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Icon Chair James Grierson: how Icon is supporting you during the lockdown

Icon's Chair of the Board of Trustees James Grierson reflects on a month of Icon activity in lockdown.

The Coronavirus pandemic and necessary lockdown measures represent unprecedented challenges for individuals, communities and economies across the globe. Our sector is certainly being affected as much as most. With places of work closed, contracts cancelled, reductions in commissions and classes postponed, the world of conservation has changed abruptly. This has placed livelihoods and jobs at risk, ultimately threatening the cultural heritage that conservators work so hard to protect. 

I wish to express my best wishes for all Icon members and those working in conservation during these stressful times.

It is at periods of crisis that a professional body must mobilise all its resources to provide the unique support its members and profession require. I am proud to say that in the first month of lockdown, Icon has spared no efforts to ensure this help is available. 

Information and advice

Given the fast-moving nature of the pandemic, it is imperative that everyone keeps an eye on advice as it is published. However, sometimes it can be difficult to navigate the overload of information being communicated. Therefore, as the pandemic first unfolded and isolation measures were implemented, Icon launched a webpage of resources to help members navigate the wealth of information available. The page is being regularly updated with the latest advice and support on employment, business and wellbeing. 

Many institutions and organisations will be looking for guidance on how to look after their collections now that the many important day-to-day collections care and maintenance tasks are not possible. In response, we created a separate hub of information to support organisations to care for their collections during and after the lockdown. The page features technical guidance on collections care, articles and advice from sector colleagues and updates on Icon’s advocacy work for collections. 

Professional development

Conferences, workshops, seminars and other face-to-face events have naturally been cancelled or put on hold. However, this does not have to mean an end to your professional development. You may have to think creatively about what will work for you in the new situation, but there are plenty of resources on the Icon website that can help you keep your CPD on track. Rest assured, Icon’s Professional Development team will continue to regularly share plans from members, top tips and other ideas to encourage you in your professional development over the coming weeks. The team is also investigating ways to move formal training and events, including the much-anticipated 20 Years of Accreditation celebration, online. 

Icon Groups are also coming up with inventive ways to support the conservation community. The Book & Paper Group’s Together at Home Webinar series, the Archaeology Group’s upcoming Twitter conference and the Textile Group’s weekly compilation of isolation activities are all excellent examples of the Icon network supporting the sector’s professionalism in these unusual times. 

I have been delighted and encouraged by...stories of resilience and adaptability within our profession

Staying connected 

Isolation does not have to equal loneliness. Consequently, we introduced a new online community to allow members to connect in a novel way. Icon’s Discord is a member to member discussion forum that allows users to congregate and socialise online by chatting in custom channels by text, video or voice. I believe it has the potential to bring the Icon family even closer to each other than before. 

Efficient communications between staff and members is also integral to keeping us together. Hence, we are upping the frequency of Iconnects to ensure that you are being kept up to date on the latest activities and support available. We continue to welcome evidence, case studies and feedback from members directly to understand key issues and challenges for the profession as they emerge. If you have personal experiences or case studies of how the pandemic is affecting you, please share them with us:


As industries across the board fight to survive and receive relief, we’ve been speaking up for the conservation sector to ensure its needs are heard. Over the past weeks we’ve written to politicians and funders across the UK nations to lobby for comprehensive and timely support for conservators and cultural heritage. Our lobbying efforts have already been effective. We were invited to join a cross-sector group that is providing briefings to Government via DCMS, placing us in a good position to raise concerns and propose solutions. We also received a positive response from the Scottish Government addressing our concerns for self-employed and freelance workers in the sector. 

Icon continues to collaborate closely with our partners across the sector to coordinate efforts and to offer guidance to cultural heritage organisations at this challenging time. You can help us understand the scale and scope of the challenges by sharing your experiences. There are still a few days left to participate in Icon’s Coronavirus survey. I encourage you all to take a few minutes to fill it out as it will help us to build our evidence base and target our advocacy work to the greatest effect.

Many of you may be finding things quieter than usual. For our ACRs, now would be an excellent opportunity to complete your Upgraded Listing on the Conservation Register.  The more I’ve got to know Icon members since taking over as Chair, the more I’ve been bowled over by the many wonderful stories that come out of the work you do. Do please keep articles, case studies and the like coming; they are integral to building the profession’s profile and reaching new audiences.


Finally, I have been struck by the volume of inspirational stories of professionals across the heritage sector finding innovative ways to continue their work and use their expertise to facilitate recovery. Several Icon members have shared their experiences of adapting to the current situation in the form of blog posts and news stories on the Icon website. From caring for collections during a crisis, top tips on working from home to donating PPE to hospitals - I have been delighted and encouraged by these stories of resilience and adaptability within our profession. Please do keep sharing.



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