Our poor conservator is forced to visit San Francisco

Suspension bridge, ocean and hills

This year’s annual meeting for the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) was held in San Francisco. According to the organizers, this conference had the highest attendance yet, with 1255 conservators and other museum professionals from around the world. The topic under discussion for the 42nd annual meeting was “Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collections Care”.

This theme was covered by various lectures, discussion groups, workshops and poster presentations. The main purpose for my attendance was to hear about collections care and HVAC systems and to review current lighting recommendations. By far the most inspiring talk was that of presenter Kostas Ntanos, Head of Conservation Research and Development at the National Archives, UK. The aim of their project was to examine options in maintaining a sustainable preservation environment for the collection. They developed a computer-based model that simulated their building’s temperature, relative humidity and energy use that showed a potential to reduce energy load by an estimated 43%, while at the same time improving the quality of the preservation environment. In the end, they were able to power down the HVAC over the weekend and save up 22% without affecting the preservation environment. In addition, three years after the project was initiated the target of 25% reduction in CO₂ emissions by 2015 was exceeded.

Despite the heavy conference schedule, I did leave time to stop by some of the best tourist spots. There was the strenuous climb up Filbert Steps to Coit Tower for the spectacular views of the city, with a quick tour inside to see the newly restored wall murals and a stroll over to the Fisherman’s Warf to see the seals (or rather listen to them). And of course, no trip would be complete without a stop at Ghirardelli Square for some chocolate.

One new place I managed to visit this time around was Alcatraz. The weather was a bit sketchy, but it only added to the eerie feeling of the island. This National Parks site is very well run and maintained, with surprisingly beautiful gardens. The enthusiastic guides offer a wealth of information on the daily lives of the guards and inmates that inhabited the island. You are also free to wander around at your own pace while you listen to the audio guide. Just be careful while wandering around inside the open cells, you could get locked up!

I want to congratulate the committee on yet another well-organized event. To top everything off, a formal announcement was made regarding the 2016 annual meeting. The AIC will be combining their annual meeting with the Canadian Association for Conservation (CAC) annual meeting in Montreal. I for one can’t wait to see what the topic for discussion will be!