Professional Development

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Introduction

Conferences

Attending conferences as an emerging conservation professional or pre-program student considering entering the field is a great way to learn more about conservation and ongoing topics of research. Conferences provide important opportunities for networking and sharing new information.

Continuing Education

A list of Schools and classes can be found on the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute webpage.

Developing New Skills

Developing Leadership Skills
On October 27th, 2016, ECPN presented the webinar Emerging Leaders in Conservation: Developing Leadership Skills as an Early-Career Professional. The program featured three presenters: Sarah Staniforth (President of the International Institute for Conservation (IIC)), Michele Facini (Paper Conservator, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), and Molly Gleeson (Schwartz Project Conservator, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology).

Staniforth shared content from the 2016 workshop "Learning to Lead: Training for Heritage Preservation Professionals," which aimed to engage conservators in developing and understanding different leadership tactics. The pros and cons of various leadership styles were discussed. Types of leaders include:

-Leader by position achieved - people who become leaders by seniority
-Leader by personality - charismatic and inspirational people
-Leader by moral example
-Leader by power held
-Leader who can influence others to follow
-Intellectual leader
-Leader by ability to get things done


Staniforth stress that there is no single "correct" leadership style type to follow; successful leaders typically combine aspects from the different styles. Good leaders work collaboratively and offer praise and coaching, as well as mentorship when something goes wrong.
Gleeson drew from her personal experience to give advice for those hoping to establish themselves as leaders in the field:

-Know yourself, your strengths, and your values. Understand what you are hoping to get out of your internship or job, and make choices to support those goals.
-Seek out mentors. Good mentors can make all the difference, encouraging you to challenge yourself, making suggestions about internship and job opportunities, etc.
-Volunteer and say YES. You may form unexpected and encouraging relationships with other volunteers or attendees that lead to future opportunities.
-Make connections and empower others. Learn how to be a good active listener, and work to engage and empower others.
-Engage with people in positions of power and influence. Understand and emulate qualities good mentors have demonstrated.


Facini closed the webinar by encouraging emerging professionals to understand the different leadership skills that you can develop over the course of your entire career. By constantly evaluating what you hope to get out of an opportunity, what mentors you can connect with, and what skills and strengths you bring to a task, you can make the most of every experience. Whether you are a pre-program student or early-career professional, she recommended thinking about both the long- and short- term goals for your current position, participating in active listening, and being prepared with something to offer. She also advised remaining confident in your ideas and celebrating the success of others.

For more resources and a Q&A follow-up to the webinar program, see this post on AIC's blog.

Learning from Mistakes

On April 7, 2017, ECPN presented the webinar “Picking up the Pieces: Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes.” The program features four presenters: Ayesha Fuentes (MPhil/Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), Geneva Griswold (Associate Conservator, Seattle Art Museum), Michele Marincola (Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Conservation,Conservation Center ofthe Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Managing Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, Villa la Pietra, Florence), and Tony Sigel (Senior Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard Art Museums).


Ayesha Fuentes and Geneva Griswold on the “Dead-Bucket,” Understanding Limitations, and Mistakes as Learning Opportunities
In the webinar, Fuentes offered an overview of a paper she co-authored with Griswold “The ‘dead-bucket’: An inexperienced conservators’ guide for evaluating setbacks,” presented at the 2012 Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC) conference (available here). The 2012 presentation explored:

- Observations and judgements: Questions about space and time. How do we judge space and our bodies, and how do we learn to safely move objects without causing them damage? What are the physical aspects of our work as conservators?
- Personal limitations: Understanding your own self and your sense of self while working with objects. Are you present in the process you’re working on? Are you distracted, or can you focus appropriately on the task at hand?
- Untreatable materials: What happens when you’ve exhausted routes for treatment or when there is not an acceptable path forward? What are your capacities? These questions help to build fundamental decision-making skills.


Reflecting on these topics and on what she has learned since, Fuentes offered that limitations can help conservators to critically engage with skills, ethics, and decision making processes. Acknowledging limitations and challenges can be an opportunity for growth and creativity.

