• Cleopatra :: 1524-1526
  • Artist: Giampietrino (Giovanni Padrino), Italian
  • Repository: Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
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Charting the Digital Landscape of the Conservation Profession

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March 2016
Diane M. Zorich

The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) promotes the advancement of expert knowledge of materials and technologies to conserve and preserve global cultural heritage. Its investments in research, education, and knowledge-sharing programs help position the field to address its current and future needs. Despite its broad experience and reach, FAIC has found it difficult to identify the investments needed to support the use of information technology in the discipline. Conservation’s digital landscape — the digital information, technologies, support infrastructures and behaviors that conservation professionals rely on to conduct their work — is complicated, and the field’s capacity to harness the potential of this environment is poorly understood. In 2014, FAIC began an effort to address this problem. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Getty Foundation, and Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the organization conducted a yearlong series of activities (research, a community survey, discussion forums, interviews, and an analysis of online resources) to map the digital landscape as it exists today, and to identify strategic investments in the environment that will serve the community and help it flourish as a profession. To that end, FAIC enlisted the aid of hundreds of conservation and allied professionals to identify:

  • How those in the profession create, use, share, analyze, and manage digital resources for their work
  • The problems they encounter in these activities
  • Their perspectives on why these problems exist
  • Their ideas on how these challenges can be met (or overcome) and the opportunities exploited

This community input was used to identify the high-level issues that account for the current state of conservation’s digital landscape, and to outline the challenges that must be overcome to make this landscape more serviceable for the profession.

This study presents the results of a year-long series of activities (research, a community survey, discussion forums, interviews, and an analysis of online resources) to map the digital landscape as it exists today, and to identify strategic investments in the environment that will serve the community and help it flourish as a profession.

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