AIC in 2009: Issues and Grist

Issues Session and Grist Thursday May 21, 2009


















Green Task Force Report

This 2-year initiative was born at last year’s issues meeting, and the final report will be given next year, at which point we’ll need to decide if the work is complete or it should be made a permanent committee.  Patricia Silence reported on the results of a Survey Monkey that went out in November 2008.  It had 24 questions.  Out of 3500 members, 548 people began the survey and 475 completed it.  75% of those were staff at institutions.  The largest group of responders were objects and book/paper people, primarily in the US and many from the midatlantic and northeast regions.  Many interesting statistics were reported, and the survey is probably worth looking at, although I could not find it on the AIC website.  The trend seemed to be that conservators are pretty willing to go green but their institutions lag behind in willingness or ability to implement green solutions.  Of publications, most folks liked the idea of electronic distribution of everything but the JAIC.  Book and paper folks, of course, had a higher tendency to want more stuff on paper.  There was also a lot of interest in proper disposal of hazardous materials when those materials still need to be used, although replacing them with greener substances was a priority for folks as well.  A website was given, but I have not been able to find it yet.


Emerging Conservation Professionals Network

Rachel Pennimann reporting

This new group focuses on those who are new: pre-program, apprentices, students, and recent graduates.  AIC website was given as  Among their activities, they are looking at a training program advisory group, posting internships and fellowships, and developing a formal mentor program to pair up emerging professionals with PA’s or Fellows.  


Discussion about Communications

1) Dissemination (print versus electronic)

2) Internal communications

3) Professional development opportunities.


I stood up and asked if the website is in a position to be hosting electronic-only publications, such as my work on the Alaskan mammal fur ID project.  Seems like AIC is moving in that direction.  I later got an email from AIC staff member Brett Rodgers, who deals with publications, and he suggests we might start by exploring Flickr.  Both he and Rachel Perkins Arensen separately suggested after the issues session that I work up the data on an animal or two and we take them for some test drives. Wikipedia is another thought. 


Rachael Perkins Arensen is our new e-editor.  She was the focus of a lot of tough questions and demands during the meeting and handled it with openness and grace that I don’t think I could have mustered.  I asked her if that means she is now AIC staff…like does she have benefits?  No.  Let me tell you a little bit about Rachael…she’s already got a private practice, a growing family, and the IPM Working Group.  And in addition, she is taking this e-editor position  on contract with the AIC.  A whole lot of work and not much money.  Rachael is obviously not doing this for the money.  I think she wants to see this 2.0 world work for us, and she believes in making it happen even if the path is not completely clear.  In short, BE NICE TO RACHAEL.  If they put the budget on the members section of the website, as I think they should, you ought to be able to see what she’s getting paid and then you would agree with me.  I just typed, “what THEY are paying her.”  Shouldn’t it be “what WE are paying her” instead?  I mean, if the info about AIC was up there more transparently I suspect we’d feel more ownership.


Wikis are coming soon to AIC…maybe even by the time you read this.  They will begin with specialty groups who already have catalogs.  The paper catalog comes out every 10 years, maybe with a wiki it still would, but with the wiki being constantly tweaked and the 10-year version being the “official” one that has been vetted.  The membership would like to see the directory online.  It is a really valuable part of what AIC provides.  What if some of it were online-only to allow the published version to be slimmer and cheaper to print and distribute?  What about charging extra if you want it in print?  For a while, there will probably be an opt-in/ opt out system for electronic distribution vs print.  The membership present at the issues discussion seemed OK with the amount of emails AIC sends out.  Some people (tee hee) seem to have put AIC on their spam list, however.  If things do go electronic-only, it is nice to get an email reminding us when it appears, although some people say they are less likely to read electronic publications.   Figures were given for how much printing the AIC News and JAIC costs, but I’m not sure it is appropriate to post those figures in a blog.  I’m still trying to figure out the boundaries of what I ought to put in the blog, and let me tell you I’ve spent a lot of time pondering that.  We’ll discuss those issues in a different posting.  A week after this session, there was considerable discussion on various internet dist lists about the idea of the newsletter or the directory going green.  It seemed to touch a nerve.  I suspect the most logical solution will involve a reduced number of directories being printed for those who want them and some sort of opt-out checkbox on the membership renewal.  I think there are three copies of the 2009 directory in my lab and at least one at home…perhaps that is being married to a conservator and also working at a place that is an institutional member?  Hmmm.     


