Using Blogs to Teach and Promote Conservation
Le nombre de blogues liés à la conservation a rapidement augmenté au cours des dernières années. C'est un outil populaire pour la diffusion d'informations liées à la conservation-restauration ainsi que pour sensibiliser le public à la préservation du patrimoine culturel. Parfois, des blogues d'étudiants sont intégrés dans les programmes universitaires sur la conservation, et cet article présente trois exemples de ce type, en illustrant comment les blogues peuvent être utilisés comme un outil de support d'enseignement et d'apprentissage.
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The author is grateful for the grant support provided by the International Trust for Croatian Monuments in London, which enabled her to participate in the "Teaching Conservation-Restoration" conference. She is deeply indebted to Lady Jadranka Njerš Beresford-Peirse for personal support and encouragement. For their thoughtful expert comments on the first draft of this paper the author would like to thank Goran Nikšić, PhD, Ana Šverko, PhD, and Joyce Hill Stoner, PhD. Her deepest gratitude goes to Amber Kerr, who offered many valuable corrections and constructive comments, and Graham McMaster who did a superb job in proofreading the paper.
- 1 Instead of the composite term conservation-restoration, which is the established term in Croatian, (...)
- 2 A blog is a "weblog" [abbreviated], a web site that consists of dated entries that usually appear (...)
1The conservation1 profession has recognized the need to reach out to the public, not only to present its work and to show how (public) funds are spent, but also to advocate the preservation of cultural heritage. Different forms of communication are used, and web logs, or blogs, have been recognized as a very powerful tool.2
- 3 See for example, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, http://uclagettyprogram.wordpress.com/, and AMS C (...)
- 4 For an example of a personal blog written by a conservation student, see: When Super Glue Won’t Do(...)
2Apart from presenting conservation to the general public and deepening the understanding of the profession, blogs can help knowledge and experience to be shared across the conservation community and can enhance communication within the field. It is no wonder, then, that they have also found a place in the academic setting. A number of conservation study programmes use blogs to showcase their work.3 Conservation students are also getting involved, maintaining group or individual blogs through which they provide insight into their day-to-day curricular activities.4 This paper, however, focuses on a third type of academic blog: that incorporated into university courses on conservation, which constitutes a valuable and reliable source of conservation-related information.
3Three such blogs are presented, all three incorporated into the courses of the Conservation programme of the Arts Academy of the University in Split. The blog named UAR00M is itself a method of research and documentation within the conservation course of the same name. CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation is integrated into the preventive conservation course and Internship among artworks [Stažiranje među umjetninama] was initially intended to be a part of two courses, Conservation of Easel Paintings and Polychrome Wood 3 and 4.
Fig. 1 Cover photos of the three blogs discussed in the paper
Each cover photo conveys content of the blog
Credits: Sagita Mirjam Sunara
4First, an explanation is given on how each of these blogs came about. The topics of students' blog assignments are briefly presented and the purpose of each blog is explained. That chapter is followed by one dealing with the benefits of blogging. Finally, some technical information on setting up, structuring and maintaining the blogs discussed is given.
5The first-semester compulsory course on methods of research and documentation in conservation has been a part of the study programme since the academic year 2011/2012. In the autumn of 2011 the course blog UAR00M (available at http://istrazivanje-dokumentacija.blogspot.com/) was set up. This cryptic name is actually the course unit code.
Fig. 2 Home page of the blog UAR00M
All articles appear on the main page, where they are presented in a reverse chronological order. That means that the reader will find the current material first.
- 5 The following list of tags (keywords that describe each blog entry) for 30 articles that have been (...)
6The course consists of lectures, practical demonstrations, in-class discussions and visits to libraries, archives and museums. During the course each student gets at least one written assignment where he or she will choose to write a summary of a lecture given by the course teacher or a guest speaker, an essay about an organized visit to some institution, or a report on a specific practical work. The texts are corrected and published in the blog. Short texts in which students reflect on a certain topic, usually taken from their written examinations, are also published.5
- 6 In the author's experience, students prefer texts published in the blog to course lecture notes be (...)
