Collaborate, learn, and network with your colleagues both in person and online. Attend our annual meeting, the largest conference in North America for conservation professionals.

Opening, Closing, and Concurrent General Sessions

Submit Your Proposal

            DEADLINE:THURSDAY,SEPTEMBER 23, 2021@11:59 pm

Opening General Session 

On Sunday, May 15, 2022, from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm, we will offer a fast-paced session of 15-minute talks centered on the meeting theme, Reflecting on the past, Imagining the Future. If you are submitting an abstract for this session, please select it as your first choice. We will also consider all abstracts submitted for this session for the concurrent general sessions.

Closing General Session

Chairs - Alison Gilchrest and Katherine Schilling  

  • On Tuesday, May 17, 2022 from 4-6 pm, we will offer a Closing Session, "Case Studies in Persistence: Navigating Conflicting Values to Make Progress on Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion Goals."

    The international conservation profession is undergoing a reckoning with regard to ethics, values, power dynamics, and priorities. In the midst of these shifts, conservators and scientists are daily challenged by their positionality, whether in the hierarchy of cultural heritage institutions or interfacing with clients, and often find themselves navigating misalignments in goals and approaches among stakeholders, including curators, directors, donors, and dealers. Conflicts centered on diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) values can become fraught and are increasingly deemed political. In this session, attendees will hear case studies from peers who faced a challenging situation involving personal and professional DEAI values in their practice and examine the lessons learned from the process. This session aims to provide insight into real-world situations faced by conservators and scientists in a variety of power-imbalanced settings, and to share experience, advice, and support to the membership. Submissions from teams willing to debate would be encouraged.
    - Explore what DEAI values look like in practice in recent conservation and research projects
    - Provide a candid look at recent situations with a defined conflict in DEAI values between the conservator and other stakeholders
    - Discuss lessons learned in navigating these difficult situations, providing insight into the challenges faced by conservators and approaches to satisfactory resolutions

    If you are submitting an abstract for this session, please select it as your first choice. We will also consider all abstracts submitted for this session for the concurrent general sessions. 

Concurrent General Sessions     

On Monday, May 16, 2022, from 2:00-5:30 pm, we will offer multiple tracks of talks centered around the meeting theme, Reflecting on the Past - Imagining the Future. We are holding calls for four topic-focused sessions (chaired by members who responded to the previous call for session proposals) plus one open call. Presentation length should be 20-22 minutes to allow about 8 minutes for questions and discussion. We will also consider all abstracts submitted for this session for the Opening General sessions. 

Saying “Yes”: Conservation Professionals as Liaisons, Facilitators, and Unifiers

Chair: Jessica Urick

Conservation practitioners have long held a reputation as the "no" people in professional conversations: even today, we work against the stereotype of the stern conservator shaking their head with rule book and light meter in hand. This session foregrounds an alternative perspective by exploring projects and professional connections achieved by saying "yes." Presentations within this broad topic may cover issues such as ceding and sharing power, collaborating within and outside of institutions, and celebrating the important and powerful role conservators can play as liaisons and community builders beyond their own sphere of work. Potential papers may highlight:

  • Using collections care knowledge to develop creative, flexible solutions.
  • Examples of collaborating outside of traditional comfort zones.
  • Successful compromises between traditional collections care protocols and the needs of people and their cultural belongings, material culture, and artwork.
  • Any out-of-the-box, agile thinking that demonstrates the value of collective brainstorming, sharing, and openness

Automation, Conservation, Preservation: Facing the Opportunities and Risks Posed by Technological Innovation

Chairs: Emma J. Richardson, Meredith Noyes, Christopher Cameron

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is rapidly interweaving the digital, physical and biological worlds and proving a disruptive force across diverse sectors via technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and biotech. This societal shift provides exciting opportunities for conservation and preservation science through implementing new technologies to increase efficiencies in cost and energy, automating manufacturing, and augmenting handling and treatment practices. However, a move towards automation of systems, processes and decision making will also present risks to the field, necessitating agile discussions that balance the need to safeguard cultural heritage with the benefits of rapidly evolving technological innovation. This session will seek to address how current and future (2072) automation may present both opportunities and risks to conservation and preservation practice; facing these discussions head on will ensure we are better prepared as a profession to mitigate challenges. We seek papers that will explore themes around machine learning for decision making; robotics and augmentation; artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things for building management; and ethical implications of automation in cultural heritage.

