PR and Outreach-Conservation Clinics

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Contributors: Molly Gleeson, Lois Price, Elizabeth Schulte, Fran Ritchie

Background

This mini-toolkit contains tips and resources for organizing a conservation clinic.

What is a Conservation Clinic?

A conservation clinic refers to an event organized by conservator(s) or an institution, inviting members of the public to bring items from their personal collections for examination and advice on condition, care, and treatment.
Conservation clinics are often held free of charge, and usually do not provide appraisal or authentication services.

Why hold a Conservation Clinic?

Conservation clinics can be useful ways for you to provide a service to the community while streamlining your business and promoting your practice. By opening your laboratory to the public, you are able to:

  • Meet potential clients and introduce them to your work
  • Educate visitors on the field of conservation – why it is important to contact professionally trained conservators as well as what they can do for preventive conservation
  • Save time by scheduling many consultations in one day
  • Save time by answering common questions from public calls in one day

Organizing a Conservation Clinic


Format

The format of a conservation clinic will reflect the type of lab hosting it (i.e., number of conservators, non-profit vs. for-profit), but the following are general guidelines to use when scheduling a clinic.

  • Clinics are advertised one-day events when members of the public schedule appointments to meet with a conservator(s). Clinics are usually free consultations.
  • Potential clients indicate what type of object/material they wish to inquire and bring the piece with them.
  • The appointments are run in 30-minute sessions (or another time length decided by the lab) in the conservation lab or other appropriate space.
  • During appointments, the conservator(s) examine the object and discuss its condition, preventive care, and possible treatment with the owner.
  • The steps after consultation vary from lab to lab. Very minor treatment proposals may be written and signed on the spot, or objects are left for more thorough examination and subsequent treatment proposals. In some cases the potential client’s information is recorded for future contact, or to pass along the object to a different conservator in the area.

Personnel

Only one trained conservator is necessary to hold a conservation clinic, but adding additional personnel makes the event more efficient. Beforehand, select one person to schedule clinic appointments via phone call or emails. During the clinic, assign someone to greet, sign in, and direct visitors. The greeter may also provide further handouts on conservation or other labs in the area. Additional conservators, preventive conservators, and/or collection care specialists can provide related advice and expertise. Additional personnel also can help manage and lift larger objects brought to clinic.

Associated costs

There may not be associated costs to holding a clinic if it is hosted on a day that the lab is typically open and employees available. Also, using existing advertising avenues, such as social media or business website, prevents additional promotional costs. There may be need to purchase materials to check in objects (such as temporary labels), write proposals or receipts, or extra tools to examine pieces.

Tips for Consultations

  • Be kind and welcoming to visitors.
  • Provide plenty of space to examine the object, as well as associated tools such as Optivisors and extra lamps.
  • Let the owner speak first to tell where they got their piece, why they brought it, how they store or display it, etc.
  • Talk through your thought process so that the visitor understands your rationale.
  • If necessary, inform them that the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice prohibits appraisals and on-the-spot authentications.

Examples of Conservation Clinics

Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) Winterthur, DE - Clinics are held by WUDPAC faculty, students and Winterthur staff one Thursday per month from September through May.

Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department, Buffalo, NY - Clinics are held by Buffalo State faculty and graduate students one day in the Fall. Visitors are asked to sign up prior to the clinic, based on type of material of the piece that they will be brining to clinic. Spaces are limited and fill up quickly.

Balboa Art Conservation Center San Diego, CA - Clinics are held once a month for paintings, frames, and polychrome wood sculpture.

Reservation Road Show, The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, Umatilla Indian Reservation, Pendleton, Oregon - A twist on the standard conservation clinic, the Reservation Road Show is an annual event that allows participants to receive professional advice and care of their personal collections from a conservator, as well as to have artifacts valued and examined for potential hazardous pesticides.