The Application Process

The application process for CAPC accreditation is straight-forward. It consists of :


A. Submitting an application package and portfolio

B. An interview with an applicant-approved peer review panel to discuss the portfolio.

A. The application package must contain

  • a completed application form (much of the information required may be on your CV)

  • a portfolio with condition reports, proposals and treatment documentation, etc. for at least five projects that represent the area (or areas) for which you are seeking accreditation;

  • three independent letters of reference;

  • proof of Canadian citizenship (??);

  • degree or diploma from conservation training institutions (if applicable);

  • a $50 non-refundable application fee for each accreditation speciality, Make cheque payable to "CAPC Treasurer"

B. Examination Interview with Peer Review Panel

  • Examination interviews are usually scheduled during the annual CAC conferences, which are held in May or June

  • A Board of Examiners that is selected for each portfolio review must meet the applicant's approval.

Qualifications for membership and more detailed information about the accreditation process can be found at:

Please send your complete application package to the CAPC Membership Chair, c/o CMA, 280 Metcalfe Street Suite 400, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1R7

All documents pertaining to an application are treated as confidential.



















Accreditation in Conservation: The Canadian Experience

Published in: ICOM Committee for Conservation 11th Triennial Meeting, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1-6 September 1996, Preprints, Volume 1, James & James, London, page 153-157.


Karen Colby-Stothart, President
Carole Dignard, Secretary
and Michaela Keyserlingk, Membership Chair,

Canadian Association of Professional Conservators
280 Metcalfe Street, suite 400
Ottawa, Ont. K2P 1R7

accreditation, certification, professional, association, eligibility, Canada, Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC)


The Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC) is a professional accreditation body incorporated in 1971 under the Canada Corporations Act. This paper discusses the structure of CAPC's peer-review accreditation mechanism and how the association operates.

1. Introduction

While there are very few countries with established conservation accreditation schemes in place, many are now exploring ways of setting up professional accreditation systems. Canada has had a professional accreditation programme for conservators in effect since 1971 and the authors of this paper hope to contribute to the dialogue now taking place in the international community by describing our context and how the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC) operates.


2. The Canadian Context

Although a small conservation community has existed in Canada since the 1930s, the field expanded tremendously beginning in the early 1970s when unprecedented financial support was directed at the conservation and museum community by the federal government. At the time there was a lack of existing organizational infrastructure in the field and a large scale search for conservators, to fill newly created positions and government funded laboratories, was ongoing. This unique early environment resulted in widespread community concern for the establishment of definitions and standards and was instrumental in the evolution of an association dedicated to accreditation in Canada at that early time.
The Canadian Association of Professional Art Conservators (CAPAC, whose name was later changed to the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators or CAPC) was established in 1971. Its aims were to define and maintain standards of professional practice, to promote an understanding of these standards among conservators, clients, and custodians, and to provide a voice for Canadian conservators on conservation issues. Membership was restricted to those who successfully completed an examination through peer review. CAPAC was instrumental in, among other things, the establishment of the first Canadian university training programme at Queen's University in 1974.

Another cornerstone of the Canadian conservation community, established in these early years, was the International Institute for Conservation - Canadian Group (IIC-CG). Unlike CAPC which has professional entrance requirements, this association is open to any individuals or organizations interested in conservation. Its role is to promote communication within the field and to disseminate information through conferences, training workshops, a scholarly journal, a newsletter and ad hoc committees on relevant issues.

CAPC and IIC-CG were established with mutually supportive roles and have collaborated closely on a number of important projects, including the publication of the Code of Ethics and Guidance for Practice for Those Involved in the Conservation of Cultural Property in Canada (1986, 1989) and the establishment of conservation internship grants through federally funded programmes. Discussions regarding the possible amalgamation of the two organizations have taken place in the past, but careful consideration has, to date, favoured the benefits of two independant organizations serving complementary functions. It is always possible that this question will be discussed again in the future and that a new structure might evolve.
Today the community consists of approximately 400 people, including educators, students, technicians, conservators and conservation scientists. It is estimated that the IIC-CG membership represents about 75% of those active in conservation in Canada. The CAPC membership represents approximately 20 to 25% of conservators who meet CAPC eligibility requirements.

