Radical Ideas or New Directions for AIC?

Thanks, Ellen, for letting me write a guest post on your blog.  The amount of conservation information you’re sharing here is impressive; I really can’t think of anyone who is putting as much treatment and research information out as you.  It’s as if you’re running your own conservation publication for the state of Alaska!

Also, I think it’s fascinating that you and I can be connected in a meaningful way without having met in person or chatted on the phone.  After all, you’re way up there in Alaska, and I’m here in Indianapolis.  To make this point visual, my friend, Tascha, in the IMA Photography department, made the image below.

Richard's Indianapolis Blog Cruise Stops in Alaska

Richard's Corn-Fed Blog Cruise Stops in Alaska

In recognition of the upcoming AIC Annual Meeting being held in Los Angeles that is dubbed “Conservation 2.0 — New Directions,” I thought it would be a good idea to put out some thoughts on “New Directions.”  Following this post, on Wednesday Ellen will be posting over at my home blog at the IMA and then on Friday Daniel Cull will posting at The Dan Cull Weblog.  We’ve all agreed to address potential “New Directions” for AIC.

Of course, to me, it makes total sense that I publish this post here in Alaska.  In many ways I think it is projects like Ellen’s blog that are beginning to change the landscape within the conservation profession and point to new directions.  I’m not just talking about starting a blog and telling people what you do, but it’s the capacity for anyone in the world to use a very powerful printing press basically for free.  The ability to share information about art conservation is changing dramatically.

Fair Warning: this post is only going to get longer.

First, let me start with some math.  I’ve started to add up the cost of my attending the AIC Annual Meeting next week.

  • I’ll be gone from the IMA for 4 days. (I’m not going to attach a dollar number to my absence, because, frankly, it’s not quantifiable. Just ask my co-workers while I’m gone: they’ll tell you how priceless I am.)
  • My AIC registration and travel expenses will run just over $2000.00.  (This does not include my annual membership dues of about $150 per year.)

While I joke that my 4-day absence is partially unquantifiable, certainly for conservators in private practice this number is fully quantifiable and very serious. Compared to other professions this may not be a lot of resources, but in these lean economic times it sure feels like a lot of institutional resources just for one dude to go to a meeting.   To this end, I say thanks for the support, Indianapolis Museum of Art!

But that’s not the real issue or question here. The real questions are: why do I need to go; what do I get out of it; and could it be improved?

I’ve come up with five reasons why I need to go:

  1. Sharing Information (either by giving a presentation or listening to them)
  2. Networking
  3. Institutional and Personal Prestige
  4. Workshops & Tours (Professional Development)
  5. Vendors

Let’s go through these five reasons one by one.

1. Sharing Knowledge

I think of this as the “core” of the meeting and usually consists of me sitting in a hotel conference room watching or potentially giving a Power Point presentation on a certain topic. Is this an efficient delivery method for information? All of a sudden, no, not really. Now with improved technology and social media applications anyone can give a presentation from anywhere to anyone and they can be recorded and shipped around the world at any time of the day through these Interwebs. Take for example two presentations that my 5 and 8 year old kids recently put together.

The Collaborative Approach: This winter my 5 year old daughter and I made this PPT about the plants in our house. She took all of the pictures and then chose how her PPT slide show should look, and since she’s not able to write super well, she dictated to me a bit about each plant and I typed it in (you can click down there in the bottom right corner to make the slide show go “full screen”).

My 8 year old son has experience making PPT presentations from his 1st and 2nd grade classes.

He made this presentation all by himself. What he came up with is a very brief paper on the history of Sea Monkeys. I uploaded both of these PPTs to Slideshare, which unfortunately cuts out his animated and audio-rich transitions between slides. Even without his clever transitions, even without hearing his audio transitions (bang!), you are still able to learn something about Sea Monkeys. [As an editorial aside,  I fear that he concentrated a bit more on style rather than content, and I will explain that he is a vegetarian and was a little bummed to learn that Sea Monkeys were primarily used as commercial food before being employed into household use.] Nolan has agreed to make his PPT presentation available in case you want to hear and see his amazingly enhanced transitions; you can download it here.

I hope it’s clear by now how easy it is to make and then to share PPT presentations.   And these are just the most basic ways to share slide presentations that you normally watch while sitting in a conference room.  Here’s a link to presentation that has the speaker’s audio over the slides.  There are other interesting & free programs that allow you to do some fairly complex and innovative things; for example Nina Simon’s Museums and the Web 2009 Workship Presentation, “Going Analog” can be downloaded from Prezi here.

If you think about it, a blog post can be the combination of a presentation and a “post print.”  But instead of a printed catalog, you can have images, video, audio, links, etc.     So, what’s the advantage of me actually being in the room while I listen to someone give a presentation? Why do that at all?

One of my friends at work pointed out that another reason to go to a conferences like the AIC Annual Meeting is that it’s like going to the movies; you just go there to take it in.  This friend pointed out that not everyone is like me and just interested in searching and finding answers to questions.  Perhaps I’m a product of Google search.  Truly, the point of this post isn’t to say that conferences don’t have value, it’s mainly to question what this value is and if there are ways to make them more useful and more inclusive for more people.

