PR and Outreach-Outreach and Advocacy
Conservation is an increasingly visible field, thanks to the growth of outreach and advocacy within the profession. Among the many competencies expected of a conservator is the effort to articulate the value of cultural heritage, and communicate how we as professionals contribute to its preservation. Conservators are also often called upon to act as advocates for the profession. The importance of such efforts is directly acknowledged in our professional guidelines:
III. "While recognizing the right of society to make appropriate and respectful use of cultural property, the conservation professional shall serve as an advocate for the preservation of cultural property"
XI. "The conservation professional shall promote an awareness and understanding of conservation through open communication with allied professionals and the public" (AIC Code of Ethics, 2014)
This page is dedicated to providing conservation professionals with resources to assist them in fulfilling these goals.
Reaching Different Audiences
Conservation in Museum Outreach
Conservation has had a growing presence in museum outreach during the past two decades, a topic which was discussed in-depth at the 2011 conference at Colonial Williamsburg, Playing to the Galleries and Engaging New Audiences: The Public Face of Conservation. Papers presented at the conference focused on communicating conservation in museums, linking students to arts and sciences through conservation, involving volunteers in conservation efforts, and engaging with local communities, and have been published in a book titled The Public Face of Conservation (Williams 2013).
Also included in this publication is a discussion of the 2012 AIC annual meeting session organized by Emily Williams and Suzanne Davis, Exhibiting Ourselves: Presenting Conservation. Additional resources for conservation exhibition can be found on the Wiki page: Exhibiting Conservation
The K-12 Educational Outreach Working Group provides resources for conservators who work with K-12 students and teachers and organizes workshops with regional K-12 educators during the AIC annual meeting. Lesson plans, online resources and reference sites can be found on the Wiki page: K-12 Educational Resources on the AIC Wiki
In an effort to share their work with other fields and showcase cross-disciplinary collaborations, conservators have built conservation and collection care web resources on a allied professional websites (see the SHA's Conservation FAQ's and facts, and the American Library Association's Preservation web resource). Conservators have served on professional committees for the Archaeological Institute of America and Society for Historical Archaeology, and organized conservation and preservation sessions at annual meetings for the College Art Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, and American Schools for Oriental Research.
Conservation Courses for Allied Academic Fields
Many conservators teach or lecture for undergraduate and graduate programs in allied career tracks like museum studies, library science, history of art and other subjects. The 2013 Annual Meeting Session Engaging with Allied Fields: Teaching Conservation in Allied Academic Departments and Degree Programs examined how conservators communicate ethics, decision-making and core principles that drive the conservation profession to students. The Wiki resource Conservation Courses for Allied Academic Fields was created to provide a platform for conservators who teach in allied fields to share course information.
Archaeological Discussion Group
AIC's Archaeological Discussion Group was formed to facilitate discussion between archaeological conservators, as well as promote communication between conservators and allied professionals. Outreach to the archaeological community has always been an important goal of the ADG. The group recently organized an Archaeological Conservation Webinar as part of the AIA's 2017 International Archaeology Day celebration. The ADG is closely allied with members of the Interdisciplinary Training for Archaeologists and Archaeological Conservators Initiative (or ITAACI), whose charge is to better integrate the archaeology and conservation professions.
The Collection Care Network (CCN) liaises with nearly fifteen allied professional organizations, from the American Library Association to the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. Conservators and Collection Care professionals have developed a variety of online resources to support the preservation goals of collecting institutions, including the Connecting to Collections Care, STASH, PACCIN and Museum Pests.net websites. Collection care conference sessions and workshops - like the popular "Share the Care" AIC/IAMFA Meeting in Montreal - have provided important opportunities for discussion and relationship-building between collection care, administrative and building professionals.
Advocating for Conservation
Tips for effective communication and professional networking can be found on the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network’s Resources for Emerging Conservators page. ECPN has also created a multitude of Outreach and Advocacy resources for conservators.
Whether it is for a project or grant proposal, advocating for a new salary line or reaching out to our elected officials, being able to communicate the value of conservation is an essential professional skill. A strong argument for conservation starts with clear statements about how the work fills a particular institutional or societal need, and gives specific examples of how the work will have a positive impact.
