Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interviewing for Graduate Programs


I still remember the nerves, excitement, and stress of interviewing for graduate school last spring, and as interview time rolls around again I’ll share some advice and relate my experience at Buffalo State College.

This will sound obvious, but re-read the requirements the school has given you and be sure you have everything they want! If you aren’t sure exactly what the school would like you to bring, ask them. I called and emailed all three departments with questions on their requirements- and they were all slightly different.

I made myself a checklist ahead of time and when I was packing for the trip to be sure I didn’t leave anything out. It also made me feel more relaxed knowing that I was prepared. I interviewed at WUDPAC, NYU, and Buffalo, and by the end of March I was so sleep deprived and anxious I might have forgotten my own head :)

I decided to buy two large hard-sided art portfolios with shoulder straps to help transport the 2-D art I was bringing to the interview. The documentation from my pre-program conservation experience went into a three ring binder. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with WUDPAC graduates Kristin deGhetaldi and Brian Baade who kindly showed me examples of their portfolios and gave me a mock interview.

I also arranged to practice my Powerpoint presentation ahead of time in front of the wonderful scientists and conservators at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute. They provided a lot of helpful feedback, caught my mistakes, and built my confidence speaking about conservation in front of a room full of people. I picked out an interview outfit ahead of time (slacks and a top) and asked for feedback on that too! I wanted something I would feel comfortable in but that looked professional and wouldn’t wrinkle.

Because I was bringing art (including breakables) and a heavy binder along with my clothes and overnight kit, I decided to drive to Buffalo (from Silver Spring, Maryland) rather than fly. I arrived the afternoon before my interview and had time to see a little of the city by car. I had arranged ahead of time to my first year student host, Gwenanne Edwards, at her apartment near campus, where I left my bags before we headed off to a potluck dinner hosted by another first year student.

Despite being nervous and not knowing anyone, the dinner was actually fun, with lots of great food. I got to chat with many of the first and second year students, and asked a lot of questions about the program, the professors, living in Buffalo, and for last-minute interview advice. It was interesting to hear what other people, including fellow interviewees, had done already, and find out where the students were going for summer internships. Everyone was very friendly and informative.

My interview was the next morning, and Gwenanne took me to school with plenty of time to spare. She gave me a tour and I took a color blindness test and had my picture taken. Finally it was my turn to interview, and we carried my portfolios, binder, bag and box into a conference room where the committee was waiting. All of the artwork was put out on a table, someone helped me load my Powerpoint presentation (saved on my flash drive), and I passed around the treatment binder.

Basically, the presentation outlined the projects I included in the binder. I was frequently interrupted with questions, which I did my best to answer. I wasn’t reading a formal script, but I did have a typed outline which helped me get back on track when I was distracted by questions.

Everyone got up to look at my art portfolio, and I answered questions about specific items. I also had a “cheat sheet” of the history, materials and techniques of my artworks in case I got flustered and forgot something (it came in handy when I was asked about the ingredients of the glaze on a ceramic pot). Then we sat back down and chatted about the program; I asked a few more questions, talked about my background and interests, someone asked how I felt about snow- it was very relaxed, and I felt that the committee was interested and welcoming. With the interview over, we packed everything up again and Gwenanne helped me load the portfolios back into my car for the drive home. As soon as I got back I sent a thank you to the committee, and to my student host, and settled in to wait for a decision.

Asking questions is a recurring theme in this blog, and I’ll repeat the advice- ask questions! I’ve found that conservators are friendly and helpful, and like to share what they know. Rose Daly also wrote a post about interviewing here and you can ask other current and former students about their experiences. Personally I owe a great deal to all the people who contributed their knowledge and advice to help me show the committee what I’d done and what I knew.

Good luck!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

January Meeting Minutes


January 20, 2011

Conference Call Attendees:
Carrie Roberts

Amber Kerr-Allison

Rose Daly

Ryan Winfield

Stephanie Porto

Ruth Seyler

Amy Brost

I. ECPN December meeting minutes approved

II. Discussion on this call included the following clarification on committee process: Draft materials generated by members should go concurrently to the chair and AIC contact (Rose and Ryan) prior to distribution to the full committee. The committee should work through the AIC contact (Ryan) for communications with other staff at AIC.


a. Canadian Association of Conservators (CAC) Emerging Conservation Committee (ECC) will be able to have a poster at ANAGPIC, per Stephanie Porto, but she will not be attending. May have someone from the Queens program set it up, or perhaps the ECPN representative can set it up if in Delaware soon enough.

b. 5-minute talk about ECPN. Preferred attendees are either current students or recent graduates. Determined that Ryan Winfield may be able to represent ECPN and deliver the 5-minute talk. Ryan to explore whether or not he can attend. Rose to provide Ryan with her talk from last year. Emphasize the chance to attend the ECPN Business Meeting at AIC.

c. Ensure that CAC-ECC poster and ECPN posters show that the groups are aware of each other and are collaborating on behalf of emerging conservators across North America.

d. Last year, many attendees expressed interest to Rose about the Mentoring Program in particular.

