Icon’s charitable object is to “advance the education of the public by research into and the promotion of the conservation of items and collections of cultural, aesthetic, historic and scientific value.”
In 2020, we launched a new research and engagement project in response to this mission to ensure that we can promote conservation effectively and make it more widely understood and appreciated. Icon’s Values of Conservation project sought out to identify and articulate the values of cultural heritage conservation to society and to consider how we can better communicate them to audiences.
Starting with the ‘why’ of conservation can help us to embed values within every aspect of our messaging and increase awareness of the profession’s impact
The research felt particularly timely as the Coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn placed even more urgency on articulating the value of what Icon and its members do. Widespread understanding of the core values of conservation is essential to evidencing our contribution to economic rebuilding and society’s recovery and making a successful case for support.
The project was not your typical research project, in fact, from the very beginning we saw the work as an engagement exercise to encourage Icon members and external audiences to think about the value of the work of conservators and why people look after their possessions. The engagement-led project collected a range of source material, including statements about conservation from conservators themselves and public votes on what conservation means to people.
We identified a series of values associated with conservation that can be loosely categorised under social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts. The project found that conservators are willing and keen to talk about their work and are potentially already prone to being values-driven when describing their activities. The research report includes a brief toolkit with recommendations on how we can effectively communicate and promote the profession’s achievements to others.
Icon hopes the material collected and presented in this report will inspire others to think about conservation from a values-focused perspective. Starting with the ‘why’ of conservation can help us to embed values within every aspect of our messaging and increase awareness of the profession’s impact.
However, the work is far from over. The publication of the report signals another step in Icon’s continued activities to communicate the impact of conservation. We are currently developing a second stage to the project focusing on demonstrating these values through examples of conservation in action.