As the co-chair of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I was particularly looking forward to this year’s Annual Meeting theme, “Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care,” and the conference did not disappoint. The event took place in beautiful downtown San Francisco, with the opening reception at the magnificent de Young Museum.
Although I am a library and archives conservator, my favorite General Session talk was “Sustainable Collections Care on a Budget – A New Museum Store for Bolton, UK,” by museum conservator Pierrette Squires, from the Bolton Museum in Lancashire, UK. She spoke about moving the stored museum collection to a new storage space which would better protect the collection while simultaneously reducing energy use and saving money. Her presentation emphasized the importance of speaking to stakeholders in the language that is meaningful to them, which is often the language of economic sustainability rather than environmental sustainability, even though the two often go hand-in-hand.
Everyone I spoke to from Book and Paper Group was as captivated as I was by “Treasure from the Bog: The Faddan More Psalter,” presented by John Gillis. The talk detailed the treatment of an early medieval manuscript unearthed in a peat bog in Co. Tipperary, Southern Ireland, in 2006. As you may know from articles about bog mummies, peaty bogs can have a tanning effect on organic materials, and so partially preserved this vellum manuscript for centuries. I look forward to hearing more about this project as the research continues.
The Sustainability Committee hosted a Roundtable about generating momentum for positive change in institutional practice, a session you can read more about on the AIC Blog: Conservators Converse.
The BPG Specialty Session and the concurrent General Sessions I attended on Collections Care and HVAC were all excellent, and BPG made an especially strong showing in the Poster Session this year. However, my favorite two events from the conference were the ECPN Networking Luncheon and — of course — The Great Debate.
The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) put an enormous amount of work into organizing their first (but, I hope, not their last) networking luncheon. AIC members could sign up as mentors, mentees, or both. The ECPN paired each participant with three others for one-on-one “speed-dating” style sessions lasting 15 minutes. I got to meet with a peer mentor who graduated from a conservation program the same year I did, and who currently works at an academic library as I do; a conservation graduate student interested in pursuing a career in academic libraries; and a former geologist turned pre-program student in conservation science. I appreciated being provided with a structured forum within which to meet some new colleagues, and look forward to continuing to stay in touch with them.
The Great Debate enjoyed its third year at the AIC Annual Meeting, and organizer Richard McCoy pulled out all the stops. The packed audience enjoyed a cash bar accompanied by popcorn and other crunchy, salty snacks, and Richard McCoy emceed wearing a dapper tux and bow-tie. Two 3-person teams of “rookies” (first-year graduate students) debated the statement “The most important part of conservation practice is no longer the treatment of cultural property.” The debaters were well-prepared, and the negative team (disagreeing with the statement) ended up winning the day, although I remained personally unconvinced from the particular perspective of a library and archives conservator. The second debate took place between two 3-person teams of — ahem — “veterans” of the conservation field. A controversial ripple murmured through the crowd when their topic statement was revealed: “AIC is successfully promoting the advancement of recently-graduated conservators in today’s work force.” My audience neighbors and I feared that we would end the Annual Meeting on a sour note, but the affirmative team rallied against the negative team’s rambunctious antics and made a winning case for all that AIC does for its membership (with the strong reminder that we the membership are AIC). Be sure to visit us (@ISUPreservation) on Twitter (archived date: May 31) for the hilarious, blow-by-blow recap.
It was another fast-paced, exhausting, informative, and rewarding Annual Meeting, and I find myself returning to work reinvigorated and recommitted to my profession.