Griswold emphasized that discussions of setbacks should occur often, as these offer significant learning opportunities. She offered additional suggestions:

- Recognize your personal working patterns in order to plan effectively. Be humble and don’t be hasty; take your time. When time is limited, plan ahead; consider multi-step proposals and only finishing the steps that you have time to accomplish. There are many “right” ways of doing things; you will continue to grow and learn and contextualize your own setbacks, limitations, and skills.
- Cultivate networks from which to seek guidance. Admit when you do not know something. Develop expertise through others.
- Work to change our culture to prevent the suppression of setbacks. Normalize mistakes, errors, setbacks, and failures; open discussions are learning opportunities. Foster an inclusive lab environment; learn with and from your coworkers.


Griswold closed by sharing a quote from AdmittingFailure.org, an online community encouraging open dialogue about failure within civil society in general: “by sharing what does not work we collectively accelerate the process of finding what does, enabling us to maximize the learning and innovation required to solve complex problems.”

Michele Marincola on Errors of Ignorance, Errors of Execution, and how Conservation Professionals can Reduce Errors in the Workplace
Marincola discussed her research on the types and causes of human error, originally presented in, “To Err Is Human: Understanding and Sharing Mistakes in Conservation Practice," a paper co-authored with Sarah Maisey and given at the 2011 ICOM-CC Triennial Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

Marincola and Maisey had looked to the work of philosophers, cognitive psychologists, and error experts (a.k.a. human factors researchers) to understand and classify types of error. In the webinar, Marincola discusses two categories of errors: “errors of ignorance” and “errors of execution.”

- Errors of ignorance are knowledge- and rule-based errors that typically occur when we are faced with complex or new task -- one for which you do not have the knowledge or skills required to complete it successfully. We tend to rely on what worked for us in the past; this bias can skew our decision-making and cause us to apply the wrong rule. While early-career professionals are prone to these types of errors, none of us are safe: “errors of ignorance” are most common in professions with an expanding knowledge base, such as conservation. Marincola provided a personal example of this type of error wherein she inaccurately deemed a layer of paint on a polychrome sculpture to be modern when it was in fact historic. Importantly, this error helped her to appreciate the importance of corroborating evidence when making claims about authenticity, and the experience was an opportunity for professional growth.
- Errors of execution are errors in planning or performance, which can occur on an individual and institutional level. Errors of execution happen when you incorrectly perform a familiar task that you know how to execute properly. These failures can occur for any number of reasons: you went on ‘autopilot’ and skipped a step, your mind wandered and your scalpel slipped, you were overconfident or rushed the task. Experts are most susceptible to these types of errors, and research has shown that increased training does little to diminish their frequency.


Marincola’s webinar presentation concluded with several practical tips for how to reduce the risk of errors. On an individual level, conservators can become more aware of:

- Information overload
- Inherent bias
- Shortcuts in thinking (heuristics) that don’t actually work
- Distractions, physical/ mental exhaustion, and other limitations on our ability to focus


To prevent or reduce the occurrence of errors, conservation professionals can:

- Share case studies and stories of failure
- Practice metacognition: think about how you think, and use intuition wisely (intuition works best for people with significant experience in a field or task)
- Slow the pace of your work, for example by adding “pause points”
- Examine the context of familiar tasks and change it up
- Use memory aids, such as checklists
- Collaborate and ask for feedback


Tony Sigel on the Importance of Sharing Failures, Learning from Failures, and Tips on Avoiding Mistakes
Sigel’s presentation centered on the idea that “a fail shared is not a failure,” a quote from Shawn Graham’s lecture “Failing productively in digital archaeology” (available here). Sigel had discovered the quote in a blog post by archaeologist Theresa Huntsman that explores why failures are difficult to talk about, and also why they are important to document, discuss, and share failures openly (blog post available here).

For the webinar, Sigel discussed some of his own mistakes and shared the valuable lessons he learned and practices that he subsequently modified. He also provided examples of other mistakes that colleagues had shared with him, and concluded by giving the following advice for what to do when you realize you’ve made a mistake:

- Make sure the artwork is safe and secure the area
- Notify your supervisor
- Document the incident with notes and pictures
- Take a deep breath and find calm. Mistakes happen to us all!
- Figure out how to avoid the same mistake in the future, and share that information with others


Sigel added eight good habits for avoiding and learning from mistakes:

- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and get advice when you need it
- Compile a personal resource of people, notes, and articles on materials and techniques, and use them
- Make mock-ups when possible and as needed
- Mentally rehearse your treatments. Look for the risk-points, and try to solve them in advance
- Don’t allow yourself to rush or be hurried, and cultivate an awareness of your mental state. Learn how to STOP, and re-group
- Respect and follow your inner voice
- Foster an open environment where doubts can be expressed and mistakes shared
- Take your mistakes and use your creativity to solve them for the future


He concluded by reminding webinar viewers: “Mistake aren’t failures. They are lessons on how to move forward.”