2. Networking

Maybe the reason you’re willing to travel to the AIC Annual Meeting or any other professional meeting is because you really want to or need to do some networking. And what’s better than pressing some flesh, chatting up some clever colleague, and handing out some business cards? Wait, but maybe Facebook is actually just as good for networking as meeting in person.  Try this: search Facebook for any conservator in the world that you know of and ask them to be your “friend.” If they are using it today then maybe they will be your friend and maybe they won’t. While I have no data to back it up, anecdotally I know that I’ve made about the same number of meaningful connections through Facebook and other social media applications than I’ve ever made in the sum total of all of the conservation meetings I’ve attended.  What if AIC really encouraged it’s members to communicate using social media applications like Facebook?

Okay, and you can’t say I’m not honest, I admit that there’s a *BIG* difference between meeting someone in person and friending them on Facebook. But what’s that difference worth? Right now, the cost of Facebook  = only your time and effort; the cost of attending an annual meeting = significant resources.

3. Institutional and Personal Prestige

Of course it’s always good to list presentations and papers you given on your C.V.; and the more prestigious conference the better. But, I think this is more an outcome of the system rather than an intention.  What if certain blogs became prestigeous places to share information and you could list the ones for which you’ve written on your C.V. ?  But how could blogs become places like that?  Well, I think they already are.   Perhaps AIC and other conservation associations could encourage people to use blogs to share information by giving awards to blogs that are consistently excellent.  Or maybe conservation associations could start publishing through their own blogs.  Some time ago, I put some of my thoughts together in this blog post about this if you want to know more about that idea, or to find out how to win a “Conservy” next year.

4. Workshops & Tours (Professional Development)

It’s impossible to argue against the importance of completing workshops and even local tours associated with AIC.  These are essential experiences for conservators.  There’s tons of information and techniques out there; having the opportunity to attend a workshop or visit another conservation lab is absolutely crucial to what we do, and though I’m a pretty techno-friendly guy, I can’t think of how the usefullness of these have been changed by the Internet.

Considering the complexity of new technologies in conservation science, materials analysis, etc, etc, the need for workshops has only increased.

*AIC & FAIC do a fantastic job of supporting workshops throughout the year. *

5. Vendors

I really like you, conservation vendors.   This field wouldn’t be the same without you.  But, I’m not sure I’m really willing to pay to meet you and see your products.  Usually you pay (marketing fees) to meet me.

Having said all of this, I very much am looking forward to attending the meeting in a couple weeks.  I think it’s going to be useful, but I’m not convinced that with the current structure it’s going to continue to be as useful as it could be.

Radical Ideas =

New Directions

Welcome to the Radical Ideas section of this post.  In short, one of the things that is changing about our society — thanks to technology — is that institutional systems and bureaucracy are becoming a lot less useful for groups of people that *want to work together*.   Conservators want to work together, share information, and solve issues.  It’s in our best interest to work together; we’re smarter, more efficient, more accurate, and just plain better when we work together as a large, inclusive, and friendly group.  It’s also in our shared interest to have a unified voice when we have an issue that is important.

Sharing information is now incredibly easy and cheap to do and can be done anywhere at anytime on the Internet.  My ideas have a commonality in that they are an effort to remove the institutional framework that was constructed by AIC in the past 30 or more years  — when we desperately needed it.  Now, what we desperately need are the systems that will allow and encourage us to work together to share information, build information systems, and solve the biggest and most current issues in our field.  The result would be the potential for AIC and other associations to push the structure away from the institutional core put it back into the membership to solve as a totally inclusive group.

We are a gigantic group of competent experts that needs to be more connected on a regional and global scale.  We need to find a way to be a lot more inclusive and allow for more members to participate, and we need to do more of it on a year-round basis.

I have blatantly stolen many of my ideas from the Museums and the Web Conference (MW2009) that I attended recently here in my fair city of Indianapolis.  This conference has been going on for the past 12 years and is run by 2 people (and a large program committee).

Simply put, Museums and the Web attempts to produce a conference that provides the attendees the information that the attendees want to talk about.  The conference is the platform and the attendees themselves are the conduit to each other.  They do this by having an open call for papers and then letting the program committee identify what the general topics and issues are that are raised within the papers.  Doesn’t it make more sense to have the structure of a meeting be developed around the topics & issues, not have the other way around by having some committee identify a topic and then have people fit their ideas to that?

So, finally, here’s my list of suggestions.  While they are numbered, they aren’t necessarily in a specific order.

