Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Working with Professionals

Much of the work involved in preserving a family collection can be done by the dedicated amateur.  But there are certain tasks – like conservation treatment – that should be left to trained professionals.  Plus, there are times when you may want some professional advice.  When you need a pro, here are some places to call:

Regional Conservation Centers:  I work for one so (naturally!) I’m listing them first.  There is a network of 11 nonprofit regional conservation centers in the United States that offer expertise in the fields of conservation and preservation.  Some of these centers offer services to individuals and some don’t.  It never hurts to call.  Here’s a
Contact and Locations list of the regional centers along with a few other organizations that offer preservation expertise, courtesy of the Regional Alliance for Preservation.  I work for the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (Philadelphia, PA), which serves the Mid-Atlantic region and specializes in paper and photograph conservation treatment.  We would take your call.

Private conservators:  Many conservators have established private practices that are usually focused on their particular specialty (so there are textile conservators, object conservators, painting conservators, etc.).  Most professional conservators are members of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).  To find a private conservator, I’d recommend using AIC’s easy-to-use “Find A Conservator” tool. 

Digital Imaging Specialists:  This emerging field is still in the process of developing a set of professional standards.  Michelle Dauberman, the Manager of Digital Documentation at the Conservation Center, notes that you should look for someone with a background in digital photography and/or graphic design.  “Both photographers and designers utilize Adobe Photoshop heavily and can effectively apply their graphic art skills to restoration work,” she says.  “The most significant thing to look for when seeking digitization or restoration help would be a solid portfolio of work.  Ask to see samples of what they’ve worked on.”  If you like what you see, chances are that they’ll do a good job for you, too.

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