Icon’s Impact: Supporting members to bring conservation to the public at Heritage Open Days

15 Sep 2022


What was the goal we set out to achieve

Icon’s strategy sets out our strategic aim to increase public awareness and participation in conservation. 

With TV Programmes like The Repair Shop and Secrets of the Museum being more popular than ever, we set out to capitalise on this interest and support members to run ‘Meet the expert’ events to engage with the public.

HOD Copyrighted - Conservation of archaeological rope.JPG
© The Historic Dockyard Chatham


What did we do

Icon has started a collaboration with Heritage Open Days to partner heritage sites participating in the festival with Icon members.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture. It is community-led, and it brings together thousands of people across the country to celebrate the heritage that matters to them, all for free.

Together with our members, we created a programme of conservation in action events across the country under the banner of ‘Conservation Stations’. 

We encouraged members working in institutions to organise public events talking about conservation projects or offering conservation lab tours.

Furthermore, Heritage Open Days worked to match Icon members (mainly private practitioners) with heritage sites. Icon has widely promoted the Conservation Stations to prompt members of the public to visit, and profiled the participating conservators to increase public awareness of what conservators do.


What was the outcome

Many conservators working in museums, galleries and institutions have worked with their engagement teams to offer conservation tours and other events showcasing the work conservators do.

Heritage Open Days have matched Icon members Katarina Kelsey and Dale Sardeson with participating sites Wandle Industrial Museum and Arundel Museum respectively.

Book and paper conservator Katarina Kelsey ran a “Repair Shop” at Wandle Industrial Museum, where she conserved a historic book, and she showed the public historic book structures and examples of pest damage. Children could also drop-in throughout the day to make their own origami book structures.


Horological Conservator Dale Sardeson was matched with Arundel museum, where he disassembled the clocks in the museum’s collection in front of the public and performed in-situ cleaning.


What did we learn

We found that ‘Meet the expert’ events are an excellent opportunity for conservators to demonstrate the value that conservation brings to society.  

“It was so lovely, such a good day and I had some conservation students turn up, which was amazing.”, Katarina said.

Participating members got an excellent opportunity to promote their businesses or institutions to new audiences, and they also extended their local networks, potentially building a fruitful ongoing relationships with local heritage sites.

While it can be difficult to match sites and conservators because conservators aren’t evenly spread out throughout the country, some members were willing to travel to take part in the festival.


What will we do next

We are planning to continue to run this partnership with Heritage Open Days, building up on the knowledge we gained from running this programme as a pilot scheme for the first time.

We are aiming for more Conservation Stations in new locations throughout England.

We also want to encourage members to be more proactive and get involved with public initiatives, so that conservation becomes more and more visible.


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