Monday, March 26, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou CAP Assessors?

In Chapter 1 of Book 1 of the Small Museum Toolkit, I mentioned that Heritage Preservation maintains a list of over 400 conservators, historic preservation specialists, and living collections experts who are qualified to perform assessments for the Conservation Assessment Program (CAP). These qualified assessors are spread throughout the country. Each year when the CAP staff matches participating museums with assessors, we try to pick assessors that are geographically adjacent to the participating museums.

Matching architects and historic preservationists with museums is usually easy, since architects live and work literally all over the United States. Conservators, however, can be a bit more challenging to match with participating museums, since many CAP assessor-conservators happen to live and work in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Western states. Often the CAP staff must match California-based conservators with a museum in Kansas, or a New York-based conservator with a museum in Iowa.

If you are (or know of) a master's-level trained, experienced (5 years) conservator living and working in the Midwest, Southeast, or Mountain-Plains states, Heritage Preservation invites you to apply to become a CAP assessor! Application forms are available for download from CAP's website, here: CAP assessors may perform around 1 – 3 CAP assessments per year, and the CAP allocation for reimbursement from Heritage Preservation is approximately $3,400 for a five-day work commitment.
And as I'm sure the Shakespeare nerds among you will note, 'wherefore' means why, not where. So why do conservators apply to become CAP assessors? The reasons are many, but include: a desire to give back to the cultural heritage community by providing affordable conservation advice to museums that might have no other means to attain it; a desire to promulgate conservation and preservation best practices in order to ensure the protection of museum objects for future generations; and a desire to travel to the sites of different small and mid-sized museums throughout their region, in order to see the great variety of cultural institutions that our nation has to offer.

Ultimately, conservators become assessors for the same reason that you are interested in the Small Museums Toolkit: in order to protect our nation's cultural heritage.

Sara Gonzales is the Coordinator of the Conservation Assessment Program at Heritage Preservation. A graduate of the Museum Studies program at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, she has been the collections manager of a number of small museums in the suburbs of Chicago. Her previous publications include issues of CAPabilities, CAP’s bi-annual newsletter, and articles about CAP in the American Association of Museums’ Museum and the American Association for State and Local History’s History News magazines.

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