The primary goal of the Latin American Consortium project, organized by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), was the enhancement of preventive conservation in Latin America by increasing the access of educators to teaching resources, information, and expertise. The activities of the consortium were carried out through two working groups:
Each group organized a workshop presenting model curricula that could be adapted to various teaching situations, as well as didactic materials that working group members could use in their own work. The workshops also allowed participants to experience new teaching strategies, such as case studies, role-playing, interactive exercises, and Web-based learning tools. To facilitate the consortium's work, the GCI created the consortium's Web site, which served as an essential vehicle for sharing information and materials.
In recent years, preventive conservation—the management of the environmental conditions under which collections are housed and used—has made great strides in research and in application. Because preventive conservation considers the welfare of whole collections rather than the treatment of individual objects, it allows a more efficient use of limited resources for the benefit of a larger part of our material heritage.
Research at the GCI and elsewhere has contributed to a better understanding of the effects of environmental conditions on materials in museum and library collections and how—through appropriate actions—deleterious effects can be mitigated or even eliminated. Timely access to this information is critical, particularly for the people who are preparing the next generation of conservation professionals.
Institutions that provide training in conservation often face a double challenge: how to keep current on scientific and practical advances while, at the same time, making sure that these are integrated into curricula, training materials, and media. Teachers also need better access to colleagues who can provide a support system, along with advice and information on technical and educational matters.
Latin America boasts a number of institutions engaged in teaching preventive conservation, but the range of needs, as well as the potential audiences to be reached, are large, and can put a strain on both human and financial resources. The Latin American Consortium was formed to assist in meeting these needs and reaching these audiences.
The Latin American Consortium was initiated in October 1997 during a four-day meeting at the GCI attended by directors and staff of seven Latin American conservation training programs. Participants of the meeting discussed the feasibility of working collaboratively with the GCI to develop teaching capability in a number of different areas of preventive conservation. That meeting launched the consortium project.
The project had the following objectives:
- creation of working groups to address specific topic areas or training needs;
- development of workshops for teachers;
- demonstration of new approaches, materials, and technologies for teaching;
- establishment of a network for the sharing of teaching expertise and resources for preventive conservation.
Members of the consortium included educators from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Cuba. They were associated with formal university level courses for conservation professionals, as well as short occasional courses for museum personnel. Working as a network, the institutions of the consortium offered mutual support by exchanging information, ideas, and resources.
The early activities of the consortium were generally carried out through working groups that addressed special topics or interests of the members. During the time that the GCI managed the consortium, there were two active working groups: one focused on emergency planning and another on the environmental issues of museum buildings and their collections. Working with the GCI, each of these groups organized workshops and meetings for their members. The working groups provided opportunities for participants to update their subject knowledge and skills; gain access to teaching materials and information; and interact with other colleagues from the various countries represented in the consortium.
To support the work of the project, a Web site was developed and put into operation. In the early years, the GCI provided overall management of the consortium and its Web site.