Author:
Anne Carter

AICCM National Council meets once a year in real time. This year we met in February in Sydney and were hosted by Sheldon Teare at the Australian Museum. There were 17 of us in total—including the state presidents, the executive team, web editor, secretariat, publications officer and the events co-ordinator. The face to face meeting is a great chance to thrash out some issues that are too long winded for the bi-monthly teleconferences, and this year it was time to update the four year strategic plan, and to think about where and why AICCM exists.

After the check in we heard from all the attendees about their recent activities and their plans for 2016. State presidents reported on the peculiarities (or not) of their membership base. We heard about the planning for events in 2016 and that events are currently keeping AICCM running financially.  The Publications officer described the recent transition from Maney to Taylor and Francis for publishing of The AICCM Bulletin. We heard about how the e-news is being received, and later we heard about the global issues with archiving web content including e-newsletters and acknowledged that tools for web archiving are way behind current needs.

Our treasurer presented a financial overview which lead to some difficult decisions later in the day. We learned that keeping the AICCM running costs around $350 per member, so for a $160 membership fee—we are providing good value! One would think that a paperless society is more efficient financially, however costs for upkeep of websites, publications and a digital presence generally are high.

A review of the previous strategic plan was presented. We found that over the past three years, we had achieved a number of major cultural shifts within the organisation – from self publication of the Bulletin to working with external publisher, a move to an e-news, and employing a paid web editor who has our website gaining more content everyday and our facebook likes over 2500! Membership is up 16%, when many other cultural organisations are experiencing falling membership.  Events are powering, and the 2013 and 2015 National Conferences were great events.

We acknowledged our poor progress in encouraging students to be a part of the AICCM, and our low profile at government level. We are still not the go-to for conservation advice, and the external perception of conservators, for many, remains fixed at the level of shy practitioners—and we all know that is not true.

A bomb was dropped when one member suggested a name change. Discussion ensured around the ‘material’ in AICCM. Does our name encapsulate the dynamic spectrum of conservation? Can ‘material’ include the intangible, digital and information exchange that now dominates the profession?  Is our work based in ‘cultural’ artefacts, or is it broader? No action was taken on this suggestion at the meeting, but it has sparked an interesting forward plan.

The Council always wrestles with a simple determination of the core place of AICCM. Is AICCM ‘s main ‘client’ its members, the public or cultural heritage? We always come back to the dominance of members’ services such as professional development; events and networking as key to the soul of AICCM, but the positioning of the profession politically, communication with the public and benchmarking the care of cultural heritage are essential to the daily success of our members. As is our operational sustainability, always difficult for a predominantly volunteer run organisation.

On day two we ran through our visions statements, and broke into groups to extract our three strategic priorities for the next four years, and tasks and targets against these. This is always a tedious task, but luckily there we lots of chocolate-coated tiny teddies and gluten free biscuits to assist. Once collated, these priorities broadly cover members’ services, financial and operation sustainability, and advocacy and communication. You’ll have to check out the plan when it is uploaded later this month.

We are well positioned to continue the strategic tasks that underpin the AICCM. There are challenges including incorporation of a changing digital world into our practices and in remaining relevant to our members. We encourage you to be a part of your professional organisation, attending events, nominating for positions on council and adding content to the wiki. And think about a new organisational name?