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Re: [BKARTS] conservation job at Harvard



So much for my desire to quietly leave Harvard after eighteen years and
move to the Boston Athenaeum, but I really feel I should reply to Edward
Stansell and others, who appear to have misunderstood the requirements
of the Conservator position I posted on Friday.

Edward Stansell wrote:
"This is a good example of elitist attitudes from academia. With the
clause
regarding "formal training in conservation", you eliminate many
perfectly
qualified conservators; ones possibly more qualified than those
available
with formal training.  Why is there such a great focus on formal
training
rather than demonstrated ability ?"

I couldn't agree more, and neither could the Librarian I have worked for
over the last few years. This is a position unlike those described by
Bruce Levy, in which a few books are labored over for months on end.
Rather it is a job in which a large volume of extremely troublesome
modern book and paper objects have to be worked on quickly, often for
exhibition deadlines. The conservator also functions as preservation
expert for the library, so disaster response, surveying and fundraising
are also important. Although benchwork is a large part of the position,
the conservator's job goes beyond just bookbinding. The Librarian and I
put a great deal of work into writing the job description so that it
would reflect the variety of tasks required.

If the intention of the Harvard Design School was to limit applicants to
those with "graduate degrees in conservation,", the job description
would have said "graduate degree required," or Masters of Library
Science required." We used the phrase "formal training" precisely to
expand the pool of candidates well beyond those with a graduate degree
in conservation, to include those who went to a bookbinding program such
as the North Bennet Street School in Boston, or who had done an
structured apprenticeship or worked longterm in a public or private
conservation facility. Possibly we could have chosen a better phrase,
but I thought at the time that it was clear. The only candidates we
wanted to exclude are the legions of people calling themselves
"bookbinders" after taking a couple of weekend workshops.

I am particularly pained by this misunderstanding because I myself do
not have a MLS or "graduate degree in conservation." I was hired by the
Athenaeum not because of my schooling, but because I can bind a book. I
agree that the field now faces the problem of school-trained
conservators who know some chemistry, photography, documentation, etc.,
but who have bound only a handful of books. I don't want to sound
depressing, but I think this problem will only get worse.

I have always enjoyed Edward and Bruce's postings, mainly because I so
often agree with them. I'm sure that many of you followed with horror
Edward's story of being turned down as a Professional Associate of AIC
just because he couldn't prove that he had apprenticed with his father,
now deceased. It is important for all of us to oppose such
small-mindedness, which we all know has become more and more common as
Preservation Librarians have come to dominate institutional conservation
shops.

Jim

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