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Tru Vue Blog: International perspectives on #Icon19

Lucy Blumenthal is a South African, private paintings conservator, living and working in Johannesburg. She trained at The University of Northumbria in the late ‘90’s. Lucy works mainly on Contemporary South African paintings. Her clients include Art Auction Houses, public and private institutions. She received a Tru Vue CPD grant earlier in 2019 to attended #Icon19 in Belfast.


I thought I was going to Belfast to learn and update my bench skills, technical knowledge and make some new contacts. The conference did not disappoint.

I learnt about Nano materials for cleaning from Bronwyn Ormsby and the History and types of Acrylics paints by Patricia Smithen. The talk on Russian Abstract Art made me feel my challenges in South Africa are insignificant in comparison.

But, more importantly, it inspired me in my profession and has given me a renewed enthusiasm for conservation.

As a conservator in South Africa, I have always felt quite alone, isolated and inferior to the rest of the conservation world. This conference made me realise that as an experienced conservator, I have a lot to offer to the broader community. I’ve realised our challenges in South Africa are very similar to the rest of the world.

img_1770.jpgReflecting on the conference with fellow South African conservator, Grace Welsh

The interactive tours, dinners and meeting times with fellow conservators was wonderful. People were very open and willing to make contact, make introductions, share, mentor and guide.

These themes stood out for me and challenged me:

Communication! There was a strong emphasis on communication in many of the talks.  Share, tweet and be digital and be online! Be more inclusive. Use universal language. These ideas were outlined in Pia’s Edqvist’s talk, Emerging conservation Professionals network talk, ‘The C Word’ podcast talk and of course Debra Norris fired us all up at the end of the conference with her talk.

Lack of diversity in the profession. There is a genuine desire to include more diversity in the profession. Decolonisation of museums and objects came through in both Pia Edqvist’s talk on the ‘Role of Conservators in Contested Heritage’, but also in the Emerging Conservation Professionals talk.

Hand skills are at risk as younger conservators training is more technical & scientific.

Collaboration with artists and documenting artists intentions for the future. The ‘Zombification?’ talk by Ana Ribeiro, as well as Brian Castriata’s talk on on Katie Paterson’s ‘Future Library’ stood out for me. The Emerging professionals talk also highlighted these themes.

Sustainability in Conservation.

Conservation is preserving memories. It's about people's memories and respecting those. Paul Mullan made this point in his talk.

Conservation is now all about people!

I left the conference feeling energised, with new perspectives on sharing knowledge in our profession in South Africa.



All Images: Lucy Blumenthal 


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