Conservation in Australia, Past Present and Future: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference, 19 – 21 October 2011 Canberra


At a time when AICCM is looking to reposition itself for the future, it seems appropriate to examine the way we, as conservators, convey both what we do and the importance of this work. In order to do this we must examine how we communicate, both as individual professionals and as a body that represents the profession. By drawing on linguistic studies we can improve our understanding of how we might change our rhetoric to increase our influence, build trust and demonstrate our value.

In the past many conservators, although convinced of the value of their work have not always communicated this effectively. Conservators are trained to focus on collections and not all feel that it is necessary or their role, to place their work in a wider corporate context. In addition, trained to report activities in an objective passive voice mode, conservators communicate that things are done to things, but not necessarily the complexity of what they do and of the decision-making process involved before commencing the ‘doing’. In contrast to this objective reporting, is the emotion that many conservators inject into their language when trying to convince others what is best for collections. While things have changed over time, this has left a legacy that needs to be addressed.

As a professional body AICCM seems to communicate principally with its members and has for a number of years, struggled to develop its advocacy role. As with its members, AICCM does not seem to always take into account the context of its communications, nor who the target audience is. More attention to the profession’s messages and to crafting the language used to impart those messages will have significant impacts on AICCM’s influence and advocacy.


2011 AICCM National Conference, Canberra
Paper author:
Vicki Humphrey, Alys Humphrey