7The majority of articles that were published during the blog's first year were summaries of lectures given by the course teacher. This material was later revised, expanded, edited and compiled into course lecture notes. Editing students' postings into course material is one of the possible uses of course blogs. However, the primary purpose of this blog is to promote active learning. Prior to a lecture, students are asked to read a related article in the course blog. Having read it, they can participate in discussions more actively. Reading texts that include links to other resources might motivate them to do additional research.6
8Because they deal with very specific topics, articles published in this blog are intended more for conservation professionals and other conservation students than for the general public. The professional audience can find the list of assigned readings with links to materials available on the Internet published in one of the sub-pages extremely useful. On the other hand, articles in which students report on their visits to museums and other institutions are written in a journalistic style and can be quite interesting to a broader public audience.
Fig. 3 Students learn methods to document cultural heritage
At the Documentation Department of the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split students learn how archaeological sites are documented. (The photo was published in the blog UAR00M.)
Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara
- 7 The course blog was set up when the author of this text started teaching this course.
9In the academic year 2010/2011 a blog was set up for the course Preventive Conservation 1, which is a compulsory course that students take in the second semester (the blog is available at http://preventivna.blogspot.com/).7 Students were asked to propose a name for the blog, and they came up with the name CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation. It was felt that by involving the students in the shared decision-making and development of the blog they would become more actively involved in the project.
Fig. 4 Home page of the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation
Apart from the main (home) page, the blog has several sub-pages.
10The form of articles published in this blog has been evolving from one academic year to another, but the premise behind each assignment is always the same: to have students reflect on the topic they learn about and to encourage them to do research. Students usually have several writing exercises assigned to them during their coursework. They may be asked to provide an example for a topic that was discussed in the classroom. For instance, after a lecture on the protection of cultural heritage in times of armed conflict, each student was asked to describe one example of war damage to cultural heritage, and the most interesting texts were published in the blog. After visiting a museum or seeing an exhibition, students are usually asked to give an example of preventive conservation measures they have learned about or seen.
Fig. 5 Visits to museums and art galleries
In 2011 students visited the Carriage Museum in Vienna, where they observed heat treatment for insect eradication in wood flooring. They reported on this treatment in the course blog. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)
Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara
- 8 Following is a list of tags for 32 articles that have been published in CSI / Conservation Student (...)
11One interesting writing assignment students received was as follows. After visiting a large contemporary art exhibition, they were asked to submit short papers describing which measures they would take to preserve a specific object. Preservation of contemporary art was not covered by the previous lectures, so the students had to research the topic themselves.8
- 9 As already noted, Methods of Research and Documentation in Conservation is a first-semester course (...)
12Texts published in this blog serve as additional reading material for the course, as the students are instructed to read a specific article after listening to a lecture.9 Since most blog articles include links to other resources, students are more likely to broaden their research by using accessible materials and references provided in the blog.
13Articles published in CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation are intended for different audiences. Professional conservators are generally interested in articles that describe practical work, such as preventive conservation of endangered church collections or construction of storage boxes, whereas students are more likely to read articles that give an overview of a certain topic, for example the impact of light on museum collections or packing and shipping art objects. Such "review" articles will also be useful to small and mid-sized museums and private collectors.
Fig. 6 Practical assignments
Students also report about their practical assignments, such as constructing cardboard storage boxes. These texts can be of great use to small and mid-sized museums and private collectors. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)
Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara
14During their fourth year of study, students who have decided to specialize in conservation of easel paintings and polychrome wood follow a specialist course entitled Conservation of Easel Paintings and Polychrome Wood 3 (winter semester) and 4 (summer semester). At the beginning of the academic year 2010/2011 a course blog was created (available at http://stazist.blogspot.com/). As with the CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation blog, students were asked to assign the name for it. They selected Internship among artworks, because they thought it best describes their work.
Fig. 7 Home page of the blog Internship among artworks
Articles published in this blog mostly present students' conservation projects.
15Students who attend these specialized courses are highly involved in practical conservation work, so most of the articles published in the blog represent their conservation projects, such as: treatments of paintings and sculptures, art-historical and scientific research etc. These articles are primarily intended to present conservation work to a broad audience. They are also intended for beginner students, especially those who are still deliberating on their specialization.
Fig. 8 In-studio conservation treatments
Most of the texts published in the Internship among artworks blog deal with conservation projects in which students specializing in easel paintings and polychrome wood conservation participate during their fourth year of study. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)
Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara
- 10 This information is drawn from blog's analytics.
- 11 Following is a list of tags for 48 articles that have been published in Internship among artworks (...)