  1. Stop sending me postcards in the mail.
  2. Stop sending me the AIC Newsletter in the mail.
  3. Stop sending me JAIC in the mail.
  4. Stop sending me c.d.s filled with PDFs in the mail.
  5. Honestly, please stop sending me these things in the mail, escpecially the c.d.s filled with PDFs.
  6. Put all of the print stuff into an electronic format and stick it on the Internet somewhere and make it searchable and available to everyone for free all the time.
  7. Get rid of Specialty Groups.
  8. Yep, get rid of everything that has anything to do with Specialty Groups.  The  chairs, co-chairs, chairs emeritus, separate meetings, etc.  Have them all work together on the Annual Meeting program and shared issues.
  9. Because Specialty Groups are in their very nature limiting, the only other alternative is to make more Specialty Groups.  For example, I’d probably spend most of my time in a Specialty Group that dealt with Modern and Contemporary art, but instead I spend my time trying to figure out how to maximize my time attending all of the disparate talks at the Annual Meeting.  I’m sure most AIC members spend a lot of their time jumping around from group to group.
  10. *Totally change the structure of the Annual Meetings*
  11. Take a page out of the MW2009 conference book and stop having “Issue Focused” meetings and let the members decide what the issues are by the papers that they submit to a nameless and issueless Annual Meeting Program Committee.  The Program Committee’s job should be to group the papers into similar topics, identify the most pressing issues, and decide how many of the papers can be presented.  Meetings would become topics-based meetings and remain fluid and evolving.
  12. Devote at least 1/3 of the Annual Meeting to a “blank” session, one without any pre-defined topics or issues. Leave it blank until the members stand up and make open calls for individual sessions about current issues.  Have these break-out sessions meet for an hour or two and then present on what they discussed or learned and where future research needs to be focused.
  13. Encourage the folks in these sessions to work year round on the issues that the identified.
  14. Redefine Annual Meetings to be places that are all about the personal exchange of information and the generation of new ideas through personal conversations.  I have no idea if this is possible, but try to move the conversations that happen in the hallways and over dinner and drinks into the Annual Meeting.  After all, isn’t that where many of the most interesting conversations happen, anyway?
  15. Video tape the whole or parts of the Annual Meeting and put it on the Internet.
  16. This next one is big. Stop having “Poster” sessions! Please.  Pretty please? While the information shared on those posters is often very good, it is almost immediately lost and practically irretrievable after the meeting.  (And here, for the first time, I make an idle threat on a blog: if poster sessions still exist next year someone — and I’m not saying who — is gonna put up a “Poster” that rather explicitly explains why “Posters” are horrendously inefficient methods for sharing information in the 21st century.)   All things considered, personally it’s a bit of a toss up which I’m less in favor of: poster sessions or a c.d. filled with PDF files that arrives by postal mail.
  17. Here’s a solution: turn Poster Sessions into Blog Sessions.
  18. Get rid of the Emerging Conservators Professionals Network (ECPN) and make all of AIC one thing with a goal of sharing and creating current information and solving today’s issues.
  19. Put the folks from ECPN on the Board and the Programming Committee.  If you want to find a way to include “Emerging” conservators, just include them.
  20. Eliminate membership. If we stop using print publications and start making it all available on line, we should just make it available for for free.  And if we’re all using social media applications to stay networked and connected, the benefits for membership dramatically decrease. Plus, AIC would not have to organize and produce a directory and keep all that information accurate.  The members would have to do that themselves through a shared internet-based platform.  The added benefit is that everyone in the world would be able to see what is produced by AIC the moment it is produced.
  21. Make Annual Meetings yearly convergences for finding “New Directions.”
  22. Get rid of the list serves and change them into working wikis that are solving problems and recording the results.  For example, what if we all stopped sharing information about exhibition case design through list serves and started to share it inside of a wiki.  It would be like the difference between passing sand back and forth and starting to construct a pyramid.
  23. Encourage members to make their papers super cool to hear in person.  Make them engaging and like performances instead of places where people read from  a script in a hotel conference room (yes, I know, easier said than done).  But, wouldn’t it be cool if our presentations were as good as  Ted Talks?  Presentations that you want to hear in person.
  24. I think that’s all the ideas I have.  Let me know what you think.  Blast back.  Your my peers so give me a review.

21 Responses to Radical Ideas or New Directions for AIC?

  1. Christina Milton O'Connell says:

    I would like to add another point to the topic of sharing knowledge. There is a lot of discussion generated after the presentations. This is often an extremely valuable component as a lot of ideas are shared. Perhaps you might argue that this can all been done electronically. I know you value human interaction as I see you spend a lot of time on the phone. So perhaps you would also agree that handling everything electronically looses something?

    I really like your suggestions of putting more info from the conference on the web (such as video taping certain portions). I also like the idea of creating a blog format for poster sessions. Having given a poster myself in the past, I’d like to see a better way to share that information. Making a poster is a lot of work, and the full poster content is not published (just the abstracts in the conference literature). Having that information available online, perhaps on the AIC website, could make it available to more conservators or scholars.

    Thanks for starting an interesting discussion.

  2. Mary Striegel says:

    Very interesting and provocative thoughts here re: AIC & annual meeting. Some of these issues were addressed over the 6 year period I served on the AIC board. The format of the meeting was addressed by a group in 2006. Since meeting locations, hotels, rooms,etc must be booked 3 years in advance, changes may take a while. I oppose you notion that posters be eliminated for the following reasons:
    1. They provide a save environment for students to learn how to organize and present information. (there are virtual poster presentation meetings).
    2. They insure participation by a broader audience including international folks who may not be able to attend but could send a poster.
    3. Some participants work @ institutions which require acceptance of a paper to attend.

  3. Nancie Ravenel says:

    Firstly, I’m adding my admiration for Ellen’s blog. Ellen, I hope you don’t mind that we at Shelburne Museum might be stealing your concept really soon.

