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
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
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.