IV. ECPN Flickr Page

a. Rose asked about combining the main AIC and ECPN Flickr pages. Amy recalled that she and Heather agreed it was a good idea. Rose to ask Jason about how this transition could be accomplished.

b. Can continue to promote ECPN Flickr page in the meantime, and then announce the changeover when it occurs at a future date. Can subsequently promote and encourage ECPN members to submit to the AIC Flickr page.

c. Based on outcome of conversation between Rose and Jason, determine whether ECPN Flickr info should be removed from the flier.

V. AIC Meeting

a. Poster (Amy) – Amy to begin working on a design with what she has so far. Anyone who hasn’t sent her a few bullets about their initiatives is asked to do so.

b. Flier (Amy) – Committee process is to send designs to Ryan who will forward to Morgan. Amy to make corrections from Ryan and send back to him. The flier will be set up as a color, 2-sided 8.5x11 sheet that Ryan can provide to the printer to print with the materials for the AIC conference bag. Amy can provide a digital print-ready file to any specifications. Ryan to advise.

c. PDF Flier (Amy) – Amy will have a PDF of the flier that can be used for outreach to undergraduates who might explore a career in conservation. Discuss distribution with Heather on a future call.

d. Angels Project (Ryan/Ruth) – Site has been selected but not announced because the host agreement has not been signed. Project will take place on Saturday following the end of the conference. Announcement from AIC to come.

e. Business Meeting room (Ruth) – Ruth has already reserved. Group agreed only water was needed in the room, no food order. Rose to provide list of any A/V needs.

f. Dinner (Heather) – Group is assuming no reservations will be needed at McGillin’s Olde Ale House, and that dinner will be drop-in style. Heather to confirm on a future call.

g. Portfolio Review (Amber) – Two of the four U.S. programs are on board, and Amber is following up with the other two. Determined that the session can be held in one of the smaller rooms, which will be quieter than the exhibit hall, offer more space to spread out portfolio materials and gather around tables, and will still be in a high-traffic area. Ryan suggested there could be a sign outside the door, and the door could be propped open throughout the session to encourage foot traffic. Date will stay firm at Thursday afternoon, June 2.

h. Article for AIC News (Amy) – Group approved the final, 1/20/11 version of the news article about ECPN activities at the AIC meeting. Ryan to forward on to the appropriate party before the deadline of 2/1. Carrie was not able to review it because she is not on the distlist yet, but Rose forwarded it to her. She did not want to delay group approval for her comments but will review it.

VI. Student Research Database (Carrie)

a. Very supportive response to hosting it on CoOL, an AIC-sponsored platform. Carrie has spoken with Meg Craft, Karen Pavelka, Rachael Perkins Arenstein, Stephanie Porto, Lorrie Dong, and they are all supportive. Carrie is proceeding with development of a formal proposal based on some overview documents she has already prepared. May also develop a grant application to advance this project.

b. Stephanie Porto offered support of the RATS group based on the fact that student research would fall within the RATS committee charge.

VII. Wikis (Amy)

a. ECPN to promote Wiki contributions as discussed on a prior call. Awaiting response from Rachael Perkins Arenstein to a few outstanding questions regarding the process for the Wiki updates and what specialty groups wish to encourage contributions from emerging conservators.

b. Stephanie added that Rachael is doing trainings on Wiki software for those interested in becoming editors. Stephanie to forward the information to Rose.

VIII. Mentoring Program (Ryan)

a. The mentoring program is proceeding – no updates at this time.

IX. Education and Training Site (Amber/Carrie)

a. Also working with Stephanie on this. Review of the web page is in progress. Determining needed updates and reorganization of information. They will have a call to discuss sometime in early February.

X. Social Media Tutorial (Rose/Karen)

a. Rose will reach out to a contact at UT to advance this idea.

