The main goal of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) Lexicon Project is “to produce an illustrated glossary of terms related to condition and conservation processes that is aimed at the general public” (Lexicon-Wiki, 2015). This resource includes a comprehensive list of terms related to conservation processes and the artwork and artifact examination process that approved editors can write and update. Entries will “include more contextual commentary for those terms and translation of terms into other languages”(Lexicon-Wiki, 2015). Conservation materials and materials used to make artworks are not included in the AIC Lexicon, as these aspects of the conservation process are thoroughly discussed in other resources. Currently, the AIC List of Terms consists of three main categories: Condition Terms (for example: abrasion, chipping, and oxidation, Process Terms (for example: inpainting, mounting, and surface cleaning), and Miscellaneous Terms (for example: Collections (Care) Manager, integrated pest management, and Restoration).
The main contributors to the AIC Lexicon are Nancie Ravenel, Objects Conservator at the Shelburne Museum in Burlington, Vermont; Luisa Casella, a photographs conservator; Rachael Arenstein, AIC E-editor and Co-Chair of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group; Marie-France Lemay, Paper Conservator for the Yale University Library; Stephanie M. Lussier, Conservator of Works of Art on Paper and AIC Board Director; Rebecca Rushfield, private conservation consultant; and Rian Deurenberg-Wilkinson, a Conservator at Fallon & Wilkinson, LLC, previously an Assistant Conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additionally, for the past two years, Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies Masters students have contributed to the AIC Lexicon, helping the project become more fully realized.
The AIC is “the only national membership organization in the United States dedicated to the preservation of cultural material” (About Us, 2014). This entails “establishing and upholding professional standards, promoting research and publications, providing educational opportunities, and fostering the exchange of knowledge among conservators, allied professionals, and the public” (About Us, 2014). The AIC has six Core Values: Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Advocacy, Professionalism, Education and Lifelong Learning, Member Services, and Governance, all of which support the Vision Statement of “envision[ing] a world in which the preservation of cultural material is appreciated and supported, thereby encouraging knowledge and understanding of our cultural heritage” (About Us, 2014). AIC has a Board of Directors consisting of eight people, and thirteen Committees who handle long-term organizational issues. Additionally, there are Specialty Groups within AIC that “focus on particular area of expertise or professional interest” (Our Structure, 2014). These include: Architecture, Books and Paper, Conservator in Private Practice, Electronic Media, Objects, Paintings, Photographic Material, Research and Technical Studies, Textiles, and Wooden Artifacts. AIC also has two Networks, which are a Collection Care Network and an Emerging Conservation Professionals Network. Also of great importance, the AIC published a Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. This Code of Ethics “sets forth the principles that guide conservation professionals and others who are involved in the care of cultural property” (Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, 2014). This document sets standards for conservators who protect, preserve, and repair cultural property.
Compare and Contrast to Other Resources
The Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online (CAMEO) is “a searchable information resource developed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” (Main Page, 2013). This online encyclopedia focuses on defining the materials used by conservators to repair objects, and the materials used by artists to create artworks. These are terms that are not defined by the AIC Lexicon, as to avoid overlap. Examples of the 10,495 terms defined in CAMEO include: acid-free paper, cheesecloth, foam rubber, and Jade 403. CAMEO is designed as a wiki, much like the AIC Lexicon. Each term has a brief encyclopedic description, synonyms and related terms, additional information and authority. Of course, some terms have more information and images than others, also much like the AIC Lexicon. In 2013, with the help of a grant from the Kress Foundation, CAMEO was placed onto a MediaWiki platform, allowing the database to be edited by volunteer editors. Additionally, this update allowed “easier, wide-spread contributions for revising and expanding the scope and content” of the entries in CAMEO (About CAMEO, 2014). In this way, the AIC Lexicon and CAMEO are very similar, as approved editors are allowed to update and edit entries. Both resources are easily searchable and user friendly. However, it seems that CAMEO is aimed more towards conservation and collections care professionals, as many of the terms are technical. CAMEO is much broader in scope, and does have many more terms defined in comparison to the AIC Lexicon. More importantly however, the AIC Lexicon strives to be accessible to the public; this is stated in the goals section of the website. Thus, the AIC Lexicon is more successful, as this wiki defines conservation terminology in a manner all users can easily understand.
