Posts Tagged With: Outreach

New tools for the outreachbox

An ever-increasing use of social media has made the internet the way to go for public outreach. Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress have all been done (yes, I say this as a blogger), but video hasn’t really been used to it’s full potential for engaging a non-specialist audience.

Leading the way for the humanities is a website called Smarthistory, now associated with the Khan Academy, an online library of educational resources. Smarthistory is essentially an interactive art historical textbook that utilizes contextual information and links to other websites along with short documentary-like videos on works of art. Smarthistory creators Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker began the site in 2005 as a blog to aid in art history lectures. With the support of the Kress Foundation and the Khan Academy, this non-profit organization has become a leader in providing course materials as well as an online community for the discipline of art history.

Recently, Beth and Steven collaborated with FAIC and the conservation department at the Met to organize a workshop geared toward conservation-specific outreach, titled Media Tools for Conservators. I was fortunate to attend this workshop, along with 5 other recent graduates and 7 mid-career professionals. The dynamic of the workshop was great, and not only did we learn about the software that Smarthistory uses to make their videos (Garage Band for audio and ScreenFlow to incorporate the audio with images), but we had the opportunity to capture some of our own conversations using audio recorders.

The group hard at work exchanging ideas

In the morning we paired up to talk about specific conservation projects that we had prepared in advance, and in the afternoon we took advantage of the Met’s collection and experimented with recording conversations about entirely new objects. The entire workshop was a lot of fun, but the most important conversation that day was the one about implementing this technology into everyday work. As conservators, we often run into sensitivity issues, either about copyright or institutional regulations, and that may throw a wrench in the plan to discuss a treatment. But what many conservators forget is that we have a lot of specialized knowledge, and that knowledge may be interesting to people that know absolutely nothing about conservation. So, you CAN make a video about conservation in general, or about a personal object, or my favorite: pair up with a curator to talk about a work of art. Be creative.

When I left the workshop, my head was spinning with ideas on how to use these tools in my own work. There is such potential for making professional and interesting videos. Hopefully my enthusiasm for video-making will spread, because your videos are needed for this new site devoted entirely to conservation; introducing ConservationReel!

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Engaging through outreach

Repair the Tear was featured on the ECPN poster at the 2012 AIC Annual Meeting in Albuquerque! Read more about it on Conservators Converse.

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I met Anna Somers Cocks while studying at the Courtauld. My class organized a debate on museum de-accessioning, and she served as a panelist along with Sir Mark Jones (then director of the V&A). Since then, I have heard her name mentioned here and there, mostly associated with The Art Newspaper—an online and print newspaper that she founded in 1990 to cover art world topics.

Today, I opened my June issue of News in Conservation to find that she was the first recipient of the International Institute for Conservation’s Advocate Award, recognized for her efforts to promote heritage conservation. The article (on page 6) includes an interview between ASC and IIC President Jerry Podany. I just wanted to highlight some of her responses, as they combine two of the conservation issues that interest me most: outreach and contemporary art.

JP: How do you think conservators need to change their approach to communication?

ASC: You have to think about what will catch the imagination of the public and, for that matter, the trustees, if you are going to defend your budgets and your existence…Full technical reports are vital, but you don’t have to burden lay people with them. You should be able to communicate the essence of what has been done in plain English. When I was at the V&A the conservation department wore white coats, represented science and were “over there”, while the art historians were somewhere else and there was very little interaction. That has to change.

JP: What would be your advice to the profession so that it remains sustainable, particularly in this time of economic downturn?

ASC: I would draw attention to the time bomb that awaits us in the form of the art of the twentieth century and onward. A lot of this art is auto-destructing because craftsmanship was not part of the artists’ intentions. I would advise the conservation sector to look at the art market and look at where the interest is: contemporary art is now more important in terms of the market than older art. I believe there will be a need or a large number of professionals who can deal with the multifarious objects and materials that artists have chosen and will choose to make their art works. It is going to be very scientifically challenging.

Hmmm…I could say a lot about either of these quotes but I’m wondering, what do you think?

Anna Somers Cocks in her role as Chairperson of the Venice in Peril Foundation (above).

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