XI. AAM 2011

a. Rose may not be able to attend, but feels it would be a good opportunity to reach out to the Emerging Museum Professionals Network. She offered to assist anyone who would like to apply to attend. Ideal for those working in museum settings to see if their institutions would be supportive of their attendance.

Next conference call 1 PM EST, Thursday, February 17, 2011.

Respectfully submitted,

Amy Brost

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Southeast Regional Conservation Association

Introducing, the Southeast Regional Conservation Association! David Goist, Conservator of Paintings (FAIC) and past President of SERCA was kind enough to offer us a glimpse into this fascinating guild:

The major focus of Southeastern Regional Conservation Association, Inc. (SERCA) is to educate caretakers of cultural property and their communities about preservation as an ongoing responsibility, as well as raising an awareness and support for conservation. SERCA will focus on providing conservation professionals with opportunities for collegial exchange at an annual meeting. SERCA hopes to improve access to conservation expertise through outreach activities to cultural repositories--particularly to areas which have had only limited exposure to professional conservation. One of SERCA's chief interests is to assist caretakers of cultural property in effectively responding to disasters. SERCA's ultimate goal is for each collecting institution in the Southeast to have a realistic emergency preparedness plan.

1. What region do you cover?

SERCA covers the states regarded as the southeast region of the United States. Because of overlap from other regional organizations most of its members live and work in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

2. When and how was the association founded?

SERCA was founded in 1998 by conservators working in the area of Atlanta, Georgia. By-Laws provide for the governance of the Organization, a non-profit organization as defined under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, which is established pursuant to the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code to: bring together those individuals in the Southeastern United States primarily involved in the preservation of historic and artistic works and to promote education, collegiality, outreach, and the exchange of ideas on a professional level to advance such preservation of cultural property.

The Organization shall maintain a registered office and shall have a registered agent whose business office is identical with such registered office. The registered agent must be a Georgia resident. The Organization may have offices at such place or places as the Board of Directors may from time to time designate.

3. How many members does the association have?

Membership ranges from 40 - 50 individuals each year.

4. Are there any restrictions on membership?

There are no restrictions to being a member of SERCA. Non-members are welcome to attend our annual meeting and workshop for a higher registration fee. We have had attendees from states beyond the southeast and from other countries.

5. What is the cost of membership and what does that fee cover?

The annual membership fee is $20 running from May 1 to April 30 of the following year. The fee covers the cost of mailings and other organizational costs.

Chris Stavroudis preparing materials for his Modular Cleaning Program workshop

6. What kinds of events do you hold and how often?

SERCA holds one annual meeting with a workshop lasting 3-4 days, usually in the Spring of the year. Every other year the annual meeting is held in Atlanta, Georgia.

Some years ago, the organization shifted from a format where members presented talks to a workshop event where members could expand their skills and knowledge at a cost often less than those held at the annual AIC meeting or at other regional sites. A short business meeting is held during the workshop for members to elect new officers and vote on organization activities.

Future and past workshops:

2011- March 18-20, “Integrated Pest Management and Identification” presented by Patrick Kelley, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

2010- “Modular Cleaning Program” presented by Chris Stavroudis, West Palm Beach, FL

2009- “Environmental Monitoring and Control for Small Institutions: Innovative Approaches and Practical Solutions” presented by Steven Weintraub, Atlanta, GA

2008- “Introduction to Photoshop and Photoshop for Digital Photography,” Raleigh, NC

2007- “Enzymes and Their Targets for Conservators” presented by Hal Erickson, Atlanta, GA

2006- “Recovery of Wet Materials Following a Disaster” presented by Barbara Moore and M. J. Davis, Charleston, SC

In past years the President and Vice-President met with other regional group officers and AIC staff/officers for a breakfast and the annual AIC meeting to discuss common goals and challenges. SERCA has received a number of grants from FAIC in past years to defray the cost of annual workshops.

7. Do you have a website?

SERCA does not have a website at this time. SERCA is a Regional Affinity Group of the Southeastern Museums Conference. See:

8. What, would you say, is the most special thing about SERCA?

In my opinion, I most appreciate the relaxed environment in which our workshops take place. We have a pleasant time learning new skills and sharing knowledge

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #9: Become [more] involved with the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network

Reading this blog is a wonderful way to learn about conservation and, specifically, about the ECPN, but why not engage just a bit more? In tip #2, I suggested that you join professional associations; becoming involved with ECPN is a way to take that one step further, and get even more out of your membership with AIC. For someone who is just beginning a career in conservation, the ECPN offers incredible opportunities to contribute and absorb as much as you like!