    Secondly, I’d like to add my admiration for the Museums and the Web conference. Although I wasn’t able to attend,I’ve been able to read the papers (which were available before the conference began), watch the presentations via slide share, and follow conversations about the presentations via the Twitter hashtag #mw2009 and through the blogs being posted during the meeting. Apart from not getting the opportunity to enjoy Indianapolis and not being able to participate in those break out sessions,its almost like I *was* there. I’m grateful for the information, and its provided valuable fruit for thought in a very timely manner.

    While it takes more preparation time for the speakers, I’d bet it leads to more fruitful discussions during the meeting.

    I agree that there’s something that needs to be done about making the information available in poster sessions more widely available.

    One site that I’m really crazy about for sharing presentations is voicethread.com. Not only can you view narrated presentations, but other folks can comment within the presentation.

  4. […] https://ellencarrlee.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/new-directions-or-radical-ideas/The ability to share information about art conservation is changing dramatically. Fair Warning: this post is only going to get longer. First, let me start with some math. I’ve started to add everybody loves raymond dvd up the cost of my attending the AIC Annual … […]

  5. Wow! Richard and Ellen, again, wonderful and important work. Thank You. I feel a little overwhelmed; a bit like the Web 2.0 forces have ganged up to impress us with their energy. OK, I’m truly impressed with your creative energy, hard and quality work and commitment to institutional change. But three at once?: First Richard’s post; then Ellen’s post; then Daniel’s post. I barely have time to read these, let alone start thinking about these issues seriously and creatively, and can’t possibly set to authoring a meaningful response because of ongoing exhibition commitments! Space this out, folks! Give people (conservators) a chance to give these ideas the serious consideration they deserve. I share your sense of commitment and progress but may not share your sense of urgency! I suggest that someone volunteer to promote and organize responses and alternatives to the concrete steps Richard has so thoughtfully proposed. This may take several months, in reality but that’s OK in my experience. Then we (notice how I have magically become part of this movement – I surprise even myself) take the concrete recommendations, with their commentaries, to the AIC board and suggest a Newsletter issue devoted to their presentation AND the first Newsletter publication online. Perhaps in 12 months, at the next Annual meeting, we could have a motion (or motions) before the membership for a vote. In the mean time, we need to BE the change we want to see, so let’s identify a forum for the serious development of concrete organizational changes and open it as widely as possible. Got to get back to work. Do you all ever sleep?

  6. Katie Mullen says:

    Thanks, Richard. There are a lot of good ideas here! I have questions about the costs involved, for those of you who are more analytical and better with numbers than I! I love the idea of the papers being freely available (as many of them are, just with a little backlog) and of putting portions of the meeting online – but if we eliminate membership and add elements to the meetings – such as getting portions of it online – don’t the costs of the meeting go up for those who can attend? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, I just don’t think it will be completely without cost to implement. I like the suggestions about getting the posters online somehow (or maybe translating them into a 2.0 equivalent?) rather than eliminating them. They’re a nice alternative to have to putting together a formal paper, especially for students presenting research.

  7. ellencarrlee says:

    I go to the AIC annual meetings for one major reason: MORALE. Chatting with people I really like, agonizing over attending talks tangentially related to my work or seeing museum exhibits I would otherwise never see. I like seeing the whole range of personalities…the really well dressed paintings folks on one end and the grungier ethno folks on the other. I like seeing the geeky nervousness of the grad students and try to reach out to them, remembering what it was like to be in their shoes and then feeling stupid when I realize they have more confidence than I did. I like seeing old mentors and giving them a hug and feeling the thrill that maybe, just maybe they think of me as a colleague now and approve of my work. Going to the talks is like going to the movie theater when I could just rent on DVD. Humans like to roam in packs, and I love hearing a buzz go through a room when a provocative comment is made, or the titters of disapproval, or the nodding of heads with a good point, and I am excited when people are brave enough to ask questions after the talk and the sport of seeing how the speaker performs under pressure. Performance! Have you seen Arlen Hingenbotham give a talk?
    In my dozen years as a member, I’ve noted a distinct lack of love for AIC. Why is that? What is AIC really for, and what is it good at? How much can we reasonably expect from this organization?

  8. Rachael Perkins Arenstein says:

    Speaking as the AIC E-editor I would like to say that I found Richard’s post interesting and thought provoking and will make sure that they do get seen by the AIC staff (if they haven’t already). I don’t agree with all of the 24 points but I can say that at least a couple of the ideas are already on the table even if it takes some time for implementation. I have been to far more conferences both on an institutional dime and my own and have found direct benefits to being there that are intellectual, social and financial.

    Clearly some of the most provocative suggestions push the outer edge of the envelope and I don’t agree with them all. Speaking as one of the founders and the current Co-chair of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group (IPM-WG) which is responsible for museumpests.net (a website that I am proud was listed by Richard as a good model in his article in CeROArt) I also think that some of the ideas posited are nice in theory but have the potential for not delivering the results that he would like to see.

