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01.11.2019

Getty delegates reflect on their experiences (Part 1)

The time has seemed to fly by since June when we were able to invite 12 conservators from across the globe to UK, made possible through the generous support of the Getty Foundation. The conservators were able to attend Icon19 as well as a dedicated CPD programme beforehand. 

This is the first of three articles, read on to find out more about their experineces and what they've been able to bring back home with them. some of thier experiences. 

Maria Lourdes Po
Francisca Campos Álvarez
Fatima February
Ali Mahfouz

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Maria Lourdes Po | Conservator, Museo ng Arkidiyosesis ng Maynila, Philippines

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The Museo ng Arkidiyosesis ng Maynila of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila was established in 1987 with the mission to preserve and promote the rich cultural heritage of the archdiocese of Manila. As the conservator, I am responsible for the conservation of the museum collection. My work requires me to handle different types of objects, including built church heritage as well as providing technical assistance to parishes and religious institutions concerning conservation projects and initiatives.

My participation in the Icon-Getty Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme has been an invaluable experience, enabling me and the other participants in the programme to see first-hand how conservation work is being carried out in world-renowned conservation facilities of the British Museum and the National Archives, as well as the smaller, but nonetheless efficient private conservation studios of Janie Lightfoot and Julia Nagle.

In particular I appreciated the opportunity to observe and compare the practices, not only in terms of scale but of function, of these conservation facilities through the technical tours. I was able to study the design set up, materials, tools and equipment used in the conservation studios we visited. More importantly, we learned new things and practical advice concerning the different aspects of conservation facility operations, including treatment, storage and display, and even research work, through the lectures and discussions. I also felt that the CPD programme had been carefully developed to consider every participant’s professional background and meet the current needs in our work. Presently, our institution is in the process of building a centre for ecclesiastical heritage that will also house the new museum. I have been tasked to design and identify the requirements and technical specifications for the conservation facility of the new museum. I hope to be able to incorporate what I have observed and learned from the CPD programme in the course of the development of our heritage centre.

Another important part of the Icon-Getty programme included attendance at Icon19, which enabled discussions on current and emerging trends in conservation research and practice. I was able to engage with conservators and scientists from diverse backgrounds and institutional affiliations, as well as my own work and challenges in conservation practice in the Philippines.

I am very honoured and grateful to The Institute of Conservation and the Getty Foundation to have been part of the Icon-Getty Continuing Professional Development programme and 2019 Triennial Conference. I have not only gained new knowledge and understanding, but also found new friends, and have expanded my professional network. I hope to share and make good use of what I learned from the Icon-Getty programme in my work, and to be able to contribute to the development of heritage conservation in the Philippines.

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Francisca Campos Álvarez | Textile / Archaeological Materials Conservator, Private Practice, Chile

 

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Among the large number of activities we took part in, I would like to focus on two, the visit to the laboratories of the British Museum and the one to the private studios as these experiences most closely relate to my work in Chile.

The visit to the British Museum was highly relevant, as we were able to visit the conservation studios and to see the projects which they were currently working on. It is worth mentioning the opportunity we had of talking to the professionals at work who gave us important information about treatments and materials. This was particularly useful for me, as I could see the use and results of the application of one specific material used in textile conservation which I intend to use in the future. In addition, the team had kindly prepared presentations on projects which they had worked on or were in the process of developing.

In particular, a remarkable and enlightening project I heard about was the move of a complete collection, including an overview of the full process: registry, risk evaluation, conservation treatments, packing and team logistics among others. Witnessing this practice was very meaningful, as the projects I usually work on in my country involve moves of complete collections.

Concerning the visits to the private studios, I must say it was a unique experience, since they provided us with the opportunity to get to understand how they approached their work beyond the treatments, including the organisation of working hours and the production of documentation.

The visit to Janie Lightfoot´s studio was a remarkable learning experience. Not only did I have the chance of getting to know new techniques and materials I could use in the future, but I also learnt about how the technical work of conservation is developed in close relationship with research and teaching work. Seeing this was really valuable for me and I will definitely develop it in my studio.

While I have focused on these two aspects of the programme, I must say that all of the activities we participated in, were very interesting and diverse, and we got a good picture of the current approach to conservation in the UK.

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Fatima February | Textile Conservator, Iziko Museums, South Africa

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For me the Icon-Getty CPD Programme and Icon19, affirmed that I belong to a global community of conservators with whom I was able to connect in many amazing spaces. It was the first time that I attended an international conservation conference and it has taught me much as well as making me think about aspects of theory and practice in different ways. I felt a sense of belonging that was truly incredible, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity!

