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Icon welcomes individuals and organisations from all backgrounds who identify with the conservation and preservation of our cultural heritage.  Our membership embraces the entire conservation community as well as members of the public who are keen to learn more or show their support for conservation work.

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20:20 Vision - The Conservation Workforce of the Future

In 2008 Icon held two events about the future of the conservation workforce. The first of these, called 20:20 Vision - The Conservation Workforce of the Future, was held at Tate Modern on 9 January.  Details of this event are on the page below.

The second event, held jointly with the Textile Conservation Centre, was held on 12 June.  Details of this event are here.


Securing Conservation Education in the United Kingdom

David Leigh's report for the Textile Conservation Centre, March 2009:


20:20 Vision Events 2008

On 9 January 2008 Icon hosted an event called '20:20 Vision - The Conservation Workforce of the Future' held at Tate Modern.  The purpose of this event was to think about the implications for higher education of the changing needs and demands that the future conservation workforce will face.  The presentations made on the day can be found below.

The outcome was a consensus of the need for a new and closer partnership between conservation employers (museums, galleries, libraries and archives as well as larger private sector firms) and educational institutions. 

On 12 June a second seminar was held in London at which invited participants took this discussion to the next stage.  There was a review of some current research undertaken by Demos into the value of conservation to contemporary society and an update of research by Dr. David Leigh about the current profile of education and training in the UK.  Participants were then asked to bring forward specific proposals for how their own institution could contribute to a closer and more productive partnership between employers and universities.  Presentations will be posted here soon.

See presentations from 9th January Meeting

9th January 2008, Tate Modern

This symposium for conservation employers asked two key questions about the future conservation workforce:

What Does the Conservation Workforce Need to Look Like in 2020?

What will the public expect from museums, libraries, galleries and archives in 2020? What demands will the commercial sector in conservation have to address? What does this mean in terms of the future workforce? What new skills will conservators need to have? How many will be needed? How many will be working directly for heritage institutions and how many will be independent?

What Part Do Employers Need To Play in Developing It?

Most people agree that a partnership between universities and employers is required to deliver the future workforce, but what should that partnership look like? Our profession relies on universities to produce graduates with a good theoretical and scientific grounding in conservation, allied with the maximum degree of practical skills and experience that can be delivered within the course time available. Teaching this unique academic-practical mix relies necessarily on a low student-staff ratio, at odds with current government pressures on higher education institutions. Can employers help universities by contributing to the development of conservation training in this climate, and what possible models can be developed?

This symposium is the first of three interlinked events that will take place in 2008, all focusing on different aspects of education and the conservation workforce.

The second meeting, an international summit organised by the Textile Conservation Centre, asks what future there is for conservation education and research in universities in the UK and how it can best be secured. This will also be an invitation only event and will take place in London in the summer of 2008.


At the end of the day's sessions, the consensus was that conservation employers needed to play a greater role in the future education and training of the workforce. It was also clear that there was a real keeness among employers present to find practical ways of doing so.

The two tasks which Icon will therefore take on in 2008 are:

i. helping employers to map out exactly what kind of expanded role they are able to take on
ii. exploring with universities and other training institutions how an increased employer role could help them restructure what they do so that we maintain standards, increase employability and redistribute training responsibilities in a way which yields benefits for universities, employers and trainees alike.

Three specific actions were agreed as a followup to the seminar on 9 January:

1. Icon will go back and revise its provisional statement on training and professional entry in the light of the contributions made during the day.

2. Icon will publish a summary of the main points raised during the seminar and draft conclusions/next steps and circulate these to all participants for comment and discussion.

3. Icon will draft a set of proposals/questions arising from this seminar and forward them to participants in the second seminar, to be hosted by the Textile Conservation in the summer of 2008.


2020 Vision: The Conservation Workforce of the Future
Alastair McCapra, Icon Chief Executive slides speaking notes

The Future Workforce
Roy Clare, Chief Executive, MLA written summary will be published shortly

Have We Got the Workforce We Deserve?’
Mark Taylor, Chief Executive, the Museums Association slides speaking notes

The Heritage Lottery Fund: investing in skills for the future'
Carole Souter, Director, Heritage Lottery Fund slides speaking notes

Developing Conservation Skills for the Future in the National Trust
Katy Lithgow ACR, Head Conservator slides speaking notes (© National Trust 2008)

Employment and Education Partnership
Chris Woods ACR, Director, Collection & Programme Services, Tate slides

The contribution of private sector employers
Robert Turner ACR, Eura Conservation

Icon’s contribution to developing the future workforce
Carol Brown ACR, Icon Training Development Manager slides

The future of professional standards and accreditation
Alastair McCapra, Icon Chief Executive slides

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