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Tru Vue Blog: Adapting CPD to lockdown life

kirsten_dunne_headshot.jpgKirsten Dunne ACR is Senior Projects Conservator: Microfading, Time-Based Media, Technology at the National Galleries of Scotland. In January this year she received a Tru Vue CPD grant to support her professional development. Here she reflects on how she has had to adapt her plans to the changing environment we've all found ourselves in over the last year.


It is safe to say that 2020 has not played out as planned. In mid-January Tru Vue granted my application to attend Transformation Digital Art at LIMA, Amsterdam and I made my bookings looking forward to another excellent conference and time in one of my favourite cities. Mid-March, suddenly I was having to cancel it all as worldwide lives, and plans were thrown into disarray.

Lockdown life was instantly more contained. Overnight I was a full time Conservator and parent trying to work and support home schooling from our small flat, through a fog of anxiety. TruVue got in touch and asked if our original events had been cancelled to be creative about redirecting the grant. It was about this time that the American Institute of Conservation moved their Annual meeting online.

I trained as a paper conservator but my role at the National Galleries of Scotland has evolved to focus on Microfading, Time-Based Media and Technology. This is a wide remit and connects me to all areas of our collection. It includes media types not part of my training, so CPD opportunities are key. The AIC Annual Meeting is always high on my wish list due to the Electronic Media Group sessions and this year they did not disappoint.

Instead of a 4 day in-person conference with multiple concurrent sessions, the meeting was spread out into sixty-four, two-hour sessions, all delivered online between May and September. Sessions were recorded and remain available to attendees until December. When live, they were run early afternoon USA, so early evening UK, making the whole event accessible from my kitchen. Each session used a platform that allowed live and pre-recorded talks with chat for questions. Many speakers provided their presentations and scripts for download.

I attended thirty-two sessions in total. My focus was the Electronic Media Group, but I also attended sessions on public conservation labs, plastics conservation, scholarly writing, education and engagement, sustainability, big data (data is knowledge!) and my old haunt the book and paper group. What I learnt has already contributed and reshaped my current projects. More significantly, attending this conference gave me focus through a difficult period. There are elements of in-person events that we all miss but I wonder how much moving conferences like these online would make them more affordable, sustainable and accessible to a wider audience, which can only be beneficial in terms of improving access to and engagement with our profession?

It seems glib to be writing about a professional development opportunity when surrounded by the far more significant topics of Covid, Black Lives Matter and the financial impact of events on our sector. I am fortunate that the past few months have been an opportunity for reflection and learning. As I have lived my life from my kitchen table, the world outside has shifted, as has my view and understanding of my own privilege and position. Education is at the core of development and something we should all have access to and I think online conferences could have their part to play.  Sometimes a small grant can go a long way.


Photographs both taken by Kirsten Dunne ACR


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