The ECPN is a network for those just entering or thinking about entering the field of conservation, helping you make the transition from pre-program student, to student, to conservation professional. The group was created by emerging conservators in 2008, and has promoted the following initiatives (among others) for you to take advantage of:

1. The blog - for articles, events and job announcements; posting is open to all AIC members.

2. Facebook - a place to organize the group, send out updates and begin conversations.

3. Mentoring Program - a way to connect emerging conservators with a Professional Associate or Fellow of AIC who can offer conservation-related advice.

4. Events at the AIC annual meeting- the ECPN business meeting, happy hour, and the Angels Project (more details to come).

If there are any other blog posts or projects that you think would be helpful to you and other emerging conservators, please sit in on a conference call or contact one of the committee members with your suggestions!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Playing to the Galleries and Engaging New Audiences: the public face of conservation


Playing to the Galleries and Engaging New Audiences: the public face of conservation

November 13-17, 2011

Williamsburg, VA.

Conservators increasingly find themselves asked to present their efforts through an ever expanding array of methods ranging from more traditional techniques such as exhibits, lectures and behind the scenes tours to newer technologies such as blogs, podcasts and video learning. These activities are important not only as fundraising tools but also because they have the potential to define why and how communities care for their heritage and create social capital.

Colonial Williamsburg’s department of conservation invites paper and poster submissions for a conference dealing with the public face of conservation. Held in conjunction with our exhibit “Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet” the conference will focus on the role of communicating conservation within a museum context. In addition to papers spotlighting other conservation exhibitions, we would welcome papers focusing on educational initiatives linking students to the arts, sciences and social sciences through conservation; projects involving volunteers and the public in museum-led conservation efforts; and strategies for engaging local communities in the preservation of cultural heritage. What has worked? What hasn’t? What impact has it had on audiences? What was the planning process and how have the results been evaluated? We’d love to hear about your forays into this arena!

Abstracts of up to 300 words should provide a clear enough summary of the proposed paper to allow an evaluation of its quality and significance. Submissions will be evaluated by the planning committee. Papers presented at the conference will be published in an edited post-conference publication.


March 25th 2011 for abstract submission. Acceptances to be announced by May 1st 2011. Final written versions of the paper or poster will be due November 7th 2011 for inclusion in the publication.

Please send abstracts to Emily Williams, Department of Conservation-BHW, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, P.O. Box 1776, Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776, fax (757) 565-8752.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #8: Ask lots of questions

When you’re just beginning your career in conservation, asking questions is a no-brainer because there’s so much to learn, but as time goes on and you get into the habit of completing routine tasks, it’s easy to forget to ask WHY you are doing them. The point of an internship is not only to help with the work of the lab, you should also be storing up knowledge to apply to future conservation jobs.

With the basic questions of what and how behind you, be sure to ask questions about each project that you work on—questions about:

-The history, materials and techniques of the artist (i.e. when and where did the artist work? or how did the artist prepare his materials?)

- The chemistry behind the damage and repair process (i.e. how did the object deteriorate? or why did you choose that particular adhesive?)

- The treatment techniques and tools used (i.e. what are the future implications for consolidation? or what do you use the suction table for?)

First ask these questions of your supervisor, then they will likely point you in the direction of appropriate books and articles to continue your research. [This is the perfect opportunity to build that annotated bibliography!] Imagine that a visitor will be coming to the lab and wants to know about what you’re working on…you should have plenty to say. And, in the future, when an admissions committee or employer asks you questions about your portfolio, you’ll have very thorough and practiced answers.

I think we often take our supervisors and/or mentors for granted. Not only have they been educated in conservation, they have also built up years of experience working in the field. Ask them specific questions about research they have conducted and any talks or workshops they have given. And, when you go to visit other conservators in their own labs, be sure to ask about their projects and research.

Sometimes your peers can be less intimidating than experienced conservators, so try to meet and talk with other students and pre-program interns. Being in the same situation will help to form a common ground, and unlike other friends and family who sometimes get tired of hearing about conservation, other students and interns will be happy to discuss things—like the application process—over coffee or lunch. You can also share your calendars of conservation-related events, and even carpool to get there. If there aren’t any other interns at your workplace, check the AIC directory or contact your local guild.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of your fellow ECPNers! Post a question to the group’s Facebook page, or send an email to one of the committee members.