AIC 2009 in LA: Joyce HIll Stoner on Cons 1.0

It would be tremendous if this got put on the AIC website, perhaps even an expanded version, since poor Joyce had only 20 minutes to cover everything.  Not 5 minutes later, in the restroom, someone was already remarking on who was left out.  Indeed, there’s no winning there unless you only include dead people in your discussion.  Still, the talk was heavily paintings-centric (nothing wrong with that) but provides a solid bone structure for building the rest of the specialties in.  The talk was great in that the slides and spoken elements complemented nicely…time zipped by so fast!  Another 20 minutes would have been equally fascinating.  Some of the highlights:

Joyce Hill Stoner has been with the Winterthur program for 33 years, 15 as director.  She has also coordinated the FAIC oral history file.  It began at a conference in Mexico City on Sept 4, 1975.   Incidentally, there is a wish list of people to be interviewed and funding for the transcripts if you are interested.  (I wonder about getting some of those up on the internet.  There are more than 220 of them right now, and they are in the Winterthur Archives, apparently.)

Joyce began at the beginning… how Pliny the Elder complained of paintings being overcleaned and 1729 as the first recorded transfer.  Elizabeth Darrow has been doing research about the early ideas of preventive conservation and reversibility with Pietro Edwards in Venice.  Did you know that Rembrant’s painting about the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulip has had at least 23 documented treatments from 1700-1996?  That’s just the documented ones!

A lab was established in 1888 at the Staatliche Museum, another at the British Museum in 1920, and the Fogg in 1928 (Edward Waldo Forbes.)  The first technical journal, “Technical Studies” ran from 1932-1942.  Forbes hired both George Stout and Rutherford John Gettens, whose 1942 encyclopedia of paintings materials is still a monster of utility.  Stout coined the idea of conservation as a three-legged stool of history-studio art- science, and Gregory Landry added the idea of the seat of the stool as ethics and standards of practice.  Joyce has expanded this into an 8-legged settee but that slide whizzed by too fast for me to identify the legs here.  Plus, the conference abstracts say “George Stout’s three-legged stool has become a twelve-legged settee.”  Apparently she chopped four legs for the talk, but maybe those will come back in the paper (online?)

1896 first known X-ray of a painting

1940 Rawlings doing IR photos

1949 Maggetti doing XRD/XRF

IIC founded in 1950, the first triennial in London was about climate control.  Began doing abstracts in 1956 (?) and from 1966-1983 NYU took care of doing AATA, then the Getty took over.  Since 2003, it has been exclusively online.  Funny, though, in my searches I have found BCIN to be more complete.  I wonder what the relationship is between the two?

ICOM began in 1946, ICOM-CC in 1967 and those triennials began in 1969.

Joyce Plesters as the “mother of technical studies” and how huge her 1956 paper on cross sections was…

Oberlin was the first regional conservation center (the Intermuseum Conservation Association?) and was founded in 1952.  (Apparently, according to discussion afterward, the regional organization in Washington DC might be older?)  Oberlin was run by Richard Buck, and apparently he got John Spencer of the NEA interested in conservation…Spencer helped direct some $12 million towards conservation between 1971-1982, emphasizing the importance of letting the bureaucrats and administrators know what we do.

Howard Plenderleith, who doesn’t know his name…did you know he lived to the ripe old age of 99 and was STILL ALIVE when I was in grad school?  Wow!  I had no idea.  Goes to show how young the profession still is.  Or maybe how I’m not quite SO young anymore?  IIC American Group was founded in 1960 and became AIC in 1973.  The year I was born.

I missed the name of the clever pioneer who called AIC, FAIC and JAIC “ache, fake, and jake.”

Apparently, the Murray Pease Report was the first standard of practice internationally.  Impressive.  It later formed the core of our Ethics and Standards of Practice.  You should read it, it is really interesting and revealing…wish it were online.

National Institute for Conservation (NIC) later became Heritage Preservation, the professional organization that institutions join while us individuals join AIC?  Note to self, I should get all these organizations and acronyms straight and write a blog about them.

4 students began at NYU in 1960, the first training program in the US, but there were already 6 programs in Europe following the seminal Rome Conference of 1930.  Joyce reviews a brief history of the training programs, including now-defunct programs like CCI having a program in the mid-70’s, and the CAL furniture program from 1974-2000.  But did she miss the George Washington Program?  The folks who came out of there are gods to those of us in ethnographic and archaeological objects… Nancy Odegaard! Carolyn Rose! Toby Raphael!  I guess that might be a result of the lecture having a bit of a paintings focus, but I wonder if that omission stings a bit.  Still, a huge amount of really fascinating info there and I would love to see it built on as a summary of where we’ve been…say, if it were on the internet there could be some great collaboration and refining of dates and pioneers.  Joyce identified “sustainability” as the “where we are going” part of the talk.  And hey, remember she had only 20 minutes for all of this, and this bit was like 2 minutes!  But I can’t help but think “sustainability” sounds a little bit defensive, as if we are in danger of becoming obsolete.  It has the sentiment of “holding our ground.”  I think AIC is going in much more interesting directions that that, and I might have chosen a more optimistic concept.  But then again, Joyce has probably forgotten more about the profession in all her years that I have learned in all of mine.


