This year’s theme for the AIC Annual Conference was Treatment 2017: Innovation in Conservation and Collection Care. Julia and I were excited to present our work that culminated in the creation of the Preservation Report. The report allows our institution to better document preservation decisions and workflows. Although we represented an archive and its unique documentation challenges, we felt strongly that the theory and principals at play in our report would benefit the larger conservation community. It is critical that we create and use a form that is readable and useable long-term and we knew that feedback from outside our organization was key.
In the fall of 2016, we decided to apply for the poster session because this would challenge us to present our project in a particular format. We were accepted! While ours was not a typical conversation project, we looked for a way to make the poster format work for us. We decided to lean in to the typical convention of conservation projects and broke our work into the following poster categories: a clearly stated objective, some background on the problem, a breakdown of our methodology, the results of our testing, and most importantly, our takeaways. While we had some concerns about “forcing” our project into this format, it turned out to be a natural fit. Although we were not testing solutions in a lab, our process mirrored the work of our conservation peers. Happy with the way the poster came together, we sent it to the printers, and packed for Chicago.
Before hanging our poster, we had the opportunity to preview our work in the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) Lighting Round. In a packed room on the first day of the conference, fifteen presenters had five minutes to sell their project to the audience. Since Julia was in a workshop that day, I presented our work at the Lightning Round. The time restriction encouraged me to showcase our poster in a concise manner. It was my charge to spark interest in our Preservation Report and how it is being used at the RAC. I was excited to engage with and field questions from the conservation community. More so than we predicted, during the poster session that took place two days later, many people informed us they made it a point to seek out our poster and learn more about the Preservation Report.
The one-on-one interaction inherent in the poster session invited thoughtful questions about challenges, practicality and use, and how the Preservation Report can be applied to the work being done at other institutions. A few attendees expressed concern about where the physical document is filed and who has access to it. Some of our richest conversations came from the difference between our collection file management system and their record keeping practices.
It was encouraging to connect with the conservation community and to look at preservation work and documentation through a different lens, all the while knowing we share similar goals and professional values. The half hour session extended to well past an hour. As archivists who are passionate about preservation, we are grateful for the many opportunities we have had to learn from conservators, primarily through site visits. Through this poster platform, we were able to reciprocate by sharing a new resource and meaningfully contribute to the community.