Conserving Relationships; New Horizons for Collaboration and Communication

Chair: Soon Kai Poh

There has been a growing recognition over recent decades that the work of conservation is not just about material things, but equally the management of people’s relationships with things. Collectively, conservators have arrived at this notion from a variety of directions: through the experiences of conservators caring for Indigenous cultural materials and modern and contemporary art, from academia with increasing attention paid to the integration of the humanities, and not least self-reflections upon the personhood of the conservator.Unfortunately, these inquiries have less often had an integrative moment; they have remained variously siloed in more normative categories within conservation. At their core, there is a shared realization that we may instead consider re-centering the discipline on people, and not things. It is with this ambition that this general session attempts to bring together papers/projects that serve as catalysts for imagining the future of collaboration and communication in conservation, by re-framing the conservator’s role as that of mediating relationships with and through things.It will highlight especially projects that feature voices and forms of collaboration and communication that have been less conventionally represented thus far in conservation discourse, with less of an emphasis on the presentation of “finished” work, also including those in progress and in stages of planning - borne from the conservator’s intuition that all things - like conservation itself - are fundamentally ongoing.

Preventive Conservation, Monitoring, and Access; Evolution and Change

Chairs: Lisa Goldberg, Kelly Krish

Almost 45 years bridge the seminal publication of Gary Thompson’s The Museum Environment and the 2020 publication Preventive Conservation: Collections Storage; our views about effective and appropriate environmental parameters for exhibition, storage, and collection use have changed and become broader with a growing recognition of interconnected issues surrounding climate, light exposure, indoor pollution, pest activity, and acceptance of a wider range of collections use. This session will focus on the evolution of collection care within our field, with solicitations for papers that explore how our views about the parameters for preventive care have grown and changed. We would like to receive submissions featuring:

  • environmental parameters
  • pest control
  • materials choice
  • discussions of how issues of exposure and access guide our decision-making process.
This session will concentrate on how the evolution of what constitutes good stewardship is changing and developing; we are looking for papers that examine the myriad of factors that play into how conservators make choices affecting preventive care across our full range of specialties and job duties.


The Conservator as Agent of Change - Contemporary Art Network

Chairs: Jennifer Hickey and Samantha Owens

Conservation, as a profession, has given itself an impossible mandate. As stewards of artifacts or current cultural production, our work seeks to determine the essential qualities of a thing and to capture or revive them so that the object or artwork may be experienced “authentically” over time. To accomplish this, we have largely aspired to intervention that is deemed to be unobtrusive; we seek to alter things with the aim of presenting an undisturbed “whole.” To compound these Sisyphean tasks, we have historically sought to observe a tenet of “objectivity,” of treating all cultural property with systematic methods and equal measure of care, regardless of the circumstances. Whether intended or not, a consequence of continually striving for—and falling short of—these ideals is the construction of a psychological distance between our actions and their outcomes. In truth, we have always been active interpreters of the past and present. Our decision-making is grounded in our individual value systems as well as those of the society and zeitgeist of which we are a part. Through our actions—what we preserve and how we choose to preserve it—we become part of the history of the life of the object or artwork.The history of conservation is punctuated by scenarios viewed in hindsight with transformed perspective. The future will be no different. We welcome papers examining the historically prized “invisibility” of conservation work, its artificial “neutrality,” and the many ways in which our interventions have and continue to impact the cultural products with which we interact and the people for whom we preserve. What alternative models might encourage the field to more comprehensively embrace the imperfections of its agency? How might shifting paradigms inform and positively reshape conservation education, training, scholarship, and work?

Interdisciplinary Research Methods to (Re-)Establish Object Histories and Provenance for Material Culture

Chairs: Christian de Brer, Marci J. Burton, Carlee S. Forbes, Katherine Anderson, and Erica P. Jones 

Public calls are growing for museums to increase accountability and transparency of their collections, as well as increasing pressure for the return of material culture to source communities. Such questions of repatriation and restitution require museums to critically examine the histories of their collections and establish provenance that reconnects objects with the communities that made or used them. This panel will present a series of case studies that examine how conservators research and treat material culture that has a questionable, obscured, or unknown provenance. This work often involves collaboration with other museum departments and specializations to use interdisciplinary methods to answer questions regarding object provenance. Among many approaches, conservation methods can further elucidate provenance through the identification of materials and past repair interventions. These methods seek to contend with complex histories embodied by the objects in museum collections.