Our stellar line up of speakers from across the globe will explore change in all its guises. Read on to delve into the abstracts and uncover the debates and topics that will be addressed over the inspiring two days.

Session 1 | 09:30, 2nd July 2024

Engaging Your Audiences - Conservation and Beyond

A five-year review of collection care audience development at The National Archives

Natalie Brown

For the past five years the Collection Care Department at The National Archives has worked to embed audience development as part of its core business, benefiting from a dedicated engagement team within the department. This presentation will focus on reviewing our journey so far – the positives and the negatives. Through several case studies (of varying success) we will explore how we are working to understand the needs of our audiences, increase reach, and build deeper relationships with those around us through effective engagement activities. It will also review how we navigate internal relationships within a large organisation with competing priorities, built processes to evaluate and measure the impact of engagement activities and create an audience development plan.

Practice-based research and engagement in conservation

Flavia Ravaioli ACR

The Global Connections research project (2021) is a collaboration between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the McDonald Institute of Archaeology. It conducted a pilot study on the Adès collection of Iranian ceramics. The Fitzwilliam Museum lacks an Islamic art curator, and its internationally-significant collection is understudied and underused. Islamic ceramics pose challenges in the way objects were previously restored. Completely ‘new’ objects were assembled out of various sherds often blurring the boundaries between concepts of fake and restoration. The team tested a range of non-invasive techniques to develop a protocol to analyse the collection. 

In 2023, we ran a public events programme with a theme of ‘making’. Working with contemporary ceramicist, Dr Abbas Akbari (University of Kashan), we supported non-specialist audiences to decorate ceramics in lustre and observe a traditional kiln being built and fired. Researchers were present to explain the stages of making, and the ongoing research. 

The project has received a British Academy – Leverhulme grant, which will fund the next steps of the research project.

3D virtual conservation - a new pathway for audiences to engage in conservation decision-making

Tze Ching Wong (Hazel)

A lack of representation of the public in heritage management has been recognised by many conservators who are seeking ways to diversify the voices represented in conservation decision-making. Conservation actions impact on the presentation of the object, illuminating or suppressing aspects of its history and value. The museum and heritage sector must make drastic changes and step back from practices that have caused many to feel unwelcomed excluded or marginalised. Multiple voices must be represented in decisions that impact on the value of cultural heritage. 3D technologies to show treatment options create an engaging and immersive way for new audiences to engage in conservation decision-making.

Please touch the art: Handling, access and creative reactivation as strategies for knowledge exchange and dynamic preservation

Ayesha Fuentes

This presentation explores ethical considerations – including historical and epistemological limitations of current guidelines, the ways in which they are changing, as well as methodologies for safe access, the management of risks to people and collections through a series of case studies and handling sessions based at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. This work will also reflect on the perceived reception of a framework for preservation which encourages rather than limits creative or restorative engagement, i.e. through the repatriation of objects to communities of origin or their alteration as a result of protest or activism.

Session 2 | 13:30, 2nd July 2024

Future Resilience and Sustainability

Panel discussion, environmental sustainability in conservation

Lorraine Finch ACR (Panel Chair), Daniel Miles and Dr Helen Wilson ACR (more names to be announced).

Join the experts for this Question Time style panel on environmental sustainability in conservation. Come prepared with your questions. The discussion will be driven by you. The first time the panel hear the questions is when you ask them.

Session 3 | 15:30, 2nd July 2024

Partnerships and Collaboration

In at the deep end: The Rooswijk project - An international, collaborative project

Angela Middleton and Carola Del Mese

The @Rooswijk1740 project is an international collaboration involving Historic England, the Cultural Heritage Agency of The Netherlands, and the contract manager MSDS Marine. Commencing in 2016, the project achieved a significant milestone in November 2023, yet certain aspects remain ongoing.

This presentation will delve into three key collaborative strands, critically assessing them and sharing any valuable lessons learned:

  • Collaboration during the excavation: Maritime archaeologists versus conservators?
  • Collaboration with specialists, early career professionals, students and volunteers: In at the deep end!
  • Collaboration with international partners: Communication across borders and across different cultural approaches.

Conservation of The Bicycle Wall Mural: An unlikely partnership, saving an iconic example of The Milton Keynes Public Art Project

Kirsten Ramsay and Penny Fisher

"The Bicycle Wall" (1978), a ceramic mural commissioned for the Milton Keynes public art program, was at risk of demolition when Aldi bought the site for development.

Recognising its cultural value, local heritage groups fought to save the mural and it was relocated. As a gesture of goodwill, Aldi commissioned us to conserve the tiles. 

Challenges were numerous: the scale of the mural, the exposed nature and height of the site, the need to find suitable materials, and the involvement of stakeholders, including an international company unaccustomed to conservation ethics. However, local project involvement reinstated a sense of pride in the community.

The ICCROM Heritage Sample Archive Initiative

Rebecca Tehrani and Alison Heritage

An international collaborative partnership to promote the safeguarding and sustainable use of under-recognised yet valuable resources for heritage research.

Over the past three years, the Heritage Sample Archives Initiative (HSAI) has worked to enhance the recognition, preservation, access and use of heritage sample archives through promoting good practices for their management. Its efforts have led to the development of a searchable online register for sample archives, hosted by ICCROM, that will allow organisations to share information about their sample archives, promoting their visibility and use. The presentation shares an international interdisciplinary collaboration driven by the need to address challenges faced by institutions large and small, from high- and low-income countries, concerning the safeguarding and use of heritage sample archives.

Session 4 | 09:30, 3rd July 2024

Engaging with communities - conservation and beyond

Keynote - The power of conservation to engage with local communities and heritage assets

Robin Dhar

How can conservation help local communities, and how can the local community enable conservation? As a conservation practice, Insall worked on a number of projects where the local community played a key role in saving, or evolving, a much-loved community asset.