    I’m going to echo Richard’s Fair Warning that this will be a long post. I’m going to take a stab at addressing most of your points. As I am working into the wee hours not all will be cogent responses but at least it is a first stab. After that I will paste in some thoughts based on my experience with the IPM-WG

    1-3. This is something that I believe AIC would like to work towards – to be green, to cut costs, etc. With the new website up I hope eventually people will be able to indicate in their profile whether they would like to receive print copies or not. As shocking as it may be to realize it – there is a portion of AIC membership that does not have internet access and a more sizeable portion that work in areas of the country where dial-up is still their only option. These people still need analog solutions to be served by AIC. I am not even counting the people who are simply ‘old school’ and just don’t feel comfortable with technology or aren’t interested in it.

    4-5. This is a Specialty Group issue for the most part. It is AIC’s hope that some/all of the SGs will migrate their websites to integrate them with the AIC website. Ultimately I hope that this will allow you to login as a member and access resources that might be AIC or SG member only resources (more on this below).

    6. I’d like to see much more of this – but I don’t think that all information automatically should be free all the time. I’d certainly like more conference presentations on the web. The issues that go along with copyright and posting images is one that is bigger than AIC and I can only hope that we can work in this direction.

    7-9. I understand some of this frustration. I would love to see something that focused on preventive care – even though that cuts across all the disciplines. However I don’t agree with the idea of getting rid of SGs. I do think that they serve an intellectual and logistical purpose.

    10-11. Most of the places I have worked would at least partially support attendance at a conference if you presented. Nothing was more frustrating than trying to figure out how to get a paper accepted when the topic did not immediately lend itself to the type of work that I was doing. On the other hand, some topics that AIC has proposed have truly inspired people to come out and give talks. SPNHC does a hybrid during its two day general session generally 1 day is devoted to the year’s topic and the second day to papers of general interest grouped by the organizers around broad themes as Richard suggests. As one of the organizers for the SPNHC 2004 annual meeting I can attest that it is much easier to organize and solicit papers around a specific topic than just asking for people to present…something/anything.

    12-13. AIC does have an issues session built in to its schedule. Maybe a ‘blank’ session would be useful but, as I will elaborate further below when talking about the IPM-WG – this can get very frustrating and tedious with a large group. I think that groups work better when they are small, given some broad topic as a jumping off point, and well moderated.

    14. I think that annual meetings are already doing this. I’m not sure what else you expect in this regard.

    15. There are major costs involved in this but AIC is interested in exploring some ways in which to work in this direction blogging, web casts, etc.

    16-17. I agree that posters can be frustrating – mostly because I want to talk to people at coffee breaks not stand there and read the posters. I do agree, however, with Mary’s post that they do serve a purpose. Many of the posters do wind up in postprints but I would like to see ultimately available online.

    18-19. I think that AIC is just trying to include them – the whole point of the ECPN is to provide a comfortable environment to be inclusive so that the meetings don’t feel intimidating and impersonal and that the organization meets their needs. I would like to see how else we could make the AIC website provide a platform for further interaction but I think that this was an effort in the right direction.

    20. Sorry, but I’m not with you here.

    22. I don’t think we need to eliminate listserv but I certainly support this as does AIC staff and this is one of my top priorities as E-editor.

    23. Who wouldn’t agree with this? Let me know when you start running public speaking seminars!

    Now for some thoughts based on the 9 years that the IPM-WG has been working to make collaborative information available to the community for free. (I presented on this at AIC 2008 – the paper is probably in one of those CDs you have lying around!).

    The IPM-WG started as a collaboration between two institutions and from there we broadened it to three other institutions that we knew were working in the area of IPM databases. Two years later we decided to see what response we would get if we opened it up to the community and we were thrilled when representatives of 11 institutions came to a two-day meeting in NYC. We set up the museumpests.net site as a place for us to post the work on which we were collaborating. In the subsequent years we have been humbled by the response to the call for participants in the annual two-day meeting where we receive approx. 25-30 individuals each year (sent by their institutions or self-funded) as well as the response to the website which, still a work in progress (even more so at the moment as we hurry to make the first round of updates in time for AIC), receives 2,000-3,000 hits per month.

    There are a few lessons we have learned from this process over the nine years that we have been working together. Some I think are things that Richard would applaud. Others are reality checks on the kind of open interaction that he promotes. I put in + in areas that I think worked and – for comments that showed the pitfalls of some of his suggestions.

    + One of the strengths of IPMWG is that it draws from the experiences and expertise of a wide range of individuals and institutions and can truly be seen as a community-led and supported process.

    +/- While the group is open to all, making it clear that we weren’t teaching IPM and that participants would be leaving with assignments, encouraged motivated participants. We expected people to volunteer for at least one task that could take up to 20 hours. Some people are prodigious in their efforts, others who actually come to the meeting, never volunteer for tasks or, even worse, volunteer for assignments and then don’t deliver which can set the entire group back.

    + Throughout the process, our goals have been practical – to develop tools and resources that can be downloaded and used by any institution. Our work is fairly transparent – documents are posted for comment and review on the IMPWG wiki site (for all members) and we welcome comments from others once they are posted on the public portion of the site.

    – People have a limited tolerance for the kind of blank sessions that Richard proposes. They are useful for brainstorming but require good moderators to summarize or synthesize thoughts to ever lead to anything concrete or useful. This kind of open session was only useful to us at the first open meeting and when we start a new sub-group – but by the end of the meeting they had to have concrete short, medium and long-term goals that they could begin to chip away at during the year and at subsequent meetings.

