully outline those costs and request up to the award limit. Outlining all of your costs—regardless of whether they are covered by the grant or exceed the award limit—provides valuable data for FAIC. This information can be used if grants are ever re-evaluated, and FAIC can use the budget information to advocate for higher award limits.

Having an expensive project doesn’t put you at a disadvantage. In fact, it engenders sympathy and understanding that you will have to seek additional funding or otherwise provide funds out of pocket. The better the reviewers understand the total costs, the better the committee can try to support you. The number of grants given out each cycle varies, and the goal is to provide enough support to allow the awardees to fulfill their projects.

  1. Recommendation Letters: How should you select recommenders? How can you help prepare them to know what points to speak to? Do your recommenders have to be AIC members? Should they have status within AIC (PA, Fellow)?

The letters should come from someone with whom you have a professional relationship, and who will write a positive recommendation that specifically discusses how the project will benefit you. If you are unsure whether a recommender’s letter will be positive, you can ask them or ask someone else to write for you. The perceived status of your recommender is not so significant; someone who seems important in AIC does not necessarily write a better letter. The requirements for recommenders’ status within AIC vary from grant to grant, so be sure to read the application procedures section very carefully.

Providing a recommender with your current CV and a draft of your application can help them to tailor the recommendation letter to your application. Also, let your recommenders know they can fill out the Letter of Support Form [insert link] provided by FAIC, rather than writing a traditional letter. All of these materials can be submitted electronically by the recommender, so the recommendation remains confidential. The deadlines are firm, so make sure to ask for recommendations well in advance and indicate the application deadlines in your request.

For more on this topic, look at the guides ETC has developed for requesting and writing letters of recommendation.

  1. General: Are there any easily fixable but common mistakes you see in applications? If your application is not accepted, what steps can you take to improve your chances next time? What are some general tips you would provide to first time grant applicants?

Do not overthink it. Your essay need not be lengthy; completeness and accuracy are what counts, so answer the questions and speak to the grant criteria directly. Be concise in making your case, and keep in mind that reviewers may read dozens of applications at a time.

Almost all of the projects and applicants seem worthy in each cycle, so it may come down to minor errors or omissions that result in an incomplete application. It does not reflect poorly on you for future applications if you not receive funding for your first application, so please don’t get discouraged.

For some common reasons why applications do not receive funding, see the great list below, provided to ECPN by Eric Pourchot, Institutional Advancement Director for FAIC.


Some Final Thoughts

In 2015, about half of FAIC grant and scholarship applications were funded, and the total funding awarded was 34% of the total amount requested. And—as we mentioned in our last post on the structure of FAIC and AIC—FAIC must raise the funds to support these grants and scholarships. A good portion of this comes from the Specialty Groups, AIC members, and individual donors! In 2015, $49,000 was raised through individual donations to support FAIC grants and other programs. So, if you are ever the recipient of one of these scholarships and grants, in the future consider “paying it forward” if you can by making a donation to FAIC!

We’d like to thank Nina Owczarek and Susan Russick from ETC and Eric Pourchot (Institutional Advancement Director for FAIC) for answering our questions, and Stephanie Lussier (AIC Board Director, Professional Education) and Heather Galloway (Chair, ETC) for their help reviewing this post.

If you have further questions about applying for grants, you can email:


— Jessica Walthew (Education & Training Officer) and Rebecca Gridley (Vice Chair) on behalf of ECPN


Bonus Tips!

ECPN asked Eric Pourchot, Institutional Advancement Director for FAIC, for some common reasons applications are not funded. Keep these in mind when drafting your application!

  1. The proposal did not meet the eligibility requirements or did not address the purpose of the grant or scholarship. For example, a professional development proposal might address the institution’s need for the proposed training, but not the benefit for the individual, which is the purpose of the grant. Read the guidelines carefully and think like a reviewer as you write the proposal.
  2. The proposal is incomplete. Be sure to double-check attachments, any required letters of support, etc.
  3. The project’s cost is out of proportion to the scale of the grant or scholarship. For example, a proposal might show $20,000-$30,000 in expenses, with no firm source of funding.  If the grant limit is $1,000, reviewers may ask how likely it is that the project will be completed.
  4. The proposal has errors or inconsistencies. These sometimes can be overlooked, but when competition is stiff, a proposal that doesn’t appear to be well thought-out will often be rated lower than more polished proposals.
  5. The budget is inflated, has errors, or isn’t justified. This is not always a fatal flaw, but often puts a proposal at a disadvantage.  If airfare or hotel prices are listed as much higher than what can be found online, for example, reviewers may question the overall proposal.  Conversely (but more rarely), a budget that doesn’t appear to reflect the real costs of a project may be seen as not feasible.  If there is a factor that distorts the budget, that should be indicated and justified in the narrative.  For example, scheduling might not allow the applicant to travel over a weekend, raising the cost of a round trip flight, or the applicant may be staying with friends and not require a hotel.

Recent recipients of the George Stout grant presenting at AIC’s Annual Meeting.

ECPN Blogpost Series: Getting to Know AIC and FAIC

Have you ever wondered where AIC (the association) and FAIC (the foundation) overlap, and where they diverge? Or who works for AIC and FAIC, and how they got involved?