Many museums have published impact statements that can be used as models, examples of which are conveniently assembled on the AAM website.
Social Media has become a useful tool for conservators to share information, highlight projects, and make the field more visible to public audiences.
- Conservators connect on Facebook through a number of organizational and interest pages. Groups include: Emerging Conservation Professionals Network, Archaeological Discussion Group, Emerging Freelance Conservators, Technical Art History, and Art Conservation Advocates. You can use Facebook’s search tool to find them.
- Many conservators and conservation groups host their own blogs in order to highlight projects, share views and information, and present research. Some examples include the AIC blog Conservators Converse, the Penn Museum’s In the Artifact Lab, the American Museum of Natural History’s In Their True Colors, the Brooklyn Museum's BKM Tech and the Getty Iris.
- What better way to illustrate what conservators do than to capture our work in action? You can find useful share videos of conservators at work through the AIC You Tube channel, and through various museum web resources, including SAM and SAAM and the British Museum.
Grants + Grant Writing
FAIC offers a number of grants and scholarships to support conference attendance, publication and more, and ECPN has a blog post outlining useful tips for writing FAIC grant proposals. AIC also provides a long list of outside funding agencies, including many geared toward individual funding and research. Additional funding agencies include the American Institute of Archaeology, which awards a Site Preservation Grant, USAID funded programs through ARCE and ACOR, the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, and the World Monuments Fund. Many of these agencies provide examples of successful applications from previous grant cycles.
There are countless grant-writing publications out there, many of which are geared toward specific fields and funding agencies. Tori O’Neal-McElrath’s Winning Grants Step by Step is a helpful resource that is geared toward non-profits. Neal-McElrath provides a lot of useful information and outlines the key elements of a successful grant application:
A project proposal or narrative, which should include:
- A problem statement: what problem or need will be addressed by the proposed program?
- Well-defined goals and objectives: what do you plan to accomplish, and how?
- Methods component: step-by-step explanation of how you will accomplish the work
- Program budget: detailed explanation of the program will be financially executed within your organization’s overall operational budget
Neal-McElrath strongly recommends doing front-end research and outreach to granting agencies to determine whether a particular funding initiative is the right fit for the project.
If you work for a university or nonprofit organization, there are likely many grant writing resources available to you. AIC has also hosted workshops on successful grant proposal writing, including most recently Talking Grants – Hear from IMLS Grant Reviewers held at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Houston.
Crowdfunding agencies like Kickstarter have also been used as conservation fundraising platforms. AIC lists a number of Funding Resources on their website, including this C2CC-sponsored webinar on conservator J. Claire Dean’s experiences with crowdfunding. Read about how the Smithsonian raised funds to support the conservation of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit and other projects, as well as some of the pros and cons of this approach.
Engaging with elected officials
Essential conservation funding sources such as IMLS and NEH depend on the ongoing legislative support of our elected members of congress. Federal spending for these agencies is reviewed and voted on in the summer and fall before each new fiscal year, making this a crucial time to advocate for these programs.
The American Alliance of Museums maintains a rich list of Advocacy Resources, and you can sign up to follow AAM’s Advocacy Alerts to stay up to date on the latest efforts to engage with congress. Reach out to your elected officials using AAM’s Legislator Lookup tool. And finally, help make the case for museums by participating in AAM’s annual Museum Advocacy Day.
There are great resources for conservators on the AIC website: Outreach and Advocacy
As well as on the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) website: Collections Advocacy Toolkit
Check out ECPN's Outreach-themed poster for the 2012 AIC annual meeting, with interviews and tips on how to reach different audiences: Emerging Conservators Engaging Through Outreach and Public Scholarship
And notes from ECPN's 2014 webinar, "Get Involved! Conservation Education, Outreach, and Advocacy": Get Involved!
Debra Hess Norris's 2012 ECPN webinar, "Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research", provides many useful ideas on how conservators can advocate for themselves: Self-Advocacy
American Institute for Conservation (1994) Core Documents, Code of Ethics, accessed 18 July 2014.
Neal-McElrath, T. 2013. Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals, 4th Edition. Jossey-Bass.
Williams, E. ed. 2013. Playing to the Galleries and Engaging New Audiences: The Public Face of Conservation. London: Archetype.