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Concurrent General Sessions

On Friday, May 22, 2020 from 2:00-5:30pm, we will offer multiple tracks of talks centered around the meeting theme, Conservation: Reactive and Proactive. 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 18-20 minutes to allow about 10 minutes for questions and discussion. 

External Forces in Contemporary Art Conservation

Chairs: Mareike Opeña and Kate Moomaw on behalf of the Contemporary Art Network (CAN!)

It can be tempting to picture the conservation of contemporary art as just the interplay between the conservator, the artwork, and the artist over time - already a complex enough dance. However, there are many external factors beyond the control of the conservator and even the artist which impact decision-making, limit options for treatment, and significantly influence the way an artwork is experienced. We invite papers on how we as contemporary art conservators creatively respond to, prepare for, and communicate about unpredictable factors such as the art market, collectors and owners, shifting institutional priorities, availability of commercial materials and technologies, the rapid deterioration of artist’s materials, climate change, laws and regulations, political and cultural influences, etc.

Plastic Challenges in Cultural and Ecological Preservation

Chairs: Joy Bloser and Christine Haynes

Precariously poised between preserving a trove of cultural heritage and protecting the planet from synthetic overdose, the conservator oscillates between various polymers both in the lab and on the bench. Plastics require the conservator to be both reactive and proactive in the ability to navigate diverse polymeric compositions and to judiciously apply their unique applications, advantages, and disadvantages in each case. How should the conservator weigh these options within our paradigm of cultural and ecological preservation? What agency does the conservator have to affect how plastics are used, revered, avoided, or perceived? This session seeks to address plastics in their multiplicity: as valuable artworks on view, rapidly deteriorating materials in storage, innovative solutions for treatment, emerging technology in product development, protective equipment for both object and conservator, and source for ecological disaster.

Topics may include methods of care for the expanding list of polymers entering collections; new applications and protocols in treatment or in the lab; collaborations between conservators and allied fields to address production, pollution, degradation, and recycling; or a master plan for how conservators can rid the planet of microplastics (remember: Wonder Woman is a conservator, too).     

Proactive Collections Care for Smaller Institutions

Chair: M. Susan Barger on behalf of Connecting to Collection Care (C2C Care)

Ninety-six percent of collecting institutions are small institutions (Heritage Health Index, 2019), yet smaller institutions typically do not have conservation professionals on staff, and too often only consult with a conservator to correct damage that has been done to collections. Efforts to better connect smaller institutions to information about preventive conservation have increased in recent years, largely through the efforts of outreach institutions such as statewide field services organizations, nonprofit conservation centers, training organizations, and FAIC. The proposed session will look at outreach and collections care efforts for smaller institutions, and how the efforts expand the profession of conservation by bringing in organizations that might otherwise consider conservation beyond their reach. 

Outreach services include providing assessments, consultations, and collections care information, as well as affordable professional development opportunities for smaller institutions. Such activities require that their proponents be proactive in order to provide nimble, crucial support to smaller organizations. This program seeks papers that explore the recent history of conservation outreach to smaller institutions--what works and what doesn’t, what are the challenges, how to connect clients to outreach and conservation services, and how AIC members can become more involved themselves. The goal of the session is to demonstrate how the involvement of conservators can enrich the common activities of allied professionals, and conversely, how these activities can enrich the conservation community.

Public Conservation Labs: Reactive or Proactive?

Chairs: J.P. Brown and Molly Gleeson

Museums across the United States have opened visible conservation labs and many more have engaged in public conservation projects in the galleries. These labs and projects are very popular with the public, as they offer behind-the scenes opportunities for visitors and a chance to learn about work that is typically not accessible to general museum audiences.

It is typically the case that the idea to put conservation on display originates from outside the Conservation department, making it necessary for conservators to react in order to make these public projects workable and successful. But such projects also provide opportunities for conservation professionals to be proactive and use these spaces to their benefit: to capitalize on opportunities to engage with the Education, Exhibition, and Curatorial departments of the institution; to engage with museum visitors; and to broaden the relevance of conservation within the museum and within the community, with conservators’ participation in social media aspects of the project often playing an important role.

This session seeks papers that explore how various institutions and Conservation departments have initiated and navigated carrying out conservation in public, and the resource implications of such endeavors. The session will also include a discussion panel with time for audience participation.

Open Call

Submit abstracts that fit the conference theme but not any of the sub-sessions above.