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Conservation Professionals Needs Survey

As part of the strategic planning process for the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC), and AIC’s membership communications, a Conservation Professionals Needs Survey was conducted during May of  2009.  This survey was designed and analyzed by AWP Research and was supported by a grant from the Getty Foundation.  836 usable responses were received, comprised of 663 members, 31 nonmembers, and 142 for whom membership status is uncertain

Respondent Profile

Employment Setting
34% are self-employed or employed in a for-profit conservation practice
27% are employed by a museum or historical society
9% are at libraries or archives
8% are employed by a government agency or institution
8% are employed by a college or school
5% are at regional conservation centers
9% are in other employment settings (including 1.4% retired)

Of those that are self-employed or working in a for-profit practice, 75% fully own the company, 12% have a co-owner or partner, and 9% have no ownership interest. 

56% of these practices consist of one person; 15% are comprised of two conservators, and 21% have 3 to 6 conservators employed.  Only 3.5% of practices reported having 7 or more conservators.

Conservators working at collecting institutions, government agencies, educational organizations, or regional conservation centers are more likely to have colleagues. Only 11% are the only conservator in their institution.

Professional Experience
Respondents were highly experienced.  The average number of years of conservation experience, calculated from the range mid-points is 18.1 years.  Conservators in private practice had the most experience, with an average of 21.0 years, and those in libraries and archives the least, with 13.8 years.  13% of respondents had over 30 years of experience in conservation.

Areas of Specialization
When asked to list (multiple) top areas of specialization, leading specialties were:
Book and Paper – 35%
Objects – 30%
Preventive Conservation – 25%
Paintings – 22%
Sculpture – 17%
Archeological Objects – 16%
Conservation Administration – 16%
Conservation Education – 15%
Wooden Artifacts – 14%

When asked to select just one area of specialization, results were somewhat similar, but preventive conservation, administration, and education fell sharply.  The columns that show the most variation indicate areas where conservators are active outside their primary area.

Other Memberships
72% of AIC members also belong to other organizations. 13% belong to the American Association of Museums and 10% to National Trust for Historic Preservation.  International memberships are much stronger.  28% belong to International Institute for Conservation (IIC), 19% to International Council on Monuments (ICOM).  39% provided names of organizations other than those listed on the survey, which were comprised primarily of regional conservation groups in the U.S. (such as the Washington Conservation Guild and the Western Association for Art Conservation) and international conservation organizations, such as ICON (U.K.) and CAC (Canada).

Challenges to Profession and Recommended Actions

How AIC Could Support the Conservation Field
Members were asked to identify the five most beneficial actions AIC might take to support the conservation field from a list of choices.  Six areas were selected most often:
Lobby/Advocate – 65%
Promote conservation benefits to general public – 62%
Publish/provide information to conservators – 50%
Provide training/education to conservators – 45%
Promote conservation to museums, libraries, etc. – 45%
Work to grow the profession – 37%
  (9 other choices drop below 30%)

Non-members identified the same top priorities, although in slightly different order of preference.

Priorities for AIC/FAIC Resources
Members were asked to allocate 100 “points” among six areas to indicate where AIC should spend it resources.  The relatively even ratings suggest that most respondents want all of these areas to be addressed:

Advocate/Raise Awareness/Encourage Research – 23% (of all points allocated)
Publications/Information Resources – 21%
Continuing Education – 19%
Networking/Information Exchange – 15%
Scholarships and Grants – 12%
Member and Business Services – 10%

AIC Service to Membership

Member Benefits
AIC members were asked to select the THREE most important benefits they seek from AIC membership:

Access to general information/keeping up to date with the field – 58%
Access to courses, seminars, conferences – 47%
Access to technical, “how to” info about my specialty area – 39%
To be part of the larger community of conservators/support the profession – 36%
  (8 other choices drop below 20%)

Continuing Education
From a list of 12 types of topics for continuing education desired in the next 12 months, AIC members were asked to select two areas of interest.  Treatment techniques and materials science dominated the list, as they have in previous surveys (2001 and 2005).
Techniques for Treatment – 57%
Material Science – 31%
Documentation Techniques – 20%
Management/Business Skills – 18%
   (eight other topic areas fall below 12%)

Live, face-to-face formats are still preferred, although a sizeable percentage of respondents would like to see independent study formats.
Live, not at Annual Meeting – 62%
Independent study by internet – 23%
At Annual Meeting – 21%
Independent study using CD-ROM – 12%
  (six other formats fall below 9%)
Future Directions
Respondents contributed a large number of text responses regarding how AIC and FAIC could improve their services, as well as suggestions for future continuing education topics.  These suggestions are currently being analyzed and will be very helpful in setting goals and planning future activities.  Many thanks to all those who responded to the survey.

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