Where do we go from here?

by Joelle D. J. Wickens

With this post, I bring this blog series to a close. To get my head in a place where I was ready to write, I just re-read the whole series, from beginning to end, and I dug into the statistics I can get from Google analytics on who is visiting the site.

My first takeaway? We are full of so many thought-provoking questions! Here are a few:

  • If I have to break my own rules all the time in order to do my job, then are those rules inherently broken? Anna Rose Keefe
  • Who are we excluding and harming by qualifying a specific practice as “best”? Becky Kaczkowski
  • What if we consider anyone who cares for heritage as a conservator? Anisha Gupta
  • Can we call it collaboration if we are still sitting across the table from the same people year after year, looking for answers within our own professional “best practices” and history? Becky Fifield
  • How can we create safe spaces for people from different fields to come together and feel okay admitting they don’t know something so that we can learn from each other and work together? Becca Napolitano
  • What actions are necessary to uproot fear? To bolster trust in ourselves and fellow workers? Natalya Swanson

Second takeaway? My expressed desire to have the “blog pull readers and listeners into thought and discussion” was met at some level. Google analytics tells me that 786 ‘users’ in 29 countries accessed the blog content between January 17 and April 9, 2022. Presumably those 786 users spent some time thinking about the content. I know they didn’t use the discussion tools on the right of each page to engage with the content. So, no discussion there. However, I know we did have two Zoom discussions with a total of 28 participants. One was an hour and the other an hour and a half. Both were filled with fairly easy flowing thoughts and interchanges. So, definitely some discussion there. I know that at other times in 3 months since the blog series was launched, a variety of readers have engaged me in discussion about the posts, at the office, in a zoom meeting, or in an email. Perhaps it is safe to assume others were doing the same?

The last takeaway I will share today? The authors and discussion participants are ready to work in a world where fear is not a driving and defining factor. A world where “rules” support inclusion rather than exclusion, and enable rather than hinder. A world where we insist on the time, embrace vulnerability, and get up and leave our labs and offices to find new people with whom to collaborate. How do we create this world? I think one essential step is grappling with one’s own foundation of fear, need for exclusive rules, and preference for the comfort of what we already know. If we are not individually ready to contribute we can’t work with others to create what we want.

This summer I embark on a new project, Developing New Methodologies for Cultural Heritage Conversation. It invites me to address fear, rules and collaboration. What are your next steps? Do you have a plan for collaboration, or thoughts about what Julia, Jeremy, Becky and Becca have shared about collaboration? Let’s chat via Zoom on April 18 (previously scheduled for April 14). Sign up below.

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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