In 2016, The Library and Archives Conservation Education (LACE) Survey was commissioned by a consortium of American graduate-level conservation programs (SUNY Buffalo State, New York University, and the University of Delaware/Winterthur) to assist the Consortium in understanding employer expectations of entry-level conservators within research libraries and archives and as an aid in setting instructional priorities that will meet the changing environments of libraries and archives. The survey was funded as part of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Consortium retained the services of Robert Waller, president and senior risk analyst, and Tessa Thomas, both of Protect Heritage Corporation, to conduct the survey.
Protect Heritage obtained input from 29 conservators and preservation administrators at major research libraries, archives and regional centers who were identified as leaders in the field and to whom entry-level conservators report. The survey process consisted of twenty online questions and a telephone interview. Respondents were asked to identify and rank the skills, subject areas, and degree of mastery expected in entry-level conservators. They were also asked to indicate the degree to which this instruction should take place during graduate study vs. on-the-job training.
Survey respondents ranked two kinds of skills and competencies as most important for entry-level conservators to acquire primarily during graduate education: basic hands-on treatment skills and a broad functional knowledge of conservation techniques, theory, and ethics. They also expect that entry-level conservators will receive most of their training in documentation (written and photographic) and in material and conservation science during their graduate education. Other skills or competencies, such as advanced treatment skills and basic preventive conservation were identified as skills that would be partially learned on-the-job, building on a basic foundation laid during graduate education. Finally, competencies such as advanced preventive conservation skills and a functional knowledge of digitization, audiovisual preservation and reformatting could be largely developed on the job but respondents expected a reasonable degree of familiarity with the basic literature and issues developed during graduate education.
Many respondents also emphasized that it is imperative for entry-level conservators to understand, at least at a basic level, how this broad functional knowledge applies specifically to libraries and archives in contrast to museums. While many said parts of an MLIS were helpful, most did not feel it was necessary as long as entry-level conservators had a relevant masters degree and a sound understanding of the operational structural and research functions of libraries and archives that would inform their decision making and relationships with colleagues. They specifically recommended training in preservation management as applied to libraries and archives.
The survey also queried the importance of material-based competencies in the functional knowledge of the history, fabrication and conservation treatment of bound materials, paper and photographs. This functional knowledge of bound materials and paper was very important to most respondents. Functional knowledge of photographs was very important to 21% of respondents and moderately important to an additional 61%, suggesting that basic instruction in photographic conservation be included in the curriculum.
The complete survey report and appendices can be found at: