Nancy is herself a conservator and conservation scientist, specialising in moveable heritage.
To introduce her topic Nancy compared the AIC and ICOM CC defintions of conservation. The AIC definition describes a profession supported by research and education. In looking at what a profession means Nancy recognised that it is based on specialised education and training and is a service that is compensated (i.e payed for). A Bachelors degree is the result of specialised education that is an entry requirement into the profession. A Masters degree enhances practical and theoretical skills, and implies that the holder has an ability to judge and think critically.
She further explored whether conservation is defined by the skills required (more in line with the ICOM CC definitions) or is it a discipline - could it be compared to the discipline of engineering?
Engineering itself is a collection of disciplines including materials science, and Heritage conservation materials and technology a catergory within the discipline. A discipline could be defined as the art and profession of aquiring and applying scientific methods.
Nancy proposes that conservation is both a skill and a disipline, lying somewhere in the spectrum humanities - social science - natural science, supported by qualitative and quantitative research.
The goal of research is to produce new knowledge both by collecting data that doesn't already exist (primary research) and synthesising existing data (secondary research). Doctoral research in conservation could be illustrated using the hourglass model where the researcher starts with a broad spectrum of data, materials and methods - this passes through the narrow neck of the hourglass, defined by the chosen research methodology - to result in a wide application of the results.
Nancy shared some negative views of conservation PhDs:
- conservation is the application of techniques
- conservation is doing, other disciplines do the thinking
- PhDs are just low paid temporary workers during thier training
- PhDs put conservation in parity with other disciplines
- it is an important credential to those in other fields, facilitating cross disciplinary collaboration
- it allows access to analytical equipment and opens doors,
Her personal perspective (and my take away from the lecture):
- you dont need a PhD to do research but it will facilitate collaboration with others who have this degree as an entry requirement for their own field, they will recognise that you have been through the same rigourous academic process as them.
- although your ability to do conservation is not changed, your ability to affect change through conservation is.
More Nancy Odegaard:
Her own PhD thesis : Archaeological and Ethnographic Painted Wood Artifacts from the North American Southwest A case study of a matrix approach for the conservation of cultural materials.
A presentation at AIC conference about the use of CO2 for cleaning to remove pesticides from materials.
Labelling techniques for museums
Human Remains: Guide for Museums and Academic Institutions
AvVicki Cassman,Nancy Odegaard,Joseph Frederick Powell, Rowman Altamira, 2007
Old Poisons, New Problems: A Museum Resource for Managing Contaminated Cultural Materials , Nancy Odegaard, Alyce Sadongei, Rowman Altamira, 2005