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Friday, May 30 • 2:50pm - 3:10pm
(Engaging Communities in Collection Care Session) Current Conservation Education and Practice: Are They Sustainable?

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This presentation will extend the discussion of sustainability to our own practices and educational models. Several topics warrant investigation followed by recommendations for change.

  • The nine members of ANAGPIC, the organization of graduate conservation education programs, graduate approximately fifty students per year. Since entry-level permanent full-time museum jobs are exceedingly scarce, many graduates are going into private practice even though they are ill-prepared, and some have difficulty making a living doing it.
  • Women students in many programs are 90% or more of the student body, and the AIC membership is about two thirds women.
  • Most of the conservation programs provide complete financial support to all students, regardless of need. Some have already indicated this may not be possible in the near future.
  • Students applying to the programs are “encouraged” to do pre-program internships (unpaid) before applying. These internships are often extended over two or even three years.
  • The field of conservation has undergone remarkable changes in the past few decades, with greater emphasis on matters other than treatments. Yet the training programs still concentrate on treatments rather than issues such as preventive conservation, environmental control, disaster recovery, and sustainability.
Some questions:
  • Can the profession continue along its current paths and still attract top-notch applicants?
  • What happens to students who apply repeatedly for training but do not get accepted?
  • Will graduates be able to find positions that provide them with reasonable financial return?
  • Will the programs be able to maintain their financial support, regardless of need? Should they?
  • Are graduates prepared for real-world jobs? Do the programs put too much emphasis on bench-work and not enough on the many other activities conservators now undertake?
  • What percentage of AIC members are graduates of programs, and has the percentage increased?
  • Why is the student population preponderantly female? What are the consequences of feminization of the field?
It is time for us to take a critical look at how we educate conservators and how current cultural and financial trends affect our profession.

Session Moderator(s)
avatar for Margaret Holben Ellis

Margaret Holben Ellis

Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation; Director, Thaw Conservation Center, NYU Institute of Fine Arts; Morgan Library & Museum
Margaret Holben Ellis received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Barnard College, Columbia University (1975) and completed her Master’s Degree in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (1979). In 1977 she joined the Paper Conservation staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she remained full-time until 1987 when she was appointed Sherman Fairchild... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens

Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens

Conservator, Preventive Team Head and University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor, Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware
Joelle Wickens is Conservator and Preventive Team Head at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate and a University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor in Art Conservation for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She gained an MA (Distinction) in textile conservation from the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton, Winchester, UK in 2003. In 2008 she was awarded at PhD from the same institution... Read More →


Paul Himmelstein

Partner, Appelbaum & Himmelstein
Paul Himmelstein has been a partner in the New York conservation firm of Appelbaum and Himmelstein since 1972. The firm carries out conservation treatments on paintings, painted textiles and objects, and consults for institutions and private collectors on matters related to collections care, including lighting, environmental control, and building renovation and construction. Mr. Himmelstein received his conservation training at the Intermuseum... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 2:50pm - 3:10pm
Grand Ballroom B-C

Attendees (145)