Our #HangoutWithAPOYOnline is special! We interviewed the founder of APOYOnline, Amparo Rueda, who turns 80 in July! We wish all the happiness and joy in the world to our Amparito!
1) We believe that a person with such consolidated career and knowledge in the field of preservation as you does not need introduction, but please comment briefly about you and your trajectory from your own vision and experience.
Apoyo (now APOYOnline), started 33 years ago as an idea, as a dream. I felt it was necessary to connect the northern and southern hemispheres to better care for our cultural patrimony in the Americas. Professionals in Latin America were working in a very isolated environment. They did not talk to each other, did not have access to current information in Spanish or Portuguese, and there were little or no avenues to connect with each other. I felt the entire continent had to be connected in a real way to help the professionals caring for our cultural heritage. From this idea of connecting people many things have derived: we started offering translations into Spanish and Portuguese, scholarships to attend international meetings and organized regional meetings. This has resulted in dialogues and collaborations among professionals from different countries.
2) How would you define the current moment of the conservation and restoration field in Latin America?
The field is very different from 33 years ago, it has grown and expanded. There are many bridges connecting people. APOYOnline has created and nurtured a network of over 6,000 individuals and institutions to date. However, there are still big gaps in terms of the availability of training programs. Some countries have several universities offering basic and specialized training, while some countries have little or no training available. One of the goals in our five-year Strategic Plan, recently completed, is offering excellent virtual training that will reach isolated regions so we can close this gap. We have formed alliances with universities, with very experienced professionals and with different institutions to offer long distance virtual conservation and preservation training. We have connected the conservation and preservation field in Latin America, Caribbean, Portugal and Spain, but we need to do a lot more!
3) What do you expect for the preservation field in Latin America in the next 30 years?
I hope there will be a more level playing field in the entire region. I hope there will be fewer gaps. I hope APOYOnline can help close the gaps that exist today. I hope there will be a lot more people trained and involved. I hope there will be a lot more bridges created to connect professionals, countries and regions.
4) What was your goal when you created APOYO? And how do you analyze more than 30 years of this institution? Do you feel that your journey with APOYOnline has been what you expected?
From the very beginning our aim was to build bridges of communication. We started publishing a newsletter sending timely conservation and preservation information in Spanish. We expanded creating a web page in Spanish and Portuguese. With the generous help of countless volunteers, we started a network of communication, we have formed alliances with many institutions in the American continent, Spain and Portugal, we have brought professionals to the USA to attend international meetings, we have organized regional conferences where over 30 countries have been represented. I am very proud of the work we have done and continue to do. We have received the support and recognition of important organizations, including the Mellon Foundation. The dream that seemed very hard to reach 33 years ago is today a reality. I feel this is exactly what we wanted. Reflecting on these great accomplishments gives us energy and the impetus to continue working very hard.
5) This month is your birthday! First, congratulations and best wishes, 80 years with such an incredible trajectory is not for everyone! And of course, we have a lot ahead of us! How do you evaluate your life’s journey in the field of preservation and what are your future projects?
I am very happy and very pleased with what we have accomplished. The initial idea of forming a network came from myself and just two friends, and I worked by myself at the beginning. But I could not have done it alone. It has been the titanic work and effort of many, many volunteers, for several years now under the extraordinary leadership of Beatriz Haspo. Our Strategic Plan gives us a road map to continue advancing during the next five years. I feel fine but have less energy than 33 years ago. I will continue working as far as I can go. We have many, many ideas and projects I would love to see completed.
6) What message for young people working in the field of preservation would you like to share?
Dreams come true. Work hard and don’t give up. Join forces with others, find others who are trying to reach similar goals, work together. La unión hace la fuerza. There is strength in unity.