16Fourth-year students who specialize in conservation of easel paintings and polychrome wood are the main contributors to this course blog, but a number of articles have been published that cover other topics and areas of specialization. The authors are generally first-, second- and third-year students who have expressed an interest in sharing their experiences or have agreed to do so upon the teacher's encouragement. Topics may include stories of their preparation for the entrance exam, their Erasmus exchange experiences, and other academic endeavours. Daily journals of two conservation workshops in the sculpture park in Sisak were also published in this blog, and they attracted a large reading audience.10 In many ways, Internship among artworks resembles an online magazine on conservation.11
Fig. 9 Field projects
Participants of the conservation workshop in the Sisak Sculpture Park publish a daily journal in the Internship among artworks blog. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)
Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara
17All three blogs described previously were designed to create a more active learning environment for conservation students. Blogging encourages active learning by engaging students and making them reflect on the topic about which they are writing. It also develops their critical thinking skills. Very importantly, writing offers an opportunity for shy students, who might be reluctant to speak in the classroom, to express their opinion.
- 12 This can refer to future students, as well.
18Since the texts have to engage non-scientific audiences, i.e. people without specialized knowledge of conservation,12 students learn to present their topics in a simple, easily understandable format. In so doing, they refine their own thinking and discover new ways to present complicated topics to broader audiences. It should be noted that writing for a blog is not a substitute for academic writing, but an additional course activity.
- 13 Corrected texts are usually analyzed in the classroom so that the instructor can elaborate or clar (...)
19Accuracy and literacy can be constraining factors, as students' texts have to be corrected and edited, and sometimes expanded upon.13 This demanding and often time-consuming job falls on the shoulders of the instructor. However, writing assignments are the best way to develop students' thinking and communication skills. The more they write, the more they improve.
- 14 Another important reason why universities should have a responsibility to present their work to th (...)
20Another important reason for introducing course blogs is to develop a student’s awareness of the need to communicate with the public. This is necessary to raise public awareness of a conservators' work and advocate for preservation needs. Furthermore, an informed public is able more actively to participate in caring for and protecting the cultural heritage.14 Mastering communication with non-experts can also help students in their professional careers, as it raises their awareness about the owners or custodians of artworks, to whom they will have to explain, in simple words, what their job is and why their actions are necessary.
21Although writing in a non-scientific language is a skill that needs to be honed, the biggest challenge that students face when writing for a course blog is not only how to make their language more understandable to a wider audience of readers, but also how to make their texts interesting and engaging. If they learn how to do this, their presentation and communication skills will improve.
22Finally, one of the primary questions that arise when developing a course blogs is how to engage the student in blogging activities. In each of the courses described, participation in the course blog is mandatory and every student gets a grade for his or her blog assignment(s). Being an advocate of teaching-by-example, the author maintains a personal conservation blog, Doktor za umjetnine [Artworks Doctor] (available at http://doktor-za-umjetnine.blogspot.com/). There, students can find links to other blogs related to heritage preservation, including those written by conservation students, and read examples of the subject matter they are asked to write on. This often serves to inspire them to be more enthusiastic about their blog assignments, or even to start their own blogs.
23All three blog sites were created using Blogger, free software available through Google. Although the teacher is the sole administrator of these blogs, blogging platforms offer the possibility to add other members and to manage their permissions and access. This means that students can also be allowed to publish articles.
24The structure and design of all three blogs are very similar. All articles appear on the main page, where they are presented in a reverse chronological order. A blog archive can also be found here, as well as a list of tags. One small section contains a short description of the blog. Another section has links to other educational blogs administered by the course teacher. A small portion of UAR00M's and CSI's main page is used as a bulletin board; this is where students can find course-related notices.
- 15 As already said, all articles on these three blogs appear in reverse chronological order (this is (...)
25All three blogs have several sub-pages. These are used to describe the course and its goals (UAR00M and CSI), to display the list of lecture topics with assigned readings and links to references available on the Internet (UAR00M), to present the projects that students have participated in (Internship among artworks) and the professional literature they read (Internship among artworks).15 Two blogs, UAR00M and CSI, have several sub-pages containing students' short biographies; each sub-page presents students from one class (generation). Due to the fact that Internship among artworks has a smaller number of authors, they are all presented on a single sub-page in a short text titled "Who We Are and What We Write About". Publishing students' biographies is a great way for students to introduce themselves to the readers and, very importantly, to make themselves more visible in the conservation community.
Fig. 10 Sub-page containing students' short biographies
Publishing students' biographies is a great way for students to introduce themselves to the readers and to make themselves more visible in the conservation community.
