In June 2019 12 delegates from countries with emerging economies came to together for a programme of professional development - culminating with the Icon19 Conference in Belfast - thanks to funding provided by the Getty Foundation.
Twelve months on we reflect on the achievements to date and our expectation of the potential that will continue to grow.
“I am very fortunate to have been part of the Icon Getty grant recipients… I would have to say, I got more than I expected in a very good way.”
Key learning objectives for participants attending the conference and the continuing professional development (CPD) programme were:
- learning about current thinking in conservation practice
- sharing practical solutions to address current working requirements
- networking between professionals – to learn from each other
- understanding of how research plays a part in practical treatments
As part of the project evaluation, we wanted to understand the impact of the CPD programme on each attendee, immediately after the conference and six months later too. Gaining a better understanding of how the programme affected each delegate’s practice in their working environments – a mixture of museums and freelance studios – helps us demonstrate the value of the project to the funders. It also offered the opportunity to encourage delegates to reflect upon their learning and progress.
“Various techniques used outside my country (India) in the field of conservation whether its documentation data, management systems, examination techniques and equipment and the treatments” ~ delegate’s self-assessment of their learning
Current thinking in conservation practice
Getty Foundation delegates came from a variety of specialisms including collections care management, fine art, textile conservation, paper conservation, and archaeology. Each delegate became a member of Icon and they have continued to benefit from the membership opportunities available – Icon News and CPD webinars being a new focus for them now.
Sharing practical solutions
Visits to four different conservation studios in London enabled Getty Foundation delegates to see first-hand how conservation work was being done in the world-renowned conservation facilities of the British Museum and the National Archives, in parallel with relatively smaller, but nonetheless efficient private conservation studios of Janie Lightfoot and Julia Nagle.
It provided the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas and source information for future reference. For some it forged a professional relationship that has continued.
Networking between professionals
The opportunity to meet so many conservation professionals in such a short time was greatly valued. The Group also enjoyed the social aspects of the programme that provided them with many opportunities to get to know each other personally and secure lasting relationships via a WhatsApp Group. One year on they are organising a virtual meeting – to help each other out with matters arising from the coronavirus epidemic.
“This conference has opened new faces and contacts for me which I value. I know from the past when facing a difficult problem, it can be so helpful to share the situation with someone like minded.”
Understanding of how research plays a part in practical treatments
Knowledge gained by the Getty Foundation delegates has been applied in a variety of ways. The delegate from Manila has been tasked to design and identify the requirements and technical specifications for the conservation facility of the new museum.
“I have learned about alternative methods for storage of archival documents using Tyvek bags, orebuse techniques in wood conservation and ATP testing for determining active mould presence, among others.”
Growing from strength to strength
The Getty delegates’ WhatsApp group exchanges continue to highlight their continuing professional development needs with queries posted about specific issues they are facing such as dealing with artwork under ‘quarantine’, and so creating their own helpline.
One of the delegates based in Rio de Janeiro was inspired by the conference session on leadership and has received grant funding to embark on the 12 month Icon Leaders Launchpad on-line course starting this June.
Others have presented papers at international conferences, in some cases breaking new ground: for example presenting a paper entitled ‘’The vital role of preserving art and cultural heritage in confronting terrorism: the case of Mansoura, Egypt” in February 2020. Others have set up new in-house training for museum staff on various topics: “regular cleaning of galleries and display cases can play a major role in order to preserve the artefacts, safe handling while moving art objects from one place to another and introducing soft skills to interact with the visitors.” Another participant has been cascading their learning by offering “a 1-week introductory course for preventive conservation in textiles and sharing the information which is rarely considered in Mexico.”
“The confidence to conduct such [training] programmes with the help of my team and share the information and knowledge I have gained through the CPD programme and the conference is what made a huge difference in my life and has helped me in the growth of my career.”
Collectively this group are using their international voices and perspective to promote and share conservation practice across the globe. At the same time, they are giving each other support too.
“I am glad to see that so many topics I wrote down on my application form were achieved, among them the possibility of creating a professional network, including the group attending this programme. I would like to think that our farewell was just a “see you soon” instead of a “goodbye” and wish our paths would cross again someday somewhere throughout our conservation journey.”
The Getty Foundation delegates demonstrate Icon’s core belief that we should be collaborative and generous, working with our members and partners to share learning and achieve the best results together.
And what has Icon gained from the experience facilitating this project?
We have been able to develop the potential of new conservation advocates, helping them to facilitate the development of effective and innovative solutions to common challenges for the benefit of our shared global heritage. This will support our continuing ambition to raise the profile of the conservation sector’s international work and its contribution to domestic soft-power agendas.
We also have plans to grow our international membership and to increase the number of Icon accredited conservator-restorers supporting the care of cultural heritage across the globe.