    – Calls to the community to share contribute information such as IPM policy and procedure documents, images of pests and damage, etc. do not result in an outpouring of response. Most of the documents we received we had to actively recruit. I found many of the papers and participants by approaching them at various annual meetings (AIC, SPNHC, and others recruited at AAM).

    – Many of the submissions from our open calls were of questionable quality. We felt that users of the site would be best served not by posting everything – but by having a collaborative vetting process. Over the years we found that even with e-mails and later wikis, that this process was most efficient and productive when done face to face. Ultimately someone has to be the final arbiter and so while our organizational structure is very loose – there are people responsible for making decisions and moving the projects forward.

    +/- We are not affiliated to any particular institution or professional society and that has afforded us a very flexible structure. However, for the two-day meeting there are logistical concerns that require a core planning/leadership group that keeps the whole venture running. Also, not having any institutional backing meant that when we wanted to revamp the website (in progress) fundraising was a real challenge. I am proud that AIC Specialty Groups (OSG and CIPP to date) have been the greatest supporters of our work.

    I think that is all I can coherently write at this time. I’m glad though that these discussions are out there and look forward to hearing concrete ways in which we can use the AIC website to at least start some of these projects off.

  9. I really liked a lot of what Richard’s put forward and I want to thank @fiveeasypieces for blasting this post.

    this seems to be a very central issue. I really like Ellen’s response and Rachael’s is really, really long. it seems like someone should take her writing and make it a post somewhere else, it’s tough to digest as a comment.

    I’d like to point out that I agree, and having been invited to be more involved with the Western Museums Association it seemed so important that they get a community blog going, now called westmuse. we used musematic as a model. Now WMA also has a Facebook page and a group on LinkedIn. And all just in the last couple of months. It’s easily done and necessary as Richard points out.

    “Regionals” are funny. They do permit for a broad engagement and collegiality, along the lines of what Ellen details above about MORALE. In fact there’s a brand new post up now about people and authenticity. But they also have the possible challenge of lack of focus.

    I love what Museums and the Web does with posting their papers. It is a model we MUST all follow. It’s a singular resource for so many of us.

    I am hoping that we can make this year’s WMA09 in San Diego something off-the-wall — maybe some mob-events, spontaneous happenings…maybe even something that draws some press attention, and so drawing attention to the important work we all doing in museums. A memorable convening, and strive to make it better each year so the arriving and being make it worthwhile for the participants.

    I hope we develop some of this with the Center for the Future of Museums, which did an interesting post about “carbon based conferences.”

  10. […] This post was Twitted by jamesgleventhal – Real-url.org […]

  11. ellencarrlee says:

    I, too, was shocked that Rachel posted such a long comment, but I liked it so much I’m going to go through those 24 myself! If others want to comment on the 24, I will volunteer (with Richard’s blessing/help of course) to work on gathering them in a format that is easier to digest.
    1. Postcards, I like ’em, something to hang on my fridge as a visual reminder.
    2. I’d prefer AIC newsletter online.
    3. JAIC online too.
    4. “c.d. filled with PDFs.” Amen, I agree
    5. PDF peeve. yepcheck got it.
    6. “Print stuff…on the Internet…free.” YES.
    7. “Get rid of Specialty Groups.” NO
    8. “No Specialty Groups…all work together…” I disagree, think they serve a useful purpose.
    9. “More Specialty Groups.” Or subgroups of specialty groups? Meetings would always have concurrent sessions and hard decisions about what to attend. Better to have the time slots more regulated to allow easier hopping.
    10.”Totally change the structure of the Annual Meetings.” Throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
    11. “Issue Focused meetings.” What if specialty groups decided on their issues, then gave that to the higher ups for annual meeting blanket issues? Maybe that doesn’t work. There is the marketing angle, including the marketing to my own boss why THIS meeting is the one to attend.
    12. “1/3 of the Annual Meeting to a blank session…”
    What if you got to submit an issue when you registered, and the most “votes” got discussed in that blank session? There could be 2.0 style discussion of those in anticipation of the meetings.
    13. “Work on issues year-round.” YES
    14. “Annual Meetings as personal exchange of information…” yep, but just like Elaine Gurian and others say about museums being a safe space for unsafe ideas, people need to test out their thoughts on trusted colleagues first.
    15. “Video of the Annual Meeting on the Internet.” Personally, I like transcripts better. But I’d watch a good performance, maybe.
    16. “Stop having Poster sessions!” NO. Find a way to preserve them, yes. But for smaller ideas, non-native speakers, students and others this is important. Plus, data in a chart is better than data read to you in a dark room as a paper.
    17. “Posters as blogs?” Maybe on the AIC weblog! I like the idea of AIC being a space for virtual publications, maybe in the way CeroArt is?
    18. “ECPN?” Don’t know enough to commment.
    19. “Emerging conservators, just include them.” Did that work before? Are you talking quotas?
    20. “Eliminate membership.” I disagree. Who pays for AIC? I like the directory. And I like belonging.
    21. “Annual Meetings yearle New Directions.” There will only be energy for reinventing ourselves periodically, I think.
    22. “Get rid of the list serves and change them into working wikis.” Wikis are anonymous, right? Doesn’t that make it harder to evaluate the merits of ideas?
    23. “papers super cool like performances.” Only if people were not so afraid of getting their heads bitten off by their peers.
    24. “I think that’s all the ideas I have.” I doubt it…looking forward to more!