This blogpost series takes a closer look at the structure and mission of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the Foundation for AIC (FAIC) to introduce newcomers to the field —or even those who are not so new— to what AIC is and what it does. To get a more personalized and in-depth view, ECPN interviewed staff and board members for AIC and FAIC. In our follow-up blogposts, you will hear directly from those involved about these organizations and the work they do. But first…  let’s get back to basics!

First and foremost, AIC is a membership organization for conservation professionals. To this end, the AIC staff works to support AIC members, and the AIC board serves to support the members and address their concerns. AIC members themselves make up much of the organization’s structure: members are elected to serve on the AIC board and in specialty group leadership, or are appointed to committees and networks (such as ECPN). These different groups work together to support the field of conservation through their combined action. Which brings us to AIC’s mission statement:

“The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) is the national membership organization supporting conservation professionals in preserving cultural heritage by establishing and upholding professional standards, promoting research and publications, providing educational opportunities, and fostering the exchange of knowledge among conservators, allied professionals, and the public.”

This is a tall order. How does AIC accomplish this? The AIC staff recently revamped portions of the website to detail the initiatives that fulfill each component of this mission. Some of these initiatives –such as organizing the Annual Meeting and managing communication between members (your specialty group listservs)–  are probably already familiar to you. We’ll learn more about these important programs and projects in forthcoming posts in this series.

The Foundation for AIC also supports conservation education, research, and outreach activities, but is separate from AIC. As Eryl Wentworth, Executive Director for both organizations, explains: “AIC and FAIC have a symbiotic relationship. They are separate legal entities with different missions, working both in tandem and independently to advance the field.” FAIC’s goals of advancing the profession, providing information resources, strengthening the professional education program, and expanding outreach, all benefit AIC members in critical ways.

There are important distinctions between AIC and FAIC in how they are funded, classified, and organized. AIC is a 501(c)6 nonprofit, and your AIC membership dues support the resources and staff devoted to AIC initiatives, such as the Annual Meeting, online tools and resources, and publications to disseminate conservation research (AIC News and the Journal of AIC (JAIC)). The Foundation (FAIC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and in contrast, is responsible for raising funds to support its own management and initiatives. Funds raised from grants and individual donations (including from AIC members) support the programs administered by FAIC, which include Connecting to Collections Care (C2CC), Angels projects, the Collections Assessment for Preservation program (CAP), and the Oral History Project, to name only a few.

AIC and the FAIC are each managed by a board of directors. The AIC board is made up of conservation professionals nominated by the Nominating Committee and elected by the broader AIC membership. There are four administrative leadership positions (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) and four additional board directors that oversee different aspects of the organization, such as Professional Education, Communications, Specialty Groups, and Committees and Networks. These positions are all voluntary, and AIC relies heavily on its members to participate in the leadership of the organization. The FAIC Board includes leadership from the AIC Board (including the Executive Director of AIC and FAIC), plus professionals in allied fields and in such areas as marketing, publishing, insurance, and law. These board members provide additional voices that help to broaden the reach of the organization in related areas of arts and culture, as well as expertise we otherwise lack.

Both organizations are based in a Washington D.C. office staffed by 13 professionals in nonprofit management. Some of the staff work for both organizations, while others’ responsibilities are directly tied to either AIC or FAIC. The AIC/FAIC staff are deeply invested in helping our profession grow and to educating the public about what we do. You may have met some of the AIC staff at the Annual Meeting, or have been in touch with them to update your membership information. Their work extends beyond this, and includes crucial advocacy for the field in the broader context.

Stay tuned for our next posts, which will offer further insight into these organizations and the people who keep them running!

Thanks AIC and FAIC!


— Jessica Walthew (Education & Training Officer) and Rebecca Gridley (Vice Chair) on behalf of ECPN

CCN Seeking New Social Media Chair – Applications Due February 15th!

CCN Seeking New Social Media Chair
Attention, Emerging Conservation Professionals! The Collections Care Network (CCN) is currently seeking a new Social Media Chair. This position would be an excellent opportunity for an ECP to put his or her social media skills to good use, become more involved within our organization, and take professional service to the next level!
The Social Media Chair is a new Officer position approved by the AIC Board this Fall. The applicant for this position should have extensive knowledge of the audience, purpose, and general outcomes for various social media platforms. Work would include developing content strategies and workflow for feeding content to CCN social media sites that adhere to AIC social media policy, contributing and manage contributions from others to CCN social media sites, and communicating social media outcomes to fellow CCN Officers that might lead to potential CCN projects.
The applicant should have a strong interest in furthering preventive conservation and collection care and excellent writing and organizational skills. The CCN Officers meet once a month via conference call, as well as at the Annual Meeting in May.
To apply, please send a letter of interest and C.V. to Becky Fifield at by February 15. For further information or to discuss the position, you may call Becky at (617) 212-1468. CCN is an AIC board-appointed network. Leadership in a network is by application and selection with final approval by the AIC board. Every effort is made to ensure that the officers represent CCN’s intended demographic, wide geographic representation, and balanced representation from conservators and allied professionals.