The talk will centre on heritage from the ground up: a story of community-powered conservation and learning through three buildings, two of which found themselves on the Heritage at Risk register. With support from the National Heritage Lottery Fund they have all since re-opened as a local asset, with one currently on site. All of these projects only happened due to the tireless campaigning and the local community. Two of them have opened up training opportunities for local people.

A Collections Conservation Project: G-HAWK/ZA101

Amanda Sutherland ACR and Paul Rash

On August 26th 2023, a group of Volunteers changed the wing on Brooklands Museum's Hawker Siddeley Hawk Mk50. When the aircraft was given to the Museum by BAE SYSTEMS, the original wing was being used for a ground exhibition in India, in a different livery and attached to another fuselage. The long-term plan was to restore the aircraft to the last configuration in which it flew, using the correct wing.

This paper describes the conservation decision-making processes around how to redress the condition of the original wing and restore the authenticity of this unique aircraft.

Who Cares Now and Who Wears Now? Bringing Cultural Care into a Colonial Collection

Anisha Parmar and Melangell Penrhys

To reflect diaspora voices in the care of the National Trust's collections we asked: what are the barriers for external partners? How can conservators remove barriers? Can collections be integral to a person-centred approach?

'My Adornment is My Power', curated by Anisha Parmar, a jewellery designer of South Asian Diaspora heritage, explored this. Anisha selected jewellery from the collection of George Curzon, Kedleston Hall, to be re-examined and worn to 'energetically release' it from colonial ties.

Who are collections for? How can they be cared for in collaboration with diaspora communities? Can we celebrate 'objects' and treat people with respect and understanding?

The Churches Conservation Trust strategy: Sustainability through community engagement

Jessica Stitt ACR and Gabriella Misuriello

The CCT sees their estate not just as historic buildings to be sensitively conserved, but also as community assets. Through engagement with over 2,000 volunteers, CCT’s strategy is to re-establish each community’s bond with their historic church. This is achieved by encouraging communities to use their buildings and supporting them through skills sharing. The spaces are used for learning, inspiration and quiet reflection, venues for workshops and arts events, as well as meeting places and even holiday accommodation. Community use also contributes to the charity’s financial resilience since events can be a source of revenue by encouraging membership and donations.

Session 5 | 11:45, 2nd July 2024

Workforce Development

Keynote - Time for intervention: Using apprenticeships to increase diversity in the conservation sector

Emma Callaghan

To remain a profession relevant to society, Icon acknowledges that conservation must become more representative and reflective of the wider population. However, the Icon Membership Diversity Survey makes abundantly clear that the conservation profession is far from reaching this ambition. Schemes such as the Cultural Heritage Conservator Apprenticeship, launched in 2021, attempted to address this imbalance – apprenticeships have been proven to improve social mobility, enabling those from deprived and/or minority backgrounds to access formal training and learning. 

Four apprentices are currently enrolled on the course, however, low student number has meant that the scheme is no longer open for new applicants, despite Icon’s seeming commitment to increasing diversity in the profession. For schemes such as these to be successful, engagement from current professionals and employers within the sector is essential. Questions must be asked as to why a potential solution to the lack of diversity within conservation has not been successful. 

This paper will present the experiences of apprentices, their employer and training provider, and explore the benefits which apprenticeships can have for students and employers and will address the challenges faced by Icon and the University of Lincoln in establishing and maintaining the scheme. 

Panel discussion, developing sustainable entry routes into conservation

Diane Gwilt (Panel Chair), Emma Callaghan, Catherine Cartmell,  Phil Pollard, Gail Birkin and Ozge Nur Yildrim

This session will explore the ways to support training and development, the commitment needed from employers, the value that trainees offer and an assessment of the reality of work-based training in the UK and internationally.

Session 6 | 14:15, 3rd July 2024

Impact and Performance

Conservators as agents for change: facilitating growth and impact across society

Stephanie de Roemer

This contribution proposes an unconventional focus away from the object to the agent of care, the conservator. As a human, caring for humanity’s legacy, which itself was made by humans for humans, the conservator in their unique position as subject and agent for the object can facilitate negotiations towards communal and engaged decision making processes. This contribution will share examples of how facilitation skills training activates the conservator’s advocacy into a tangible practice of care and support, to empower the profession to communicate and influence practices of prevention, preservation and conservation across society.

Conservation as a Means of Community Engagement and Healing through Visible Preservation Practices in Difficult Heritage Collections

Kerith Schrager and Kate Fuget

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum presents the catastrophic events of the day, recovery and response efforts, and the lives of the 2983 victims. Visiting can be a difficult experience with survivors and New Yorkers expressing hesitancy.  However, conspiracy theories, and an ever-changing world result in emotional distancing between those with lived experience of 9/11 and those without. 

This presentation explores preservation practice as a method of community engagement with traumatic history. For those hesitant to relive the events of the day, conservation outreach focuses on the complexities of collection care rather than the 9/11 storytelling. Additionally, conservation-themed social media posts make these activities more accessible.

Stanley Halls: A case study of conservation and social impact

Charles Wellingham and Dr Daniel Winder

Housing a theatre, art gallery, technical school and society rooms, Stanley Halls was built between 1903 - 1909 as a utopian civic project by inventor and philanthropist William F. Stanley. Since 2015 the site has been managed by the community charity Stanley Arts. In 2020 Connolly Wellingham Architects were appointed to report on the condition of fabric and prepare a Feasibility Study for the long-term future of the site. This was used to secure funding for an initial phase of urgent repair works and strategic improvements. The successful delivery has built momentum and enthusiasm around the team’s longer-term ambitions and will be a springboard for further phases of work across the site.