3. CAPC Structure

CAPC is a non-profit corporation administered by a Board of Directors consisting of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Member-at-large and, since 1995, a Membership Chair, all of whom are elected and serve two year terms. In addition, since 1995 the Past-President is an ex-officio voting member of the Board of Directors, a change intended to enhance continuity of experience at the Board of Directors level. All Directors serve without remuneration. Although successful in the past in obtaining grants from the federal government, notably through the federal Museums Assistance Programme, CAPC is self-supporting and depends on revenues generated through membership fees to support the costs associated with processing applications.

Following is a summary of CAPC's membership categories and accreditation mechanism. The CAPC Membership Directory describes these in greater detail and is available on request.

3.1 Categories of Membership and Areas of Specialization
There is one membership category, that of the "Professional Member", and two sub-categories, namely, the "Conservator" and the "Conservation Scientist". Professional members are accredited in one or more area(s) of specialization. These include the traditional specialties such as paintings, textiles, objects, etc, as well as management, education, mixed collections, preventive conservation and others. The applicant specifies his/her area(s) of specialization in his/her application.

3.2 Prerequisites for Membership
An applicant must satisfy the following basic eligibility requirements: - he/she must have received training in conservation through an academic training programme, apprenticeship or some other form of training (including self-training).
- he/she must have a minimum of six full years of experience in conservation including training and practice, or at least 3 years of conservation practice after graduation from a college or university conservation training programme.
- he/she must have demonstrated an active involvement in the conservation field during at least four years (e.g. through professional interaction with other conservators or through membership in conservation associations).
- he/she must be currently active in the field of conservation and either a Canadian citizen, a landed immigrant, or a practitioner working principally in Canada.

3.3. Submission of an Application
The candidate must submit a formal application which includes a completed CAPC membership application form, supporting documents to confirm training (such as transcripts of formal conservation training, if applicable) and experience (such as letters of reference or letters of confirmation of work experience), and an application fee (currently CAN$50). A further examination fee of $100 is required if the applicant successfully passes the examination, which also covers the fee for the first year of membership.

Applications received by the association are processed in strict confidence by the Membership Committee, following the association's Rules and Regulations Governing Membership. The Membership Committee's role is largely administrative and, among other duties, serves to pre-screen applicants for basic eligibility requirements. The committee is also responsible for assembling a suitable Board of Examiners for each applicant (subject to the approval by the Board of Directors), and, in general, facilitating the processing of applications.

3.4 Examination by a Board of Examiners
The examination is a peer review evaluation in which a Board of Examiners assesses the application and portfolio, and interviews the applicant. The process is fully described in CAPC's Rules and Regulations Governing Membership and is provided to anyone who expresses interest in joining CAPC. The Board of Examiners consists of at least four peers, two of whom are experienced in performing these examinations, and at least two who are specialists in the applicant's field (see 3.6 Constitution and Duties of the Board of Examiners). The aim of the examination is to establish the applicant's professional competence and ability to take full responsibility for the initiation and execution of conservation projects of a practical, scientific or managerial nature. It is designed to assess the applicant's knowledge, abilities and ethical principles.

There are two major areas covered in the assessment. The first concerns general knowledge and principles common to all professionals in the field of conservation, such as: effects and control of the environment; basic care, handling, storage and transportation of cultural property; ethical principles, including the relationship of the conservation profession to society, the cultural object, the custodian or owner of the object, the originator of the objects and the conservation profession itself. The second area covered in the assessment concerns knowledge, ability and standards of practice specific to the applicant's area/s of specialization, and normally includes: cultural and historical significance of the object; examination techniques; documentation procedures; materials of the object; technology and fabrication of the object; conservation materials and processes; possible effects of treatments on objects; relevant literature; organization and design of appropriate workspace; health hazards, safety and precautions; insurance responsibilities; and security.