  12. Rachael Perkins Arenstein says:

    My apologies for the lengthy posting. It became one of those “I apologize that this letter is so long – I lacked the time to make it short” kind of things.

  13. […] for the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).  I was a guest blogger for Ellen on Monday. My post up there in Alaska is filled with lots of crazy ideas.  On Friday, Daniel Cull will make a post on […]

  14. conservationoccasional says:

    In what likely won’t be the last of the long responses to this thought-provoking (and not-itself-short) post…

    1. Sharing is caring

    I think that before we encourage the total subsuming of the AIC Annual Meeting by web-publication, we need to consider the lifespan* of digitally published materials, particularly of they hybrid a/v/print/slide/photo variety. At the moment, I would call this an unknown, but I am certainly willing to accept “short” as an alternative answer. None of this is to say that AIC should not move to make as much of the Annual Meeting accessible via the Web, merely that in some cases the human memory might out preserve bits and bytes.

    *Let me make clear my hopes that references to “lifespans” becomes an insider joke for all subscribers to the ConsDist List.

    2. Networking

    I would argue that this is the single most important and irreplaceable aspect of the Annual Meeting. As a fully immersed member of the internet community, Facebook and linkdin have nothing on actually shaking a person’s hand.

    3. Prestige

    I think that Richard’s comments here are only part of the story. Some conservators, particularly in the library world, are tenured faculty at their institutions and are thus required to present and publish in peer reviewed journals. In these cases, there is more than simply prestige at stake until such a point when web-publications and blogs are viewed by hiring committees as viable outlets for professional publication.

    5. Vendors

    I suspect that the vendors pay to show their wares at the conference and are then subsidizing our attendance. If this is the case, then I think that we should invite more of them every year. I also enjoy purchasing books at a discount.

    Now, let us quickly run through the 24 points of light:

    1-5. Call me old fashioned, but I got into the field because I enjoyed working with tangible things. Keep publishing JAIC in hard-copy, but make it more web-accessible. Everything else should go directly to the web.

    6. I suspect that we are in a period of transition and that in 3-5 years the backlog of AIC publications will be web-accessible. However, just look at the BPG Annual and how difficult it has been for them to acquire the signatures that they need to change the author’s agreements to allow for web publication. I am sure that all of the specialty groups would be happy to have volunteers track down their authors and scan everything to a web-friendly format. Do I see a show of hands?

    7-8. While I agree that the SGs frequently divide talks amongst arbitrary lines, I am fairly certain that they provide a fiscal and leadership structure that is needed.

    9. Unless I am mistaken BPG and EMG have hosted joint sessions in recent years. Perhaps we need to encourage more of this?

    10-13. Perhaps if AIC were to make the meetings 4 days again instead of these (very busy, very cramped) 3 day marathons…

    14. Wouldn’t structuring the AM to provide more spaces/times for these informal gatherings put a damper on the spontaneity of creative thought? (“Oh, 3:30-5 in meeting room 7 for informal brain-storming. I had better come up with some interesting things to say in front of these senior conservators!”)

    15. Again, I suspect that we will see more of this in the next 3-5 years as it becomes standard at most/all professional conferences.

    16-19. Pretty minor stuff. Not bad, or good, just of little consequence?

    20. Without membership, I am not sure how you envision AIC funding and organizing itself. Although, that may ultimately be your point.

    21. I think that various specialty groups view the AM themes rather differently. My take was always that the General Sessions held to the theme, while the specialty groups used the theme to stimulate members, but the SGs ultimately just took the best abstracts, whether they were truly related to the theme or not.

    22. Early adopters are usually late to the transition. Just look at the USA and our attachment to 110-120 volts. Why switch to a wiki now when we could just wait a few years and jump directly to the next informational structure?

    23. Couldn’t agree with you more. The field of conservation could use some superstar speakers to help with public outreach and lobbying.

  15. […] but I feel that I would be remiss in not encouraging everyone to read the series of posts that Richard McCoy, Ellen Carrlee, and Dan Cull have up (or are soon to post) to stir up some thinking in preparation […]

  16. […] suggested by the nomadic conservation blogger Richard McCoy on Twitter and he began this week with a blog post on the Ellen Carrlee’s weblog. In return Ellen Carrlee guest blogged on the IMA blog adding […]

  17. RichardMcCoy says:

    To be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed with responses here and have been working on the best way to respond. Perhaps a follow-up post is in order after the Annual Meeting.

    In any case, I want to make sure that the folks that responded here know of Dan’s post on the topic:


  18. dancull says:

    Random comments:

    Just a quick technical comment as Ellen said: “wiki’s are anonymous right?”

    Well, no they actually they are not and this is a common misconception. Wikipedia is “technically” anonymous, however, when you post anonymously your IP address and other data is logged, and your IP is openly recorded, so you could be traced very simply. Furthermore, wiki’s as such can actually be set to be anonymous or authored, or any mixture of that. Some are even peer reviewed.

