The 2013 AIC Great Debate

At the 2012 AIC Annual Meeting we hosted the first ever AIC Great Debate. By all accounts, it was a rousing success. While last year’s debate was good, this year we’re hoping to make it better.
The 2013 Great Debate will take place on Saturday, June 1 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm as the final session in the General Session.  Now not only will  everyone have the opportunity to attend, but you’ll have a good reason to stay to the very end of the Annual Meeting!  And, as the ultimate way to promote dialogue, camaraderie, and, well, fun, we will have a cash bar in the room. Finally, I’m working on walk up music for the teams: hint all of the musicians were born in Indiana.
But, before I list this year’s debate topics and participants, I want to make a very important disclaimer: I created the AIC Great Debate as an intellectual exercise to demonstrate that conservators are clever enough to see a tough topic from both sides and discuss it openly.
With this in mind, in many cases I have personally invited participants to debate from a position that is contrary to their personal beliefs. This not only adds a fun twist it proves the point that the Debate is not meant to provide a forum so we can prove one side is right, but rather to engage in a public dialogue to surface all of this issues around difficult topics. And though I’m listing participant’s institutional affiliations (so you’ll get a chance to know them better), in no way am I suggesting that the participants are representing an institutional position in the Debate.

The greatest act of preservation for inherently fragile or fugitive cultural property is exhibition, even if the duration goes far beyond what is currently recommended.

Affirmative Team

2012 Great Debate
2012 Great Debate
    • Rosa Lowinger (Rosa Lowinger & Associates)
    • Patty Miller (2 Arts Conservation)
    • Jodie Utter (Amon Carter Museum of American Art)

Negative Team

    • John Campbell (Campbell Contemporary Sculpture Conservation)
    • Fletcher Durant (New York Public Library)
    • Jessica Ford (University of Delaware Art Conservation Graduate School)


While volunteers used on preservation projects often allow us to accomplish more work, they undermine our capacity to regularly employ conservation and collections care professionals.

Affirmative Team

    • Rose Cull (Kress Fellow in Sculpture Conservation at Tate)
    • Kelly Keegan (Art Institute of Chicago)
    • Dawn Walus (Boston Athenaeum)

Negative Team

    • Will Hoffman (Mariners Museum)
    • Michele Marincola (Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts/Metropolitan Museum)
    • Beverly Perkins (Buffalo Bill Center of the West)

Like last year, I’d like to ask you for help to make the AIC Great Debate successful.  We need you!  We need you in the audience to be lively, interested, engaged, and fun.  And I don’t mean just to cheer on your favorite conservator or team; we need you to participate in the Great Debate at AIC!

There will be a significant amount of time in which the audience will get to ask each team questions to which they have to respond.
And, finally, we need you to decide who wins the debate.  The winning team for each topic will be the one who sways the most opinions in the audience.
If you’re interested in reading about how the AIC Great Debate went last year, there are reviews on this blog of each debate topic.
2012 TOPIC #1:  Publishing accurate and complete “how-to guides” for conservation and restoration treatments online is the best way for us to care for cultural heritage in the 21st century. Read the review here.
2012 TOPIC #2: Having conservators perform treatments in the gallery is the most successful way to generate funding for museums and raise awareness about the profession. Read the review here.