- 16 The Conservation-Restoration Department's Facebook page is available at https://www.facebook.com/p (...)
- 17 This information is drawn from blog's analytics.
26Social media offer a great opportunity to attract a broad audience of readers, and to invite commentaries and questions. Every new posting from the three blogs described is advertised on the Facebook page of the Conservation-Restoration Department of the Arts Academy in Split16 and this is how a majority of the audience is introduced to the blogs.17 In addition to this, all three blogs link to one another. Their links can also be found on the official webpage of the Arts Academy, and have been included in the list of conservation-related resources of the International Institute for Conservation – Croatian Group.
- 18 Although students are encouraged to comment on blog postings, they rarely do so. The number of com (...)
27In order to keep readers and attract new audiences, it is important regularly to update the content. A blog trademark is the frequency with which new articles are published. The author, or the course instructor, should also take time to answer readers' comments.18 Including open-ended questions in the articles can increase the number of comments. It is also very important to check links regularly, especially those included in the list of references and resources, and to fix those that are broken.
28Although blogs were not originally designed for academia, their use in the academic setting is growing. In this paper the author has tried to show how blogs can be used to teach and promote conservation.
- 19 The number of page visits to three blogs described in this paper proves that: UAR00M has over 12,0 (...)
- 20 For example, visitors to the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program blog are invited to donate to the Con (...)
29Conservation blogs created in academia can serve many purposes: to archive and share knowledge, to present the work of conservation students to professionals and to the general audience, to contribute to the visibility of the profession, and to raise public awareness of the need to protect and preserve cultural heritage. Apart from enhancing communication with their students, blogs enable university teachers to reach audiences beyond classroom walls in great numbers19 and are remarkable tools for public outreach, advocacy, and fundraising.20
1 Instead of the composite term conservation-restoration, which is the established term in Croatian, the term conservation is used in this paper to describe all activities related to the preservation of cultural property; this is in accordance with the Anglo-Saxon terminology. The term conservation-restoration is used only in the titles of institutions (The Conservation-Restoration Department of the Arts Academy) and events (Teaching Conservation-Restoration Conference).
2 A blog is a "weblog" [abbreviated], a web site that consists of dated entries that usually appear in reverse chronological sequence. Anyone can comment on these articles (also known as blog posts), or respond to other people's comments.
3 See for example, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, http://uclagettyprogram.wordpress.com/, and AMS Conservation Department, http://profconservation.wordpress.com/. It should be noted that faculty members usually administer this type of blog.
4 For an example of a personal blog written by a conservation student, see: When Super Glue Won’t Do (written by Steven O'Banion, Winterthur / University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, class of 2012), http://www.whensupergluewontdo.com/. Examples of class-administered blogs on conservation: Queen's University Art Conservation Student Blog, http://queensartcon.blogspot.com/?view=classic, Conservation Class of 2016 Blog (written by conservation students at the Institute of Fine Arts, University of New York), https://ifacc.wordpress.com/.
5 The following list of tags (keywords that describe each blog entry) for 30 articles that have been published in UAR00M so far [April 2014] provides an insight into topics published in the blog and covered by the course: written documentation, photographic documentation, graphic documentation, non-destructive research methods, scientific research, writing seminars, writing papers, field work, libraries and archives, museums and exhibitions, history of conservation, preservation of contemporary art [this refers to interviews with artists], Internet resources, public outreach, digitalization, students' reflections, conferences.
6 In the author's experience, students prefer texts published in the blog to course lecture notes because they include illustrations and links to other resources.
7 The course blog was set up when the author of this text started teaching this course.
8 Following is a list of tags for 32 articles that have been published in CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation so far: preservation of museum objects, preservation of textile objects, preservation of contemporary art, preservation of audio-visual heritage, packing – lending museum objects –transport, light as a cause of decay, protection against earthquake, protection against theft, illicit traffic of cultural goods, protecting cultural property during an armed conflict, protection of religious objects, inventory of cultural property, field projects, seminars, students' reflections, Internet resources.
9 As already noted, Methods of Research and Documentation in Conservation is a first-semester course, and Preventive Conservation 1 is a second-semester course. First-year students are enrolled in both courses, which means that they possess little prior knowledge about the topics presented in the blogs.