    And a quick question for Conservation Occassional….
    Which came first – the chicken or the egg? I refer of course to your point about tenure and the need to publish in “viable outlets”. Personally I agree with you and can’t see the day when blogs would ever take over from peer reviewed journals… and to be honest they shouldn’t they serve different functions, well the same function but in different ways… BUT why not online journals? CEROART or E-CONSERVATION both have peer reviewed content… why couldn’t JAIC just be online?… I’m pretty sure it’s made on a computer after all. If we just made ALL peer reviewed journals online journals then the selection committees would have to just “get over it” so to speak.

    and to James G. Leventhal:
    I’m loving the idea of “mob events” looking forward to seeing something about that soon.

    There’s so many other comments that could be made… but that’ll do for now… I hope these discussions all get carried on “in person” for many people at AIC.

    I think Richard’s idea of a follow up post would be good…. or a series of “Report Back” comments on how these discussions influenced the meeting. Or something like that!???

  19. dancull says:

    Also… here is an example (from anthropology) of a book being given away online for free using creative commons and also sold in printed form by a respectably university press, I would have thought that selection committees would be hard pressed (no pun intended) to claim that the book lacks anything in scholarly quality by being online… why can conservation field not have same attitude?

    Anyway, the book:

  20. Dale Kronkright says:

    Richard & Ellen
    Sitting in airports is often a chance for me to do some solitary thinking &, as always, I seem to like a lot of Richard’s thinking. Especially:

    “6. Put all of the print stuff into an electronic format and stick it on the Internet somewhere and make it searchable and available to everyone for free all the time” Really, this is no brainer for everything EXCEPT textbooks, which can already come with web animated supplements. The fact that we have not yet made this shift as an organization makes me worry a lot about the AIC executive offices. I’m certain they are perfectly pleasant, competent, creative, hard working, dedicated, even over-worked people. But this needs to moved way up on the list of institutional priorities. For archival storage and for formal criticism, users can print their own, in a format that is most useful. Journals and newsletters in electronic form for Kindels and other digital readers might also be useful interfaces.

    “13. Encourage the folks in these sessions to work year round on the issues that the identified.” If the AIC was composed of a series of small- and large task-oriented, clinical trial or focus groups that fluidly formed and dissolved as the material, technological or practical need arose, we’d resolve problems a lot faster, grow the professional body of knowledge more efficiently & get more year-around participation from our members. I’ve written about this in more detail on Daniel Cull’s Blog page

    15. Video tape the whole or parts of the Annual Meeting and put it on the Internet. YES. Again no brainer. Make this a benefit to members & watch the membership shoot through the roof, if growing the membership is a goal.

    23. Encourage members to make their papers super cool to hear in person…  as good as  Ted Talks? Now we’re talking! But this may take the technical help of one tech savvy member to another non-tech savvy member in order to encourage brilliant but performance wary conservators to break out important ideas & work. See Richard, all this coordination at annual meetings takes work & staff time. So we already have an important reason not to dissolve the membership and their related fees. What you want costs money! But you knew that!

    That said, there are a few things I outright disagree with. Well, I mean sort of disagree with:

    16. Stop having “Poster” sessions! Sorry man but I get a ton of outstanding info from these. I want more! Several people can stand in front one at the same time & fantastic spontaneous discussions with people who are now close advisors have resulted. I would love for them to ALSO be in Blog format! But they encourage & allow grad students working with their professors to attend the AM & begin to form important face to face networks with distinguished conservators who share their research interests. I know they are inefficient. Dude, efficiency is not the point!!! Let’s meet at the AIC poster session next year & I bet we find some exciting ideas & people that we’ll continue to appreciate for years!

    20. Eliminate membership. The reasons for not doing this, to me, are legion & too important to discuss in short-hand. I’m sympathetic to your inspirations. But fundamental & massive change can happen while strengthening practice, standards and membership. Just sayin. Social networking sites have SERIOUS limitations when it comes to accomplishing complex, sustained, statistically valid work and criticism. And I feel strongly that formal criticism is one of the most important and useful functions of the organization. If you & I & experienced editors had corresponded formally before this post, perhaps we could have found more insightful phrasing or important auxiliary ideas by exploring ways that professional associations function constructively!. Other arms of the institutional organization such as the volunteer Journal and Newsletter editors achieve a lot of this work efficiently within & when it comes to the use of membership dollars, EFFCIENCY IS important. Social networking sites are fantastic for asking for help, asking broad questions & broadening points of reference. They appear to work less effectively at narrowing the scope of discussions & focusing ideas. They are declarative venues; developmental and refining venues, not so much.

    Well, I’m certain I’ve declared ’bout long enuf! But hats off to Ellen for hosting & Richard for posting! As always, each time ideas get discussed, they become more resolved & I appreciate your dedication to the profession & hard work!
    PS- Mary- typed the whole thing on a BlackBerry! Probably shows!

  21. […] 3.0 has started a conversation and referenced two separate explorations: Radical Ideas or New Directions for AIC? – [a post by @RichardMcCoy] about how the AIC might want to think about structuring their […]

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