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National Conservation Education & Skills Strategy PDF Print E-mail

Icon's National Conservation Education and Skills Strategy (NCESS)

"Education and skills are fundamental to the future of the conservation sector. ICON's new Education and Skills Strategy is ambitious, but realistic in its ambitions and with the backing of its different stakeholders provides a route-map by which it may become reality.  I congratulate ICON on taking the initiative and urge its partners to support them wholeheartedly." -- Baroness Sharp of Guildford

Introduction to the Strategy (NECESS)

The National Conservation Education and Skills Strategy (NCESS) was launched in April 2012 at the Clothworkers' Hall, London.

The UK’s enormously rich and varied cultural heritage provides significant social and economic benefits. For this to continue, our cultural heritage needs to be cared for effectively. This will require a wide spectrum of society having an interest in working to preserve the material world, and having the knowledge, skills and understanding to do so. To meet this challenge, in the foreseeable economic climate, a strategic approach to the provision of conservation education, training and research is essential.

This strategy deals with the conservation of cultural heritage. The term conservation is used here to refer to the full range of activities associated with the restoration and preservation of our material heritage: analysis, assessment, treatment, documentation, protection, etc. The term cultural heritage is used here to refer to movable material heritage – including elements of buildings, such as wall paintings and stained glass windows but not the buildings themselves – as well as the intangible values associated with the material heritage.

Cultural heritage conservation is part of a rich and diverse “heritage industry” including cultural heritage conservation and restoration practitioners, scientists, architects, surveyors, managers, educators, traditional and heritage craftspeople, skilled trades (particularly associated with built heritage), owners, curators, librarians, archivists, technicians and volunteers. To deliver this strategy, it is essential to foster a collective responsibility, building connections between the built and moveable heritage sectors, the crafts and the conservation profession.

  • Conservation education and training are essential and complementary. They include the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and the development of understanding, judgement and awareness – from entry levels to advanced postgraduate research:
  • Knowledge that is both discipline-specific and common to all conservation disciplines, extending across art, humanities and sciences;
  • Skills, including traditional/craft, practical, research, and generic (including communication, management, business, and leadership);
  • Understanding, judgment and awareness (including awareness of professional ethics and of the values ascribed to material heritage).

Effective conservation practitioners need all of these for what is fundamentally an interpretive role in relation to cultural heritage. Conservation is characterised and enriched by a combination of the specialist and inter-disciplinary, crossing boundaries of humanities, science, art and craft. This expertise includes the ability to work collaboratively with a range of professionals, including curators, scientists, conservation scientists, art historians, historians, traditional craftspeople, heritage managers, owners and others.

Purpose of the Strategy

This strategy is a national strategy, setting the direction for conservation education over the next five years. The strategy aims to recognise the particular contexts of the devolved nations within the UK, and is contextualised within European and wider international developments.

Icon has facilitated the development and articulation of the strategy and therefore owns it.

However, responsibility for delivery of the strategy is not Icon’s alone; it lies with the UK cultural heritage community at large. This community is already contributing to many of the objectives in the strategy. The purpose of the strategy is to weave the various threads together, to persuade others to contribute, and to ensure the use of resources is optimised. 

The strategy’s purpose is to foster a successful learning and research environment in the UK that delivers the knowledge, skills and understanding that will be needed in the future.

Conservation education in the UK already has an excellent reputation. There are well established working relationships between educators and employers, while qualifications and the professional standards enable many routes of entry to the profession. The strategy aims to build on these strengths by galvanising stakeholders, bringing people together, and including all those who contribute to the conservation of cultural heritage.

Read more about the organisations which have endorsed the Strategy

© 2015 Icon - The Institute of Conservation. Icon is registered as a Charity in England and Wales (Number 1108380) and in Scotland (Number SC039336) and is a Company Limited by Guarantee, (Number 5201058)
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