The assessment is done through the following methods:

a) Examination of a portfolio of five to ten conservation projects or case histories for which the applicant has been responsible. The actual number of projects included in the portfolio may vary depending on the magnitude and complexity of the projects submitted. The applicant is asked to submit projects that are recent, that are representative of his or her range of conservation experience and that illustrate the level of documentation maintained.

b) Consideration of three letters of reference attesting to the quality of work, methods of practice, and work experience, where applicable.

c) Assessment of publications, where relevant.

d) Assessment of the applicant's conservation facilities, described in the applicant's application. If the applicant does not have a laboratory, he/she must demonstrate knowledge of laboratory related issues, including basic facilities, equipment, tools and supplies for the applicant's field of specialization, adequate equipment for the types of work undertaken, acceptable level of security for objects, health and safety concerns, and so on.

e) A one to one and a half hour interview with the Board of Examiners, where all of the above information is discussed and reviewed.
The Board of Examiners may request additional information during the application process including: additional documentation on projects; additional letters of reference; or the holding of an in situ examination of laboratory facilities and work in progress.

3.5 Laboratory Visit
Until 1995, the examination process required a visit to the applicant's laboratory or studio facilities, in order to assess the work environment and work in progess. This was done by two persons, at least one of whom was a member of the Board of Examiners, and one who was experienced in the applicant's area of specialization. However, the cost of continuing this practice as a matter of routine has become prohibitive. As of February 1996, the laboratory visit has become an optional component of the examination. The applicant is now asked to describe his facilities and work in progress in the application form, portfolio, and interview, and if, after the interview, a member of the Board of Examiners feels that a lab visit would be of further use in assessing the applicant, then a lab visit is arranged.

3.6 Constitution and Duties of the Board of Examiners
The Board of Examiners consists of at least four experienced members of the conservation profession, as follows: a) Two Standing Members. These examiners are responsible for ensuring that the examination follows CAPC Rules and Regulations Governing Membership and that it is carried out in a consistent manner. All Standing Members are designated annually by the Board of Directors from among CAPC members who have experience with other CAPC Boards of Examiners. The Chairperson of the Board of Examiners must be one of the Standing Members, and must have served on a minimum of three previous Boards of Examiners. b) A minimum of two other ad hoc members. These examiners need not be members of CAPC. They are appointed on the basis of expertise to ensure that the applicant's area of specialization is adequately represented.

Members of a Board of Examiners are proposed by the Membership Committee and approved by the Board of Directors. They must sign an oath of confidentiality upon appointment. Their duties involve assessing the applicant's eligibility for membership as demonstrated through the application and portfolio; conducting the examination interview; determining if a lab visit is necessary and if so, how it will be conducted; providing the Board of Directors with a written report of the examination; providing a list of recommendations regarding possible areas of improvement; recommending if the applicant should be admitted to the Association, and in which category and area/s of specialization.

The number of examiners on Boards was reduced in 1996 from "at least 5 members", to "at least 4". The main reason for this was to make the process less costly and to improve efficiency. After a review of CAPC's Boards of Examiners, it was felt that a minimum of four examiners were necessary to ensure fairness to each applicant. It is now possible, under exceptional circumstances, for teleconferencing of one member of the Board of Examiners. Another major change, implemented in September 1995, is that the President or Vice-President need not be a member of each Board. In the past, this was viewed as necessary to ensure a uniform level of assessment on all Boards. However this obligation was extremely demanding on the President's time and decreased the efficiency of the processing of applications. The association now relies on the two experienced Standing Members per Board of Examiners, for continuity in the examination process.