10 This information is drawn from blog's analytics.
11 Following is a list of tags for 48 articles that have been published in Internship among artworks so far: Our Lady of Lourdes (painting), The Portrait of an Officer (painting), The Veil of Veronica (painting), The Baptism of Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel (painting), The Angel (sculpture), Madonna (polychromed wood-carving), Branislav Dešković Art Gallery, International Conservation Workshop Lopud, Sisak Ironworks Heritage Factory [Tvornica baštine Željezara Sisak], cleaning paintings, textile patches, textile inlays, strip lining, lining, filling in, retouching, reconstructive works, non-destructive analysis, art-historical research, preventive conservation, copies and replicas, conservation studio, conferences, professional literature, entrance exam, presenting students, students' reflections, field work, public outreach, Erasmus.
12 This can refer to future students, as well.
13 Corrected texts are usually analyzed in the classroom so that the instructor can elaborate or clarify concepts and issues pertaining to the topic discussed.
14 Another important reason why universities should have a responsibility to present their work to the community is to show accountability to the taxpayers, but that topic falls outside the scope of this paper.
15 As already said, all articles on these three blogs appear in reverse chronological order (this is how blogs usually work), which means that the reader will find the current material first. In spite of the use of tags and the blog archive, browsing may not be always simple. A solution of this problem could be to use a sub-page with a reference list of (annotated) blog entries, arranged according to topics or thematic units.
16 The Conservation-Restoration Department's Facebook page is available at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Odsjek-za-konzervaciju-restauraciju-UMAS-a/121924911194688.
17 This information is drawn from blog's analytics.
18 Although students are encouraged to comment on blog postings, they rarely do so. The number of comments in the blogs discussed in this paper is generally very small, although all of them have a very high number of visits. This does not suggest that blogs cannot serve as a forum for discussion; they can. They can also be used to stimulate discussions among students, but the purpose of the blogs described is not to involve students in that type of online activity.
19 The number of page visits to three blogs described in this paper proves that: UAR00M has over 12,000 page visits, CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation over 14,500, and Internship among artworks has more than 17,500 visits [statistical information from April 2014].
20 For example, visitors to the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program blog are invited to donate to the Conservation Student Support Fund, which sponsors student stipends, travel and research.Haut de page
Table des illustrations
|Titre||Fig. 1 Cover photos of the three blogs discussed in the paper|
|Légende||Each cover photo conveys content of the blog|
|Crédits||Credits: Sagita Mirjam Sunara|
|Titre||Fig. 2 Home page of the blog UAR00M|
|Légende||All articles appear on the main page, where they are presented in a reverse chronological order. That means that the reader will find the current material first.|
|Titre||Fig. 3 Students learn methods to document cultural heritage|
|Légende||At the Documentation Department of the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split students learn how archaeological sites are documented. (The photo was published in the blog UAR00M.)|
|Crédits||Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara|
|Titre||Fig. 4 Home page of the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation|
|Légende||Apart from the main (home) page, the blog has several sub-pages.|
|Titre||Fig. 5 Visits to museums and art galleries|
|Légende||In 2011 students visited the Carriage Museum in Vienna, where they observed heat treatment for insect eradication in wood flooring. They reported on this treatment in the course blog. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)|
|Crédits||Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara|
|Titre||Fig. 6 Practical assignments|
|Légende||Students also report about their practical assignments, such as constructing cardboard storage boxes. These texts can be of great use to small and mid-sized museums and private collectors. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)|
|Crédits||Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara|
|Titre||Fig. 7 Home page of the blog Internship among artworks|
|Légende||Articles published in this blog mostly present students' conservation projects.|
|Titre||Fig. 8 In-studio conservation treatments|
|Légende||Most of the texts published in the Internship among artworks blog deal with conservation projects in which students specializing in easel paintings and polychrome wood conservation participate during their fourth year of study. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)|
|Crédits||Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara|
|Titre||Fig. 9 Field projects|
|Légende||Participants of the conservation workshop in the Sisak Sculpture Park publish a daily journal in the Internship among artworks blog. (The photo was published in the blog CSI / Conservation Students' Investigation.)|
|Crédits||Photo: Sagita Mirjam Sunara|
|Titre||Fig. 10 Sub-page containing students' short biographies|
|Légende||Publishing students' biographies is a great way for students to introduce themselves to the readers and to make themselves more visible in the conservation community.|
Pour citer cet article
Sagita Mirjam Sunara, « Using Blogs to Teach and Promote Conservation », CeROArt [En ligne], | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 octobre 2014, consulté le 23 avril 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/4293Haut de page
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