Additional Resources on the Topic of Mistakes

- ECPN's follow up blog to this webinar: Q&A and Further Resources
- ECPN's follow up blog on a survey related to this webinar
- "Oh $#*%! Making Mistakes -- and Learning from Them," an article in AIC News by Rebecca Gridley, Kari Rayner, and Tony Sigel, with contributions from Margaret Holben Ellis and Sarah Barack
- Isabelle Brajer's article "Taking the wrong path: Learning from oversights, misconceptions, failures and mistakes in conservation" on CeROArt

Professional Service

Funding

Funding for Conference and Workshop Attendance and Participation
There are many resources to support conference attendance, particularly for current students, though there are many options for professionals entering the field after graduate school. These resources can be divided up by eligibility requirements, and will be partially outlined below. Check the AIC links below for the most up-to-date information.

AIC maintains two pages that include funding opportunities: the first lists FAIC's grants and the second lists alternate sources of funding. Since FAIC funds are limited, conservators should consider seeking funding from outside organizations with specific links to your work whenever possible.

FAIC Grants & Scholarships

Specialty specific:

Carolyn Horton Scholarships: established to support continuing education for book/paper conservators who are members of the AIC Book and Paper specialty group.

Christa Gaehde Scholarships are for continuing education in paper conservation and can be used to support conference attendance or other projects.

For all specialty groups:

Tru Vue-FAIC scholarships help members of AIC (any speciality) attend international professional development events, such as workshops, conferences, and symposia.

FAIC/Samuel H. Kress Foundation International Travel Grant for Speakers supports international conservators attending the AIC annual meeting.

FAIC/Tru Vue AIC Annual Meeting International Scholarships help individuals from outside North America (United States & Canada) to defray costs for attending the AIC Annual Meeting.

The FAIC George Stout Grant supports students those who have graduated in the past two years who are members of AIC to attend professional meetings.

FAIC Workshops FAIC has several specific grants to promote attendance at FAIC Workshops. See the FAIC scholarships and grants page above for details.


Funding for Independent Projects and Research
Debbie Hess Norris provides many tips for how to find collaborators and support for research in her webinar for ECPN in 2012. Recording of ECPN Webinar Self Advocacy and Fundraising for Independent Research with Debra Hess Norris; July 26, 2012



Of note, there is a special grant from FAIC to encourage small, innovative research projects: the "Take a Chance” grant in honor of Carolyn Rose.

Tips for Applying

Most of the FAIC applications require a statement of purpose and recommendations from supervisors who can speak to the value of the project or meeting for the participant. In your statement of purpose, be sure to be clear about the specifics of what you hope to learn at the meeting, why the meeting is important to your career development and education, and how you will use and/or disseminate what you learn. The applications are very straightforward and the application deadlines are posted well in advance.

If recommendations are required, ask your supervisors or professors early for a recommendation. In your initial email, be sure to note the application deadline and offer to send your other application materials (project description, C.V. , personal statement) along for their review. Make sure you have a back-up plan in case one of the people you ask is unable to write for you, and make sure to give them plenty of time. As always, be sure to thank them for taking the time to write on your behalf.

For more tips on these application components and for requesting recommendation let, see the "Resume and Curriculum Vitae" section on the Sharing Your Work wiki page and the "Preparing Application Materials" section of the Internships and Fellowships wiki page.

For more on this topic, see ECPN's blogpost "Tips for Writing FAIC Grant Proposals: ECPN Interviews ETC.".

Alternate Sources of Funding:

Suggestions from FAIC are found here. If you are submitting a paper or poster to a conference, ask the organizers whether there is any support available for presenters (there is sometimes support especially geared to help students attend).

Archaeological fieldwork and work abroad This can be a particularly tricky area for finding funding but there are some resources available to support conservation on digs. Some resources to consider: American School of Oriental Research grants

Archaeological Institute of America grants

The Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC)

Etruscan Society fellowships for work on Etruscan sites.