Saturday, May 31, 2014

A few more than 140 characters on Preventive Conservation

The Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation is going on right now and I've been following it's twtitter activity #AICSF. I've chimed in every now and again when I feel the need to say things that are completely unecessary to say.

One such time was in response to a use of the phrase "Preventive Conservation." @DukePresDPC expressed their hating this term, and I concurred, and @fletcherdurant was curious why. As much as I like twitter, and it is my preferred social media, sometimes the 140 character limit is more a hindrance than a challenge (especially when 2 long twitter handles are inluced).

Here are a few more than 140 characters on my thoughts about Preventive Conservation. 

My reasons for displeasure with the phrase "Preventive Conservation" are two - at least.

First, it is too long and cumbersome. I am sure there must be one word that means what is meant by those two words, or two shorter words. (At least it isn't "Preventative Conservation" which I have seen used and irks me even more.) Being too long and cumbersom may seem a trivial complaint, but for a profession that is very concerned about getting the message out to the untrained public, communication and language matters, and "Preventive Conservation" is a lousy brand.

Second, and arguably more significantly, is what we understand our default stance to be. I acknowledge that I was trained in the traditional library-based preservation context where Preservation is the umbrella term which includes all activities, practices, and polices which are intended to ensure the ongoing viability of the collections. Conservation is the invasive, hands-on act of mitigating an objects undesired condition. E.g. washing impurities out of paper, repairing torn pages, rebinding volumes. In my understanding - our first call is Preservation - to reduce the likelihood or speed at which an object enters an undesired condition. This is done through climate control, good handling practices, etc. Preservation has the image of being more passive, because it doesn't involve hands-on, invasive activity, but it is not at all passive. 

To me, preservation, is, or should be, our default stance. As one who's interest is in ongoing viability of library collections, I feel the best approach is preserve, preserve, preserve, and if need be, conserve. This may explain why I feel less than completely engaged by the AIC world where hands-on, invasive acitivity is the default action. It is not surprising that the American Insititute of Conservation would define a set of actions as a variant of Conservation. They are not the Amican Institute of Preservation.

Preventative + Conservation = Preservation

Finally, I want to add that these few words are just some quick thoughts that come out of a brief twitter conversation happening with people who are at an event and members of an organization that I am not. I apologize for misrepresenting anyone's or any organizations thoughts and opinions.   

1 comment:

  1. Total agreement, and would also argue that "preventative conservation," sorry preservation is the most efficient and effective approach, especially at scale. Conservation treatment certainly has its place, but as a part of an overall approache.