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AIC NEWS

, May 2012

BPG DISCUSSION GROUPS

given by Sonja Jordan (then at the Chicago Public Library) and 

Norville Jones of the National Archives.

During this time period, ACDG became more integrated 

with BPG in another key way. In 2001 the BPG Publications 

Committee began requesting a summary of the discussion 

groups for publication in the BPG Annual. This has led to 

broader dissemination of session contents to all members of BPG, 

including those unable to attend the annual meeting. 

From 2003–2008 ACDG chairs Kristen St. John and Nora 

Lockshin (2003–2004), and Linda Blaser and Susan Peckham 

(2005–2008) invited speakers to give presentations that were 

prepared in advance or were able to lead the group in a directed 

discussion on a single topic. Although the discussion groups had 

become a set part of the BPG program, scheduling was often diffi-

cult. In some years, ACDG was held at the same time as LCCDG 

and this was unfortunate for the many attendees who wished to 

attend both sessions. In 2007, the ACDG session was cancelled 

due to other pressures on the BPG program schedule. 

During the 2009 and 2010 sessions, LCCDG and ACDG each 

examined different aspects of the same broad treatment topic. 

For example, in 2009 each group focused on new treatment 

techniques, ACDG looked specifically at stabilizing large-scale 

collections and LCCDG discussed new techniques related to 

library collections.

Cooperative efforts between the discussion groups are 

continuing as LCCDG and ACDG collaborate with AIC’s 

Research and Technical Studies (RATS) subgroup on a longer 

joint session on mass-deacidification during the Albuquerque 

meeting in May of 2012.

Does a Third Discussion Group Make Sense for 

BPG?

As BPG is the largest specialty group in AIC, it is obvious that 

book and paper conservators are a diverse lot. Ironically, although 

the library and archives discussion groups were begun in the 

1990s as a response to perceived under-representation, questions 

arose at the 2011 business meeting as to whether BPG needs a 

discussion group devoted to art on paper and museum issues. 

Some BPG members advocated for more programming directed 

to these topics—the presentations had become, for some, too 

focused on libraries, archives, and bound materials. While the 

BPG Program Chair strives for a balanced program, they are 

restricted to the papers that members submit each year. A focused 

call for papers can help, but only so much. 

2013 and Beyond

An APDG Proposal: Descriptive Terminology for Works of Art on Paper

Museum conservators are often responsible for examining works of art and identifying and characterizing artists’ materials and techniques 

for acquisitions, exhibitions, and catalogues, and as part of scholarly research. Anyone who has scrutinized exhibition wall labels, how-

ever, recognizes the challenge—there can be dramatic variation (and often inaccuracy) in the way media are described and presented, 

even within a single institution. Beyond this, increased access to this information through its inclusion in museums’ collections databases 

and on their websites highlights the need for a more coordinated approach. 

Conservators’ specialized knowledge gives them the unique ability to interpret and present information about artists’ materials and 

makes them well-suited, in discussion with curators and cataloguers, to address issues of how to enter the information into a museum’s 

collections management system. This includes how best to save it in a detailed format that can be abbreviated for particular uses (such as 

wall labels), possibly by defining separate fields for varying levels of detail. 

The issue of accurate, appropriate and consistent descriptive terminology, and the sheer number of works of art paper conservators 

routinely examine as they describe artists’ materials was cause for paper conservators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) to apply 

for and receive a grant from the IMLS 21st Century Museum Professionals program to support a two-year project to develop guidelines 

for describing materials used in works of art on paper. The project conservators are Nancy Ash, Scott Homolka, and contract conservator 

Stephanie Lussier. The project began in October 2011. 

The main project activities include compilation, review, and evaluation of existing materials descriptions and guidelines (as found in 

exhibition catalogues, existing cataloguing guides, and technical literature) and group discussions. The end result will be the development 

of a guide for describing materials and techniques of works on paper and a system for entering this information in collections information 

systems, to be shared online through the AIC Book and Paper Group Paper Conservation Catalog Wiki and other venues. A Working 

Group, comprising primarily paper conservators from other large art museums, convened at the PMA this spring to share resources and 

discuss topical issues. At the 2013 AIC annual meeting in Indianapolis, the project conservators plan to present their working documents 

and lead a formal discussion session so that they can engage a wider audience and gain critical feedback on the proposed guidelines. 

This project is timely because its overarching goal is to enhance the ability of conservators to communicate knowledge about 

materials and provide allied museum professionals with mutually understandable language for describing works of art on paper, and it 

enhances AIC’s current goals to bridge communications with professionals in related fields. The public will reap benefits in the form of 

clearer, more informative descriptions in catalogues, exhibition wall labels, and on the Web, leading to increased visual and information 

literacy on the subject of artists’ materials. 





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