Conservation Costs or Savings?

Posted in opinion pages by Editor on August 11, 2009

In the midst of the latest budget cuts, conservation professionals face numerous challenges, and at least the near future looks turbulent. In addition to reductions in museum departments, the Art Newspaper reported on 23 July 2009 that London’s V&A and the Royal College of Art are ending their jointly operated conservation program – this just several months after the Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton announced its upcoming fall closure. It looked as though Conservation Online (CoOL) had also met its end, as Stanford announced earlier this summer that it could no longer support the digital forum (after 22 years). In the past few weeks, however, the American Institute for Conservation has agreed to take over responsibility for the forum used by thousands of conservators around the world (particularly its “DistList”). The AIC is the national membership organization for conservation professionals in the U.S. with members in over twenty countries. The institute’s website offers useful information not only for conservators but also individuals wanting to know more about the field.

With over a quarter of American collecting institutions lacking environmental controls and fewer than a third possessed of a current survey of the condition of their collections, it is presumably only a matter of time before we appreciate how costly ignoring conservation can be.

[Statistics, from the AIC website, come from A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections © 2005 Heritage Preservation, Inc.]

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