Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recessionary effects on conservation

I have blogged before about the impact of the recession and the GFC on museums, particularly in the US, where so many of them rely on philanthropic foundations for their principal source of revenue.

But now out of left field has come news that Stanford University Libraries is laying off 32 employees. Now that is having a wide world ripple effect in the conservation profession because Stanford has for years published two of the principal communication tools that conservators rely on, namely CoOL (Conservation On Line) and the Cons Dist List.

Between them they have been one of the most important ways for conservators to share and find information. The former is estimated to provide access to some 120,000 documents, an incredible resource now at serious risk of being lost. The latter has been the meeting and stomping ground for a never ending range of issues that we as conservators seek to share and understand. Not to mention the fact that the ConsDist List has been the principal resource for advertising conservation job vacancies.

AIC and IIC have already waded in to express their concern about the potential demise of these vital resources, but it is difficult at present to see who is out there that is prepared to take them on.

Walter Henry, the organizer of both for the last 22 years, has some heartfelt comments to make as he sees all that he has worked on about to collapse:

"It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with this community and I look forward to finding ways to continue to do so. I’ve always held that conservation professionals were, as a class, unusually committed to the cause they serve; we really do care deeply about the cultural materials we are lucky enough to work with, and that care takes form in a remarkable dedication to theprofession, to the ethical foundations upon which it is built, and to the community of practitioners from whatever discipline or specialty.

So, at the beginning of what would have been the DistList’s twenty third year it is with great sadness, but also with some sense of pride, that I finally give up this enterprise and that of Conservation OnLine as a whole. I don’t know exactly what will happen to the resources here but I have every faith that their fate will be in good hands.

I would like to thank, with all sincerity, Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources, my own department, the systems and IT staff, and most of all the directorate, who have been unfalteringly supportive of my work all these years, and I know would continue to be so were the world in just a little better shape than it is now."

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