A newly established Diversity & Inclusion Task and Finish Group is looking at diversity issues within Icon and the wider field of conservation to recommend actions which will help to address imbalances within our profession.
Being inclusive is one of Icon’s core values. We value diversity and aim to ensure that opportunities are open to all those who want to care for our heritage. In 2018, Icon hosted a townhall debate with The C-Word podcast on improving diversity in conservation, examining the range of potential barriers to access, from salaries to perceptions of the profession.
While we have taken some modest steps to better understand the lack of diversity, this is clearly not enough. Icon’s evidence shows that we are still far from being diverse: our latest membership survey saw more than 88% of respondents identify as white. Only 6% gave an alternate ethnic group designation, representing less than a percentage increase since our 2015 survey. Icon member Ashleigh Brown recently wrote about her experience of being black in the heritage sector, highlighting the challenges minorities face in conservation.
A lack of diversity and inclusion in conservation can have significant and harmful repercussions. Without diverse perspectives, diverse lived experiences, and diverse cultural knowledge it is reasonable to conclude that we cannot expect the heritage we preserve to be neutral, equitable, inclusive or fair.
To make a positive change we need to develop ideas and actions for how we might support diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our professional lives - from the items that we select for treatment, to the objects we talk about in research publications, to the people we hire or encourage into the workforce. Only then can we be sure that the messages we promote and the decisions we make reflect the totality of our society and do justice to the contributions of diverse groups to our shared heritage.
A new Task and Finish Group
On 24 June 2020, Icon’s Board of Trustees established a Diversity & Inclusion Task and Finish Group to consider the issue of diversity and inclusion in the conservation profession and to develop recommendations for action.
The Task and Finish Group formalizes Icon’s commitment to taking action shaped by a full understanding of the issues and the most effective means of achieving lasting change. The Group has been tasked with a range of activities including researching tools for understanding and monitoring diversity, promoting positive examples of good practice and developing a theory of change for achieving a diverse and representative Icon membership and conservation profession.
In November 2020, the group invited conservators - whatever their background, characteristics or level of experience with diversity issues - to participate in an online roundtable discussion to help inform the group’s work over the coming months. Check back soon for more updates on the Group's work.
- 10 Icon members including 4 trustees
- Membership status: Icon Accredited and non-accredited
- Employment status: Employed, Unemployed, Contracted, Freelance, Students and Interns - working for a mix of private, trusts, local government and national instituations
- Conservator and other disciplines are represented, with experience ranging from Student to emerging professionals to mature practitioners
- Specialisms: management, preventive, world cultures, paintings, books and paper, textiles, archaeology, natural history, archives
Books and archives, strongly motivated to encourage meaningful dialogue, create opportunity for all and promote the qualities of a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Emerging Professional, Textile Conservator and POC. Supporting wider accessibility and creating a professional environment where all can thrive, whatever their identity and circumstances.
I am an Icon Trustee and I have led or advised organisations on Diversity and Inclusion including NHS Trusts, the Post Office, Natural Environment Research Council and MacMillan Cancer Support.
ACR, Icon Trustee & Team Leader at Bolton Library & Museum Services.
I’m a bisexual woman, deaf & with chronic health conditions. My conservation practice focuses on ethics, sustainability & inclusion.
Megan de Silva
Icon Welsh Trustee and Collections Manager for Monmouthshire Museums. Dyslexic, from a low-income background and passionate about conservation being welcoming, supportive and accessible to all.
Accredited natural history conservator, trustee and group secretary. My interests include mental health disability, socioeconomic adversity and sexual harassment in the sector.
Emerging professional paintings conservator and POC. Enthusiastic about improving accessibility and diversity in conservation and the arts for disadvantaged and underrepresented young people.
Emerging Textile Conservator, formerly worked in Widening Participation in Higher Education, come to conservation from a low income, northern working class background. Passionate about creating more accessible routes into conservation for people underrepresented in the sector.
A World Cultures conservator, recently naturalised British citizen, and Japanese migrant. My interests include diversity, inclusion, and equality of opportunities for underrepresented communities.
Emerging book and paper conservator from Ireland. I am autistic and have previous experience working with marginalised groups within heritage settings. I’m currently a Project Conservator at The National Archives.