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10.10.2019

Tru Vue Blog: The long road back to Belfast

Ciarán Lavelle is an objects conservator. Thanks to a Tru Vue grant he received in 2019, he was able to join the delegates at #Icon19 in Belfast. Here he reflects on some of the his personal conference highlights as well as the exciting new changes in his career. 

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I have been to many Icon conferences since I first entered the conservation profession but this this year the conference was a special occasion as it took place in Belfast, the first time the conference took place in Northern Ireland. It was an especially exciting for me as it was being held in my home country and a city, in which I spent many great years. I was excited to see how Belfast had changed since I last lived there and how the heritage profession had progressed since I last worked in it in 2005. More importantly I was excited to show off my home to my colleagues.

The opening reception took place in the Ulster Museum on the Wednesday night and it was a great night of meeting old friends and colleagues and making new. It was a great chance to show off the museum of my youth to the team and see the recently refurbished galleries. After the event we went for a quick tour of the Cathedral Quarter and the renowned pubs before an early night so we would be fresh for the first day of talks. The conference was hosted by the Belfast Waterfront venue, a large modern area within the heart of the city and on the picturesque Lagan river. The attendance for the conference was high with participants from all over the UK and Ireland as well as some very interesting international speakers.

bmt_cons_team_at_icon_2019_0.jpg​​​My colleagues Lizzie, Ben and Derek joining me in enjoying an authentic pint of Guinness in the Duke of York, Belfast while at the Icon 2019 conference.

Conference highlights

The conference schedule was packed with interesting talks, lectures and classes from a wide range of topics across the heritage profession many of which were taking place at the same time. There was so much choice as to what to learn on the two days, it was very hard to choose which talk to attend. I found Maniyarasan Rajendran’s talk in the Having It Large 1 session on day two on the use of modern photographic techniques in the preservation of built heritage from the architectural profession fascinating as it highlights the use of techniques, I believe can be adapted for many functions within the conservation profession. For me the stand out talk of the conference was by Richard Mulholland and Elsa Guerreiro on day one. I was in awe of their work to help undertake the conservation in a Conflict Zone, where they helped to assessing and conserve the war-damaged painting collection at the National Gallery of Afghanistan. One of the important talks of the conference took place in the closing keynote session of the final day, where Meredith Wiggins talked about the profession’s climate responsibilities, how we must think greener in how we preserve our heritage, a vitally important message to take home with us.

The long road home

When Friday afternoon came there was the typical conference rush for trains, planes and automobiles as everyone made their way back to the real world, and a weekend to recover from the physical and mental marathon a conference can represent. For me it was not a trip back to Birmingham with the rest of my conservation colleagues but a train back home to visit the family in rural Armagh, a trip I make only a handful of times a year from Birmingham. This trip was even more important as it has come about a very important change in my personal and professional life as I will from October be returning to Belfast to join the collections services team and become an active leader in the Northern Irish heritage profession with the National Museum of Northern Ireland. I look forward to rediscovering Belfast, delving into our rich heritage and getting to know my new colleagues. I would like to thank TruVue and Icon for making it possible to attend the conference.

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Image, Ciarán Lavelle

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