AIC 2010 Notes: “Identity Crisis: Critical Identity”

George Wheeler presented a paper on Wednesday (5/12/2010) called “Identity Crisis: Critical Identity: The Future of Conservation and the Role of AIC in its Development.” It was a good start to the day as it laid the groundwork for thinking about where this profession is going and what our role in shaping that future will be. The most poignant question was, “Why do conservators look outward for validation for what we do?” A theme that came up in several other discussions during the day.

This question is being asked amongst the perfect storm of a downturned economy, dwindling budgets and a profession that is growing and changing faster than ever and in unpredictable ways. How do we validate what we do and manage this change effectively? Wheeler offers four points to consider:

  • Conservation is not a passive act, it is an act of criticism and interpretation
  • How we think affects how we act
  • Growth can be painful, it starts with self exploration
  • We need to mobilize our energy, creativity and intelligence within our organization to define where we go from here

There are no answers here, only ideas to explore and opportunities to grab if we are brave enough to do so. We should not be afraid of the future or of change. How we manage change will say a lot about who we are now and who we will become. For me, the question is how do we have these discussions in a productive way and when can we start?

Four books and one journal shaped his ideas for the talk, shared here:

Theory of Restoration” Cesare Brandi (English translation 2005)
Contemporary Theory of Conservation” Salvador Munoz-Vinas (2nd ed., 2004)
“Securing the Past” Paul Eggert (2009)
“Conservation: Principles, Dilemmas and Uncomfortable Truths” Alison Richmond and Alison Bracker (2009)
“Future Anterior” Jorge Otero-Pailos (Journal)

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