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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Field Report: ICON Positive Futures 2013


If you know or work with any British conservators, you may have noticed last week that they all disappeared to Glasgow and their twitter feeds exploded with the hashtag #Iconpf13. No we didn’t all go mad, or join in a giant conservator orgy. We were all participating in the triennial Institute of Conservation conference! 

ICON is the professional body of conservators in the UK. The main theme of this year's conference was 'Positive Futures' with professionals from across the country discussing the ups and downs of the conservation field. The bad news- all museum staff conservation costs are being cut to the bone. But the good news is ICON's host city Glasgow has re-opened the textile conservation centre! Hooray! 



The scope of conservation meant that there were loads of presentations to choose from: I saw how to repair a state bed, how to clean Yupik parkas, how to make the best use of volunteers and even learned more about adhesion theory [it was actually quite fun!]. My favourite talk was by Christina Rozeik about the public perception of conservators. Apparently if you do a Google image search, conservators are always women in lab coats sat alone at an easel or microscope. Which, if you have met any of us, you will know is not true! I often spend a lot of my time crawling around underneath shelves and getting covered in dust, not including the hours of paperwork, which is not fun enough to be photographed apparently! And the amount of gossiping that happens during tea breaks, I can safely say that we aren’t loners!

The best part of the talk was the description of some the literary versions of conservators. Get your conservators in fiction fix here. And from these we often see that we can clean paintings by day and solve crimes at night, think of us as Shirley Holmes, paintings conservator!
Porn for conservators: the latest humidity monitors
Now as a mass gathering of conservators, naturally tea and biscuit breaks were essential, but it also gave us time to get excited by things like buying cardboard boxes or perhaps a sexy new dehumidifier! And yes I got quite intrigued by gummed Tyvek strips!
Ooo check out those boxes, so acid free and so stackable!
I must say that the conference was excellent; it has given me many things to think about, mainly how long it will take me to write a sexy conservator Mills & Boon, but it was fascinating just learning about what other conservators are up to. And because the conference was hosted by Glasgow Uni, I got to trot around the Glasgow Hunterian Museum, which I recommend highly if you are up there anytime soon!  It even has William Hunter's death mask, which is the ultimate dedication to your own collection!

The author did not consider the fact that the Ministry's editors fall
sharply on the John side of the Hunter brothers divide.
John rules William drools! 
Check out the Institute of Conservation website for more information about conservation: www.icon.org.uk 

Emily (@emyyates) is an objects conservator extraordinaire, baking fiend and Olympic level museum-stores parkour athlete. 


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