Are we following the wrong rules? Part 4

by Joelle D. J. Wickens

If we are following the wrong rules, and we want to change them, how do we do it? For a while now, I’ve been asking myself this question in earnest with respect to one particular thing. I’ve come to a couple conclusions that I think we can apply to many different situations. 

First, rules usually have to do with maintaining dominance and control, although often we don’t recognize the connection. For example, in my first job, over 30 years ago, I was taught the rule “never go in to lead a meeting without an agenda. Don’t go in without knowing what you want to accomplish and how you will get there. Otherwise you are wasting people’s time.” I took this to heart, and throughout my career I have been told I run a good meeting. I keep people on track and people leave feeling like they have accomplished something. From another point of view, that agenda and sticking to it, is a way of maintaining my dominance and control. In August 2020, Ama Codjoe introduced me to White Dominant Culture & Something Different. This document sets forth more than a dozen common practices that knowingly or unknowingly help those in charge stay there. The experience of examining both my personal and professional life through this lens has been eye opening and an opportunity for growth. The document is full of ideas that could help us all change the rules.

Second, rules usually set up a situation where something is right or wrong, or something or someone is in or out. If we want to change the rules, one way to approach the process is to examine who or what the current rules keep out, and then ask what it will take to bring them in. The answer probably points us to how the rule needs to change.

The rules I’ve been examining most intently over the last couple of years are the rules that keep the American Institute for Conservation majority female, white, university educated, middle to upper class, and able bodied. The question I have been asking is what will it take to welcome those who have been excluded? The answers are not hard to find. Those who are left out are telling us what it will take to make them feel welcome, and as with most things these days, some of those answers are easily found on the internet. Here are a few links to thoughts that have helped me grow in my understanding of what it might take to include the excluded:

Now, maybe go back to the posts of Anna Rose, Becky, and Anisha and ask yourself who is being left out by the rules they point out. Then ask yourself what the left out are telling us will make them feel included. Then make sure you are signed up for our Zoom chat on March 10 and come talk about your conclusions with others who want to explore these ideas.

And on March 14 come back to to find out what Julia Campbell-Such, cabinetmaker and furniture and wooden objects conservator, has to say about our next topic, How do we enhance collaboration?

Author Bio

Joelle D. J. Wickens (she/her) is a daughter, sibling, wife, parent, educator, mentor, student, facilitator, preventive conservator…. Others identify her as disabled. She prefers phrases like, uses a wheelchair to navigate when outside of her home. She is an Assistant Professor of preventive conservation in the Art Conservation Department, University of Delaware, USA, and the Associate Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Her current work in preventive conservation is dedicated to evolving the practice of the specialty to place social, economic, and environmental sustainability at its core.

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