The Getty Museum’s Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) is a searchable structured vocabulary containing over 200,000 terms that describe art, material culture, architecture, decorative arts and archival materials. The AAT’s target audience is “museums, libraries, visual resource collections, archives, conservation projects, cataloging projects, and bibliographic projects” (About the AAT [Getty Research Institute], 2014). Users of the AAT include “museums, art libraries, archives, visual resource collection catalogers, conservation specialists, archaeological projects, bibliographic projects concerned with art, researchers in art and art history, and the information specialists who are dealing with the needs of these users. In addition, a significant number of users of the Getty vocabularies are students or members of the general public” (About the AAT [Getty Research Institute], 2014). As the AAT is structured as a thesaurus, they are hierarchical relationships built into it. All the entries are like branches on a tree, stemming out from different facets, or subdivisions. These facets include: Object, Associated Concepts, Physical Attributes, Styles and Periods, Agents, Activities, Materials, And Brand Names. As an example, the record for the term “bud vase” includes an ID number, a short description, a list of the phrase in other languages, a facet/hierarchy code, and a hierarchical position. In this case, the hierarchical position is: Objects Facet—Furnishings and Equipment (Hierarchy Name)—Containers (Hierarchy Name)—containers (receptacles)—<containers by function or type>—horticultural containers—bud vases. A user can either browse or search the AAT. Unlike the AIC Lexicon, approved users cannot edit or change records in the AAT; this task is undertaken by staff members only. However, users can suggest edits, and point out errors. Additionally, the AAT only defines the term, it does not prove a discussion about the term, references, or additional resources which the AIC Lexicon does. As an example, when a user searches for “crazing” in the AIC Lexicon, the term is defined, related terms are provided, and a short discussion of the term is included. In the AAT, only a definition and the hierarchical position are provided for the term "crazing". While the AAT is an incredibly valuable resource for conservation and collections care professionals, the AIC Lexicon is designed as a resource for all, from professionals, to students, to the general public.
Conservation OnLine (CoOL) is operated by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation. CoOL “is a freely accessible platform to generate and disseminate vital resources for those working to preserve cultural heritage worldwide” (About CoOL, 2013). Users can submit resources, such as publications, links to other websites, handbooks, manuals, professional organizations, and listservs. Users can either search CoOL, or browse the site by conservation topic. Using the earlier example of “crazing” in the search tool brought up a range of results, including a dictionary definition, multiple journal articles that used the term, and an examination and treatment report. The “Conservation Topics” tab includes links to resources within CoOL and external links, separated by category. These categories include Audio Materials, Ethics, Mold, Pest Management, and many more. The Mold category, for example, includes links to resources for terminology, general resources, fumigation and related techniques, related works in which mold is discussed, health issues, resources intended for the general public, and resources at other sites. CoOL is much broader in scope than the AIC Lexicon, as it provides links to many resources across the Internet and links to journal articles submitted by users. However, CoOL does not provide encyclopedic definitions of terms, though it has a wealth of excellent resources. Like the AIC Lexicon, users can submit content to CoOL, however, the content is more varied than the content users can submit to the AIC Lexicon.
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia which has many published articles on topics related to collections care and maintenance, and conservation issues. Wikipedia launched in 2001 as a free-access encyclopedia, meaning that anyone who creates an account can edit articles on the website. Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies Masters students have contributed many articles in Wikipedia on subjects related to conservation. The article titled "Conservation" is very extensive, providing links to other pages in Wikipedia, a list of external links, photos, video, and many references. Also within Wikipedia are articles about Collections care, Cultural heritage, Digital preservation, and many more articles on related topics. Unlike the AIC Lexicon Project, anyone with Internet access can create and edit Wikipedia articles. In the AIC Lexicon, only approved users who have watched a training video may create and edit articles. Both the AIC Lexicon and Wikipedia also list all articles on one page, under Lexicon Terms and Category: Conservation and restoration, respectively. Many of the AIC Lexicon terms are also defined in Wikipedia, and both resources are designed to be readily accessible by the public. In some cases, such as with the term "crizzling" the discussion of the term in the AIC Lexicon is more technical, than the discussion of the term in Wikipedia. However, both the AIC Lexicon and Wikipedia are valuable resources.
