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About Icon's Research

Icon investigates and analyses the cultural heritage conservation sector to deliver unique insight to stakeholders and to target our own activities and strategies. We collaborate with partners across and beyond the heritage sector to plan and deliver fresh research. Through this area of work, we aim to provide an evidence base for policies and practical guidance and to foster greater understanding of conservation.

Values of Conservation

This summer and autumn, Icon is running a new research and engagement project to find better ways to communicate the value of conservation to clients, stakeholders and members of the public. We want to improve public understanding of conservation and be able to demonstrate the public benefit more effectively.

We know that the act of conserving cultural heritage objects and collections makes a significant contribution to society. But we need to get better at explaining and demonstrating how conservation supports knowledge and understanding, national and local economies, a sense of identity, enhanced wellbeing and empowered communities, among many other things. By identifying, articulating and evidencing the values of conservation we will be able to increase awareness and build support.

The desired outcome of the project is for the positive effect of conservation activities on society, the economy and individual well-being to be clearly demonstrated and widely recognised. You can find out more about the project here

Workforce Research

In April 2020, Icon undertook a survey asking conservators to share how they had been affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The results  revealed that the Coronavirus outbreak and associated social distancing measures are having considerable and severe impact on respondents. Over 90% of respondents reported loss or postponement of work, while two out of five respondents reported postponement or cancellation of planned income-generating events. You can find out more about this research here

In 2021, Icon will be undertaking a full labour market intelligence research project to gain a comprehensive understanding of the conservation sector’s composition and current challenges and opportunities facing the labour market. We will investigate things like demographics, skills, qualifications, salaries and benefits. The result will be a new labour market intelligence report free for all members and stakeholders to use. We will use our newly developed Heritage LMI Toolkit (details below). 

Carrying out LMI research, and sharing the results, supports the development and sustainability of the heritage workforce and informs policy and decision-making affecting the sector. This supports employability, economic prosperity, social mobility and inclusion. Have a look at out our LMI factsheets to find out more about how you or your organisation can benefit from robust and up-to-date LMI. They are free to download, and we encourage you to use them to tell people why LMI is important!

LMI Matters for individuals
LMI Matters for employers
LMI Matters for training providers

Heritage LMI Toolkit


In 2019, the Institute of Conservation partnered with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), Historic England and Loud Marketing to develop a Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) Toolkit to enable the collection, analysis and reporting of LMI within the heritage sector.

The Toolkit comprises an accessible methodology and survey template that can be used by all professional bodies and organisations wishing to survey the heritage workforce. It facilitates the ongoing collection, analysis and presentation of data on workforce size, composition, skills and trends in employment and education.

The broader objective of our partnership was to support the development and sustainability of the heritage workforce and to inform policy and decision making affecting it. The Toolkit lets users undertake research that can help inform measures for our workforce to be equipped with the right skills and experience to investigate, manage and maintain the nation’s heritage and tofully reflect the society it aims to benefit.

The Toolkit is freely accessible and can be found on Historic England's website. By making the Toolkit open access, we aim to empower heritage organisations to independently conduct workforce research on a regular basis. The Toolkit minimises reliance on external funding, provides a model for sub-sector workforce research and allows cross-referencing and comparison of data that corresponds with both Historic England’s developing approach to LMI and  Office for National Statistics methodologies and datasets.

Access the Toolkit here


Past Research Reports

Conservation Labour Market Intelligence 2012-2013