“Although this year has been dramatically different from what any of us might have expected, I have been continually inspired and uplifted by what Icon members have achieved. Despite the fact that we couldn’t meet physically, we met often in the virtual space and I’ve been heartened by the care and support that members have shown to other members. We are a true community, and as we enter 2021 knowing that there will still be challenges ahead, I hope that we can draw on our combined strength and resilience to continue our campaign to ensure that the conservation profession is properly valued throughout our society,” Icon Chief Executive Sara Crofts reflected on the year gone and year ahead.
We noticed our friends at IIC list some of the positive things to emerge in the conservation community in 2020. We decided to follow suit and to round off the year on a positive note, with a selection of some of our highlights:
1. Celebrating excellence
2020 marked the 20th Anniversary of Icon Accreditation. Over the last 20 years, more than 1,100 professional conservators have been Accredited though the rigorous peer assessment system led by professional conservators. To celebrate the anniversary, throughout the year we celebrated the successes of professional conservators.
The fourth annual ACR conference explored the theme of 'Communication, language and impact' and was designed specifically to support Icon Accredited members in their continuing professional development. We badged a full week in July as ‘Pathway Week’ to support Pathway members on their way to becoming Accredited members of Icon through a series of webinars and networking opportunities. The celebratory year also saw the launch of the revised Icon Professional Standards as well as the development of the new Icon Ethical Guidance.
2. Staying connected and keeping up with professional development throughout the pandemic
Even as the pandemic threw long-ingrained ways of how conservators approach their work into question, Icon Groups found new ways to share knowledge, learn together and support each other. The Conservation Together At Home webinar series has reached thousands of people across the world, connecting conservators and exploring topics ranging from digitisation to tarot cards to biases in conservation.
3. Sharing what we do
Lockdown saw an incredible demand for digital content. To cater to the public’s thirst for all things heritage we made sure to bring our A game to the annual #AskAConservator social media campaign. Siobhan Barratt ACR answered the public’s tricky questions on conservation. Meanwhile, many of our Accredited members had opened up their studios for virtual tours, offering exclusive access and insight on where conservators work. We also launched a monthly newsletter aiming to introduce audiences to the fascinating world of conservation with behind the scenes content on projects and handy hints from professional conservators.
4. Helping people find conservators they can trust
Throughout the year, we saw examples of the danger posed by insensitive restoration and conservation. While a 'botched job' can sometimes be put right, the problem can just as often be more serious – resulting in permanent damage to a treasured object. Early in the year, we launched a new online resource to find suitably qualified conservators you can trust. Icon’s redeveloped Conservation Register is the first-ever publicly accessible directory of all Icon-Accredited conservators. These are skilled conservation professionals who have passed through a rigorous peer review and assessment process to gain their Accreditation, and who now demonstrate that they are keeping in touch with the latest developments and technical approaches in the sector though regular continuing professional development (CPD) reviews.
5. Taking steps to become more green
In response to the climate emergency, a new Icon Environmental Network was set up in June to support the conservation profession in being environmentally sustainable. In September, Icon's Board of Trustees agreed an Environmental Statement outlining our commitment to promoting the positive role that conservation can play in inspiring and informing climate action. In the autumn, we also supported the Culture x Climate campaign, participating in the virtual global forum arts, culture and heritage-based climate action.
6... and more inclusive
A newly established Diversity & Inclusion Task & 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. In November, 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.
7. Gaining support for vital new projects
A highlight of the year was news of our successful application to the Culture Recovery Fund. We received a grant award of £99,400 from the Government, enabling us to commission valuable business development and marketing support, and also develop an online project gallery to support our student members. A portion of the funding will also be used to finance our digital transformation project, which includes a new membership database. News of our funding success came at a critical time in October as staff and members had been busy working together for months to provide much needed support to our sector.
8. Reflecting on our value
We know that the act of conserving cultural heritage objects and collections makes a significant contribution to society. But we also recognised that we need to get better at explaining and demonstrating how conservation supports people and communities. The Coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn placed even more urgency on articulating the value of what Icon and its members do.
We launched a new research project identifying, articulating and evidencing the values of conservation to increase awareness and build support. We had some fun with it too, asking conservators to think outside the box when describing their work.
9. Becoming more ambitious fundraisers
Earlier this month, we were delighted to take part in the global annual fundraising event Giving Tuesday to give back to the conservation community. We offered people the chance to sponsor a student or international member or to gift an Icon membership. Icon members are the cornerstone of our efforts, working to protect and care for cultural heritage in museums, in private collections and wherever else it might be found. Which is why on Giving Tuesday we wanted to focus on celebrating our members and strengthening the community.
We were blown away by the success of our first ever crowd funder campaign in support of the development of our new membership database. We raised nearly £12,000 in donations, which will help us achieve our aim of being a modern, responsive and inclusive professional body with sustainable digital infrastructure.
10. Collaborating and celebrating as one team
As the Coronavirus moved the Icon office into the virtual domain, we developed new ways of working remotely. This offered the chance to reflect on how we communicate and collaborate as an office and if there were things we could do even better. Icon’s office culture project aims to build awareness of individual working styles, skills and how teams can get the best out of each other.
We ended the year with a fabulous office party on Zoom. Featuring virtual crackers, nibbles delivered to our door, appropriate festive attire, a challenging pub quiz and the usual warm (yet slightly mad) Icon chatter, it was a reminder of how much we are looking forward to seeing each other and our members in person soon.
Best wishes for the festive season from all the Icon team! We look forward to seeing you again in 2021.
Image: Creative Commons