Such a variety of interesting papers were delivered. The subject matter of the talks which I opted for intrigued me immensely. I wish I could have attended all the presentations! It was totally amazing to be exposed to the latest developments in conservation, and the various talks that were presented by specialist conservators were especially appealing to me.

I absorbed so much information during the conference, and am already committed to sharing the information within Iziko Museums of South Africa and to institutions beyond. Since my return from the conference I’ve been busy with the development of a training programme for staff who engage with housekeeping at our various museum sites. The programme will focus on the agents of deterioration for the long-term care and preservation of artefacts.

The networking opportunities as well as the informal conversations during the conference breaks were indeed phenomenal. Sharing the challenges we face at our institutions was something that we collectively engage with (facing more or less the same challenges). Once again, I felt the uniqueness of this event.

In terms of my learning objectives, one of the highlights was the paper by Katy Lithgow ACR, Helen Lloyd ACR, Karen Bradford and David Orr ACR. It was extremely interesting as I connected with the subject matter of their presentation. Collections care (Housekeeping) plays an integral part of the wellbeing of the collections especially on open display. Their talk has given me a much greater understanding of the application of methods and challenges at historical house museums. And all the techniques I am implementing in the programme to be used to train our staff stationed at the museums.

The opportunities to meet and greet fellow conservators led to discussions of collection care. My informal chat with mentor Christine Murray ACR from the National Trust could not have happened at a better time. The information she shared was of utmost importance as it resonated with my daily work as a conservator, and as mentioned previously, I could perfectly relate to the topic of collection care. My experience as a whole made me more aware of the strong knowledge and skills base that I already have, while learning from others' experiences whilst sharing my own. I could not help but to reiterate how the conference had a direct impact on my career in conservation.

Sadly, though being part of this wonderful collective took me back to my biggest concern, which is the scarcity of conservators and conservation training, particularly the need to identify ways to invest in learning and development programmes in South Africa. This would really help as we are a developing nation.

I would like to sincerely thank the Getty Foundation and Icon for their ongoing commitment in supporting ongoing conservation programmes globally. Patrick Whife and Susan Bradshaw, your commitment in particular in making this programme a success for the twelve delegates from across the globe is appreciated, valued and evident in the success of the event.

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Ali Mahfouz | Director, Mansoura Storage Museum, Egypt

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I don't know where to start, although I have attended many conferences, workshops and training events, the Icon-Getty Continuing Professional Development Programme and Icon19 will be a milestone in my career! It was my first opportunity to attend an Icon conference, but also my first visit to the UK. However, I got used to the place very quickly and settled in with my Getty family!

One of the standout opportunities for me was the visit to the British Museum, including the seminars delivered by the conservators and the studio tours. It has been a dream to visit since I was studying Egyptology and I’ve now achieved the goal. I was so excited for the visit, and it didn’t disappoint having given me a greater understanding of their approach towards the preservation and storage of antiquities, especially the organic objects. I was also very lucky to see a collection of wooden Egyptian Antiquities inside the conservation studio and see how they deal with it.

At the visit to the National Archives, it was very useful for me to see how volunteers were allowed to be part of the projects and how the National Archives work with the local community, this is what I currently am seeking in Egypt.

As for Icon19, it is tough to find words to express how I feel about this conference. Without a doubt, Icon19 was fertile ground, having brought together Conservators and cultural heritage professionals from all over the world - I was so lucky to be one of them.

In a changing world, encompassed by armed conflicts and terrorist attacks negatively impacting on culture heritage property; preservation, conservation, and documentation are integral methods safeguarding our heritage. This topic was dealt with through the presentation, “Conservation in a Conflict Zone: Assessing War-Damaged Paintings at the National Gallery of Afghanistan.”

The conference discussed all aspects of conservation. In particular, I have been able to gain new perspectives on preventive conservation, collection care, storage, and databases which I’m planning on applying in my areas of work.

I came back entirely with a lot of positivity and creativity; I have many plans, ideas, and hope for the future. I see myself as being more robust, ambitious and keen to develop practice with my colleagues in my home Institution.

Last but not least, I cannot find the words to express my gratitude and appreciation for the Getty Foundation and Icon for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this vast and active network of great professionals working to preserve cultural heritage.

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