Accreditation and the Conservator
My name is Beth Werrett and I am a Contract Conservator for Wiltshire Council Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS). I conserve objects for and provide advice to archaeological units, museums and other heritage organisations as part of the commercial branch of the service.
A year ago I decided that, having worked for nearly five years at a variety of heritage organisations since first studying for the profession, I felt that I had developed sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to apply for professional accreditation.
What is Accreditation?
Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers or PACR assesses a conservator's professional practice within the work place. It allows a common standard to be applied across the profession, regardless of the training route taken, the conservation specialism, or the context in which a conservator may practice. An accredited conservator demonstrates a high level of competence, sound judgement and an in-depth knowledge of the principles and ethics which are key to conservation practice.
Why did I decide to apply?
The benefits of achieving accreditation were both professional and personal. For the Wiltshire Conservation Service it is beneficial to have accredited members of staff; their clients can be assured that they are working to consistently high standards.Achieving accreditation would be a significant personal achievement, providing recognition of the breadth of skills and expertise that I had developed since qualifying as a conservator. Also, I felt that the structure of continual review in place within the PACR system would help me to maintain my high standard of work and prevent me falling into bad habits!
What was involved?
PACR assesses conservators against the Professional Standards and Judgement and Ethics outlined and utilised by professional bodies such as ICON (The Institute of Conservation) and ARA (the Archives and Records Association). It is necessary for the conservator to show how they meet each aspect.
It is essential to show that you have a keen understanding of not only the object, materials and factors of decay, but also of how your work fits into a larger picture. It is important to show that you have considered the impact that your work may have; the reasons for conducting it, how the project can be managed and what developments or experimentation may be required.
I had to choose five to eight projects to summarise and submit with my application. I tried to choose a mixture of conservation projects. It was important to show experience of working with varied materials including ceramic jars, feathers and human remains. Each of the projects demonstrated additional skills. The Roman storage jar project balanced the needs of museum and scientific professionals with community outreach. The treatment of the human remains required experimentation with adaptation of treatments in order to remove staining whilst protecting the fragile surface.
In addition to my written application there was a full day of assessment with two assessors chosen by the PACR organisation. The assessors viewed past and current projects, and discussed my application and thought processes in depth with me in order to gauge the extent of my understanding and skills.
Although I was extremely nervous before the assessment visit I found that the day passed quite quickly and that it was even enjoyable to discuss my projects with people who shared my enthusiasm.
Five months after my assessment I finally received confirmation that the committee had decided to award me accreditation. I am extremely proud to use the letters ACR after my name and the PACR logo in all professional correspondence. Although applying for accreditation was quite hard work, for me the benefits fully justify the effort required. I would thoroughly recommend the accreditation process to other conservators as it boosts your confidence and can improve your professional standing.