3.7 Admission of Applicants and Appeals
The Board of Examiners submits its report and recommendations to the Board of Directors of CAPC. Only under exceptional circumstances would the decision of a Board of Examiners not be ratified. The applicant is informed by letter and receives a membership certificate. If the Board of Examiners recommends against the admission of an applicant, and the applicant is dissatisfied with the explanation given, he or she can request a meeting with one of the Standing Members of the Board of Examiners to review the findings and recommendations. If the applicant is still dissatisfied after this meeting, he or she may appeal directly to the Board of Directors.

4. Benefits to Clients, to the Community and to Members

Membership in CAPC demonstrates that a practitioner has achieved a recognized level of competence, as acknowledged by the peer review process. This can be useful for employers, clients and the museum community who may rely on the professional association to provide a means of recognizing qualified conservation professionals. CAPC produces a Directory of Members which it distributes widely to those enquiring about conservation services in Canada and has produced a brochure promoting the understanding of the CAPC professional designation, aimed at collectors and custodians. CAPC does, however, recognize that there are many qualified practitioners in Canada who are not members of CAPC and has collaborated with IIC-CG in the joint production of the brochure entitled Selecting and Employing a Conservator in Canada aimed at guiding custodians of cultural property in selecting a conservator. Other joint CAPC/IIC-CG outreach brochures are in the process of being produced. CAPC also regularly responds with comments and suggestions to government initiatives, task forces and other policy papers regarding government museum and cultural issues, when required.

CAPC has a formal complaint mechanism in place. If a client (or other) is dissatisfied with the work carried out by a CAPC member, he/she may appeal to the association for a review of the member's competence and ethical judgment. There are clear procedures in the association's Bylaws which may be found in the Membership Directory. If the complaint is found to be without justification, the member is exonerated; if the complaint is found to be minor, the member is notified of the perceived deficiency and advised to upgrade his/her standards; if the complaint is more serious, in addition to the previous, the member is censured and warned that future violations could lead to revocation of membership; and finally, if the complaint is a major violation of the code of Ethics or a repeated violation, then membership is terminated.

Individual members may benefit in different ways from their association with CAPC. Those in private practice or regularly seeking new contracts may benefit from a professional designation that employers and clients in Canada increasingly recognize as important. Conservators without formal academic training may benefit from the endorsement that CAPC accreditation can provide for them. And finally, all conservators and conservation scientists, in all situations, benefit from the increased professionalization of the conservation field in Canada. Some work is ongoing to provide group insurance and other practical member benefits, and collaboration with IIC-CG on internship training programmes and other projects of direct relevance to the conservation community will continue.

The most important beneficiary, however, is the Canadian museum community and the cultural heritage in question. Im maintaining a membership dedicated to high standards of practice and the promotion of the understanding of the need for the use of skilled professionals by all custodians or owners of cultural property, CAPC is first and foremost committed to safeguarding our cultural heritage for the future.

5. Conclusion

CAPC has been accrediting professional conservators for 25 years. New pressures for efficiency and cost effectiveness in our structure and procedures have led to the most recent refinements of the original peer review process first established in 1971. All procedures are fully described in the CAPC literature and can be made available upon request.

Note: all CAPC publications are published in English and French.

Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, 1995, Canadian Association of Professional Conservators - Information for Collectors and Custodians, Ottawa. (5 page leaflet)

Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, 1993, Canadian Association of Professional Conservators Membership Directory, Ottawa, 64 pp. [Includes CAPC's Bylaws and Rules and Regulations Governing Membership]

International Institute for Conservation - Canadian Group and Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, 1989, 2nd edition, Code of Ethics and Guidance for Practice for Those Involved in the Conservation of Cultural Property in Canada, Ottawa, 20 pp.

Ramsay-Jolicoeur, Barbara A., 1994, "Accreditation in Conservation: Towards Professional Status", in Journal of the IIC-Canadian Group, vol. 19, pp 24-30.
International Institute for Conservation - Canadian Group and Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, 1989, Selecting and Employing a Conservator in Canada, Ottawa. (7 page leaflet)


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