Wikipedia: WikiProject Collections Care
The goal of WikiProject Collections Care is “to improve Wikipedia's coverage of topics relating to collections care through the creation of accurate and up-to-date articles” (Wikipedia: WikiProject Collections Care, 2014). Professionals in the collections care field, as well as other users, are encouraged to write and edit articles related to the field. The sharing and dissemination of knowledge and ideas, as well as collaboration, are the main goals of this project, as is improving the quality and quantity of collections care related articles on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Collections_Care, 2014). Additionally, this project seeks to “promote a global understanding of techniques, and “[o]pen a dialogue between field professionals and the general public about matters concerning collections care” (Wikipedia:WikiProject Collections Care, 2014). Users can create new articles, and edit and expand published articles. This wiki certainly engages professionals, but can also be easily used and understood by the general public. There are over 70 articles in the wiki, including articles about Art handlers, Mount makers, Objects conservators, Emergency response (museum), and many more. WikiProject Collections Care also includes articles about professional organizations dedicated to collections care and conservation, and general conservation topics. This project, while helpful to those in the field and the general public, does need more work to become fully realized. In comparison, the AIC Lexicon is more complete, with hundreds of terms defined. This wiki is a work in progress, as is the AIC Lexicon. It would benefit the WikiProject Collections Care site to have some of the professionals who worked on the AIC Lexicon to take that knowledge and expertise and apply it to the wiki. Both projects have the same goal of providing collections care information to the public and making this information accessible, but it seems the AIC Lexicon has been more successful, since more articles have been completed. Additionally, the AIC Lexicon Project is easier to navigate and search.
Conservation REEL began in 2011, with assistance from the Kress Foundation. The project “gather[s] and present[s] video on art conservation and collections care in an online resource intended for museum and conservation professionals, students, and interested members of the general public” (Conservation Reel, n.d.). These videos are about collections care and include content related to packing, shipping, framing, storage, videos from conservation conferences, and videos of conservators at work. Videos on the site are also on "related topics from international conservation organizations and museum conservation and scientific research departments" (Conservation Reel, n.d.) Conservation REEL's mission is to use the interactive medium of video to educate, inspire, and engage professionals and the general public about issues and topics related to the conservation field. Videos on Conservation REEL are divided into different categories based on the "...AIC method of organizing conservation information: Documentation, Education, Emergency Response, Preventative Conservation, Research, and Treatment" (Videos, n.d.). Videos are further sorted by type, including: "...Case Study, Conference/Talk, Interview, Question, Response, Technique, Workshop/Demo" (Videos, n.d.). Additionally, the website includes different series of videos, which are "groupings of videos from across institutions and individuals grouped according [to] various themes..." (Conservation Reel Series, n.d.). These series include videos from The San Diego Museum of Art and Balboa Art Conservation Center, and a series titled "Conservators Answer 5 Questions." Additionally, contributors can tag their videos with terms, to make finding videos easier. For example, tags can include terms such as: provenance, frame, examination, etc. When a user clicks on one of these tags, all the videos which have this tag will be brought up. Conservation REEL is very different from the AIC Lexicon Project, the main difference being that Conservation REEL does not provide encyclopedic definitions of terms. However, Conservation REEL is a valuable resource, as it is incredibly useful to have a visual reference, both for professionals and the public. For example, there are videos on the site showing conservators inpainting a Van Dyck painting, cleaning a painting, wrapping paper objects, and much more. For professionals, students, and the public, having this visual reference can be very educational. It can be easier to learn how to document, examine, and treat objects via videos than via reading. Conservation REEL cannot serve as a replacement for the AIC Lexicon, but they can supplement each other. For example, if a user is watching a video in Conservation REEL, and a term is used that they are not familiar with, they can search this term in the AIC Lexicon to learn what it means. Hopefully, more videos will be added to Conservation REEL in the future.
Final evaluation of AIC Lexicon
In conjunction with the other online resources highlighted in this article, the AIC Lexicon provides valuable information about conservation terminology. All of the resources highlighted in this article are excellent, though they all serve different purposes. The AIC Lexicon is easy to search and navigate, and provides definitions of conservation and collections care terms, as well as contextual descriptions of the terms. The AIC Lexicon Project is a beneficial online resource for conservation and collections care professionals, educators, students, and the general public.
“About the AAT (Getty Research Institute).” Getty Research Institute. February 27, 2014. Accessed April 26, 2015. http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabularies/aat/about.html.
“About CAMEO.” CAMEO. December 19, 2014. Accessed April 25, 2015. http://cameo.mfa.org/wiki/About_CAMEO.
“About CoOL.” Conservation OnLine. 2013. Accessed April 26, 2015. http://cool.conservation-us.org/about.html.
“About Us.” American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. 2014. Accessed April 25, 2015. http://www.conservation-us.org/about-us#.VUBMjKbfQ0w.
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"Conservation Reel Series." Conservation Reel. n.d. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://conservationreel.org/conservation-reel-series
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“Main Page.” CAMEO. August 13, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2015. http://cameo.mfa.org/wiki/Main_Page.
“Our Structure.” American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. 2014. Accessed April 26, 2015. http://www.conservation-us.org/about-us/our-structure#.VUBM16bfQ0w.
"Videos." Conservation Reel. n.d. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://conservationreel.org/video/videos
“Wikipedia:WikiProject Collections Care.” Wikipedia. October 1, 2014. Accessed April 26, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Collections_Care.