I asked at the Issues Session if the AIC budget was on the internet and the answer came off sounding a little bit muddled.  The answer was that various leaders in AIC have access to that, there is an audit summary available to all members, and something in the annual report.  Wincingly, the budget was described as very confusing and hard to read, suggesting that the members would not be able to figure it out anyway.  I was told to go to the business meeting the next day to hear about the budget.  I was unable to attend, but maybe that’s for the best because the transition between treasurers and other factors meant that the budget was not available there, either.  Incoming president Meg Loew Craft told me afterward that she would personally make sure I got any of my questions answered regarding the budget.  She has always struck me as a very sharp and competent person, and I do believe she would answer questions for ANY member who asked.  I’m not the kind of person who would go over the budget with a fine-toothed comb, but there are folks in the membership who might, or is related to an accountant who might, and I feel better thinking there are those checks and balances in place.  And even more important, that idea of TRANSPARENCY.  Richard McCoy spoke at the Issues Session about pulling back the curtain, and deciding for himself if he could understand the budget.  We’ve seen what happens on Wall Street with financial organizations that get too creative with too little oversight.  We all know examples where things have gone wrong or been overlooked.  Transparency protects the integrity of the organization.  Since the organization exists at the pleasure of its members, it is only right that those members know how the resources of the AIC are allocated, and what those resources are.  If the documents are too confusing for the layperson, perhaps a little bit of additional interpretation can be done.  Also along the lines of transparency, there was interest in having the names of committee members and other leaders on the website, as well as head shots of staff and board members.   


More Suggestions from the Issues Session Attendees

  • What can AIC do to lead the way in showing how to navigate electronic vs print delivery of newsletters, directories and other online content and then provide support for the regional organizations to do so as well?
  • There is interest in AIC having some kind of PR handout for in person situations like conservation labs that have windows.  People like to walk away with written information when they see complex things in person (think of our own interest in those handouts in the poster section, for example!)  
  • I love it that someone in the Issues meeting asked me, “What’s a Luddite?”  I think most of the membership is willing to jump into the 2.0 world, they are just holding back a little bit in case it is just a flash in the pan.  Or to see what cream rises to the top.  People are reluctant to learn a new thing if it is wasted, but if it is useful people are curious.  In a room full of people, only about 5% raised their hands when asked if they Twitter.  
  • Suggestion that AIC could perhaps get a subscription to JSTOR as a membership benefit?  AIC would need to do a survey to see who would use it and how many collections within JSTOR we would need so a cost analysis could be done.
  • People who have to fly or travel a lot like the idea of conservation podcasts.  
  • Request for more levels of detail in our referral system to narrow down specialties
  • Request for more mentoring as an organization.  Association for Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) has an ongoing effort to match people up before the meeting, taking the relationship through the meeting, and hopefully beyond.
  • Could we maybe offer the conference workshops online in streaming video at a reduced rate?
  • In the OSG meeting I heard that specialty groups send out CDs full of pdfs not because they are technologically clueless, but because there are copyright issues surrounding the content that is different for posting on the internet than it is for distribution on a CD.
  • Request to allow associate members to be in directory, but the rationale against was that the written commitment by PAs and Fellows is the only mechanism we have to control or discipline the profession.  
  • The CIPP offered a reduced membership rate of $5 to all members of the EPCN.  Now that was really cool!

3 Responses to AIC in 2009: Issues and Grist

  1. Rose Day says:

    Thanks for posting Ellen, it has been great to keep up with the conference through your posts.

    I went looking for budget information after you mentioned the budget. I found the 990 forms online for: Balboa Art Conservation Center, Midwest Art Conservation Center, Western Association for Art Conservation, and Williamstown Art Conservation Center. They are available at the The Foundation Center website under the ‘search for a 990’ tab. (Of course you have to be a member to access the Foundation Center, but most museums have membership through their development office). Reading 990’s isn’t thrilling, but it isn’t impossible for the layperson.
    Maybe you can access it:

    I wonder if AIC does post their 990 somewhere and I haven’t found it? I thought that information was public, but maybe it isn’t?

    Thanks again for the posting, your opinions are great, reading them has made me think a lot about my own.

  2. Ryan Winfield says:

    Just to clarify about the Green Task Force contact info:

    The webpage is

    Their email address is

  3. Hillary Ellis says:

    I think it is great that people are raising some of those issues to AIC, particularly ways to make the conferences more accessible. It would be great to see some lower cost options like podcasts and video conferencing.

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