5 Responses to AIC 2009 in LA: Joyce HIll Stoner on Cons 1.0

  1. Suzy says:

    I agree with you about the “sustainability” mention. Esp. in libraries/archives conservation, I see a lot of collaboration and diversifying – getting out of the ol’ “ivory tower” (though it’s more like an “ivory basement” than anything) to find solutions that pull from many different sources of info and resources, not just from other conservators/preservation admins. This too esp. in ethnographic and archaelogical conservation.

  2. dancull says:

    Hi Ellen,

    Thanks for you great posts from AIC-AM, brilliant stuff!

    I thought you might be interested to see that this list of dates on wikipedia
    is a cut down version taken from an earlier version of this presentation.


  3. Amber Kerr-Allison says:


    Thanks for posting on this and for everything you blogged on during the conference! Well done! I’m envious of your skills and talent, and very appreciative or your dedication to sharing information and insight with us all!

    One thought – I believe Joyce’s reference to sustainability is more optimistic than you think. She is a strong supporter of public outreach, advocacy, and education in conservation and preservation of cultural heritage. I’m certain her intention was never to have a ‘stand our ground’ perspective, or to convey any idea of the profession becoming obsolete. On the contrary, I think it was more a call for us to reach out more and engage ourselves and our skill sets with the public to increase awareness and preservation for artifacts of cultural heritage.

    One great resource on the subject is Samuel Jones and John Holden’s publication: it’s a material world – caring for the public realm:

    “The pamphlet demonstrates the social value of caring for the material world, and highlights the importance of conservation as being integral not only to the culture and heritage sector but also social well-being. As the authors describe, in choosing what things to care for, and how to conserve them, we reflect and create social value. Conservation therefore not only sustains and refreshes the values of the past – giving us an understanding of where we have come from – but also reflects values for the present and the future. We need to sustain the conservation profession so that it can play a central role in a new agenda – caring for the material world.

    In addition to providing recommendations for conservators the pamphlet calls for action from policy-makers, cultural professionals and the public at large. All of these groups have an interest in caring for the material world, and they all have a part to play in connecting conservation to some of the major challenges we face as a society, both in the UK and internationally.”

    Joyce had so much more to say…and as you’ve mentioned, it was amazing that she was able to say what she could in the 20 minutes she had. Personally, I could have heard 20 minutes less about the UNESCO Forbidden City Project so she could have her full 40 minutes! I was astonished at how much she did get in, and I hope that any suggestions people have for add-on historical information get sent to her so she can include it. We shouldn’t expect one person to do it all!


  4. Joyce Hill Stoner says:

    Hi all– I certainly enjoyed reading these comments.
    I’m amazed at Ellen’s ability to transcribe so much!

    A few notes:

    As I understand it, the presentation is indeed going onto the AIC website managed by Rachael Arenstein.

    I could only find an illustration of an 8-legged settee but listed more than 8 legs of topics to add to the traditional 3–that flew in quickly: health and safety, public outreach, fundraising, preventive conservation, lecturing, writing, teaching, interviewing, collaborating with tribal cultures, artists, etc.

    BCIN and AATA worked together once upon a time, but AATA has a board of editors that vet submissions, and BCIN may have more wholesale submissions, doesn’t require abstracts (may do headings only) and may have duplications (double drops etc.) for a thorough search one should use both.

    Oberlin and the ICA and the other regional centers are treatment centers, where treatment was carried out.
    The Washington Conservation Guild (brought up in the question-and-answer session) is a regional professional guild for meetings (like a local AIC) and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary (and is therefore not as old as Oberlin, founded 1952).
    I didn’t get into all the regional guilds in the 20 minutes allotted.

    Sorry, it’s HAROLD Plenderleith (not “Howard”)

    It was Norbert Baer of NYU who pronounced AIC, FAIC, and JAIC “ache, fake, and jake”

    For the training programs I used the “Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation” as the core. Yes, as a result, I left out training programs in architectural conservation and the GW program (which was, I believe called a “museum studies” program, and was very important, but there are lots and lots of “museum studies” programs and it never joined ANAGPIC). I am very sorry that I left out Nancy Odegaard’s new Ph.D. program in archaeological science– we are negotiating to include that in ANAGPIC in the future. (The ANAGPIC bylaws specify some number of years in operation and graduates before joining, and I think the Arizona one is just now qualifying.)

    There are now Ph.D. dissertations on “sustainability” in Europe, and it is a study of combinations of risk factors and gains– numbers of visitors, wear and tear on art and material culture as it travels, light levels, costs of travel and HVAC, accessibility to blind visitors, etc. It puts the conservator in the center of helping to figure this all out. I don’t see it as defensive, just good strategic planning for the future.

    Thank you for gathering and disseminating these interesting discussions.

    Best wishes, Joyce

  5. […] on all their stalls! Or events such as ‘Awards’, or particular opening talks such as ‘Joyce Hill Stoner on Cons 1.0′. After all this Ellen also managed a post called: ‘what 2.0 Mary’s Using’ which […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: