Promoting preventive conservation—the management of the environmental conditions under which collections are housed and used—has been a major objective of the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in training and education. In 1990, the GCI offered its first course in a series entitled Preventive Conservation: Museum Collections and Their Environment, then ran the course annually until 1995. The course gave conservators, collection managers, and conservation educators an opportunity to update their skills and knowledge in various technical aspects of this topic, while also considering the managerial and political skills necessary to integrate better collection practices within cultural institutions.
The course design reflected the need for conservators in museums to assume a stronger, more managerial role. In addition to technical information on the museum environment, the course included discussions of strategies for interdisciplinary communication, collaboration, negotiation, and influence. The aim was to offer conservation professionals the knowledge, skills, and confidence to interact with institutional decision makers. The course, which sought to recreate the types of management situations conservators would encounter in real life, was a departure from the technically oriented courses with which most conservators were accustomed.
The development of the course included the creation of teaching materials—didactic exercises and case studies—similar in aim and design to those commonly used in schools of business, law, and medicine. Intended to stimulate interdisciplinary problem solving, the case studies allowed participants to consider the consequences of various strategies applied to situations requiring a combination of technical and managerial skill.
After holding the course in Los Angeles for several years, it was offered in London on two occasions in partnership with the Conservation Unit of the Museums and Galleries Commission (now called re:source, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Case studies and exercises were adapted and new ones were created to reflect the particular situations likely to be confronted by the European participants of the course. This collaboration was intended to transfer the course to another institution that would be able to offer it independently as part of its programs. Another instance of "transfer" was the collaboration established with the Winterthur-University of Delaware Masters Program in Art Conservation to adapt the content and materials of the GCI course for use in their three-year training program.
In 1995, the GCI offered its last course in preventive conservation in Oaxaca, Mexico—Conservación preventiva: Colecciones del museo y su medio ambiente. As the course was being adapted for Latin America, it became clear that a new strategy for supporting preventive conservation training was necessary. The strategy that emerged was one in which the GCI would focus on building capacity of existing training institutions by developing partnerships to facilitate sharing of technical information and expertise, while at the same time giving partner institutions access to didactic resources produced over the years. This strategy was implemented throught the GCI project, the Latin American Consortium.
Related articles in Conservation, the GCI Newsletter
- Managing the Environment: An Update on Preventive Conservation (Summer, 2000)
- Preventive Conservation: a Discussion (Summer, 2000)
- Preventive Conservation Courses (Fall, 1995)
- Preventive Conservation (Spring, 1992)