¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 3 Conservators who participated in this study expressed concerns about the visibility of the profession to the public and within the cultural heritage community. In cultural organizations, conservation departments and labs are often perceived as service fulfillment centers, a perception that diminishes their strategic role and value in an organization. This marginal role often means conservation projects and programs are among the first to be cut in times of fiscal uncertainty.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 2 The role of conservation professionals within institutions also contributes to the problem. Conservators rarely are included on senior administrative teams, so their perspectives and expertise cannot be demonstrated more broadly among their institutional colleagues. And unlike other professions, their contributions to advancements in the field – as demonstrated through research, publication, presentations and teaching – are rarely considered in hiring or promotion decisions.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 3 Conservation information receives scant attention from senior administrators, and the value this information brings to an organization’s mission, programs, and activities is largely ignored. This omission has an impact on the discipline’s digital environment. Large, institutional digitization and technology infrastructure projects often exclude conservation departments because their information is not thought to be integral to an organization’s activities. Historically, information systems developed for museums and similar cultural institutions have addressed conservation activity and documentation in cursory ways. As a result, numerous ad-hoc record-keeping systems have emerged to address conservation data.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 4 Conservators acknowledge that they bear some blame for this state of affairs. Collectively, they have not made a convincing case for the value of their work in the context of their local institutions. Few conservators seek leadership opportunities, and leadership training in the profession is rare. Conservation professionals are hesitant to share information and slow to communicate their activities to the public. They do not enter into broader discussions in the cultural sector, and frequently are unaware of projects within their own profession that might have a disciplinary impact. They do not participate often enough in cross-sector meetings, public presentations, and other platforms where their values could be conveyed. For a profession that is so expansive in seeking information, conservators are insular when representing their own needs.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 1 Conservation’s low profile in the professional sector extends into the public sphere, where the discipline is frequently confused with environmental conservation. However, an increase in web sites that document conservation activities suggests the field’s public visibility may be growing. These online efforts, which often present conservation activities in the context of a compelling story, have generated substantial public interest and demonstrate great potential for extending the reach of the profession.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 “Embrace the field’s history and its critical importance… You may think of your records as simply your own files, but as a community you hold here the documentation of the physical existence of works, of buildings and sites, that is as much a record of human creativity and human interest in the natural world as that produced by any other field of research.”
– Ken Hamma, Independent Consultant
Digital Landscape Forum #1, San Francisco, 2014
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Outreach Efforts (Short-term)
Travel Funds to Promote Attendance at Cross-disciplinary Meetings and Events
To encourage cross-pollination of ideas and information, funds are needed to allow conservation professionals and allied professionals to travel to one another’s meetings and events. AIC and FAIC should review their own meeting funds programs, and consider additional support of cross-disciplinary travel of this nature.
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Showcase Digital Activities
To encourage public-facing conservation activities and promote a more digital culture within the profession, digital work should be acknowledged at special events with awards and other forms of recognition (e.g., “Best Public Conservation Website”). Professional organizations should feature the work of their constituencies through promotions that highlight new digital work in the field (e.g., “Top Five” Conservation Training Videos of the Year; “Blog Post of the Month”). These efforts can increase visibility at very low cost.
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Improve Digital Infrastructure at the AIC Annual Meeting
The AIC annual conference is a major event that highlights research and activities in the profession. The inability to share this event – in real time, over global networks – is a missed opportunity to showcase conservation on a world stage. AIC needs to incorporate more digital capabilities – particularly WiFi – into the infrastructure of its annual meeting to bring greater attention to the profession during this event. AIC, collaborating with FAIC if needed, should approach the community’s vendors and discuss ways they might offset costs so that a more robust technology infrastructure at the annual meeting is possible.
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Establish Closer Relationships with Allied Groups (Mid-term)
Many allied organizations and professions have expertise in the digital arena that the conservation community needs. For example, the membership base of the Museum Computer Network and the American Alliance of Museum’s Media and Technology Group have a deep understanding of technology, but little insight into the conservation community and its specific technology issues. Greater interaction between these groups would be of mutual benefit.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 1 As a key organization representing the profession, AIC is best-positioned to contact these groups and formalize a relationship with them on behalf of the conservation community. The formality of these relationships may vary, but one goal should be to establish liaisons between each group. These liaisons would attend each other’s conferences and events, and propose sessions, projects, and activities of mutual interest to their membership bases.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0  See “Inside the Box: Massachusetts State House Time Capsule Revealed.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/inside-the-box-massachusetts-state-house-time-capsule?gclid=CLWs2Z-358QCFerm7AodiUYAiA and “After the Fall: The Conservation of Tullio Lombardo’s “Adam”.” Metropolitan Museum of Art https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oznnP6SkSc. As of this writing, this video has had nearly 30,000 views.)