Museum Monday: American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting

I spent the last week of May in Indianapolis at the American Institute for Conservation‘s Annual Meeting. I’ve been a member of AIC for about 10 years, and this conference was the best I’ve attended. Hats off to the staff of AIC and the organizing committee.

I had no pre-conceived notions of Indy. I lumped it, in my east coast way, into that designation “bombed-out midwestern cities.” I was presently surprised by the people on the street in the downtown area. Indy seems to be a city of meetings – the convention center is the largest I’ve ever seen – easily four convention centers smashed into one mega-gathering place. I strolled through there out of curiosity and found the much larger American College of Sports Medicine meeting (lots of sneakers and khakis). Our meeting was in the JW Marriott, a new hotel with a healthy amount of meeting space to its own right.

Jim Reilly challenges our craving for standards during the Collection Care Network session at AIC's Annual meeting in Indianapolis.

Jim Reilly challenges our craving for standards during the Collection Care Network session at AIC’s Annual meeting in Indianapolis.

I started the meeting with an excellent Integrated Pest Management workshop led by Rachael Perkins Arenstein of AM Art Conservation and Pat Kelley of Insects Limited. Many of us get introduced to IPM in grad school, or here and there on jobs, but the number of senior conservators in that room underlined the need for continued preventive conservation training. We identified common museum pests under a microscope, visited the nearby Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art to see IPM in action, talked about how to make it stick through policy and procedure, and made anoxic envelopes to use with Ageless Oxygen Scavengers. Visit Museumpests.net for more IPM resources.

The sessions during the conference were dynamic and discussion based – I actually sat in on very few traditional 20 min. presented papers. Instead, during the Collection Care Network session, I presented the results of the Collection Care Staff Survey, a survey of the professional challenges, responsibilities, training, and needs of 768 collection care staff. We had rousing discussions about preservation planning, where sparring speakers supported risk assessment (Lisa Elkin, American Museum of Natural History) vs. incremental approaches (Katy Lithgow, National Trust UK) and standards (Kristen Laise, Heritage Preservation) versus “standards make us myopic” (Jim Reilly, Image Permanence  Institute).  The meeting had numerous sessions that were discussion based, allowing you to get to know your peers better and discuss current issues. I attended a great session on teaching conservation to allied professionals and one on using the Socratic method to explore the value of conservation.

Now to ride the wave of good feeling back to work and make change!