Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vienna and Conferences

Spending eight days conferencing in Vienna, as I did earlier this month, sounds like a tough gig, but heh someone's got to attend these conferences or they won't happen. In this instance it was the bi annual Congress of IIC, the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic works. I'm a bit of a groupie for these get togethers of conservators from around the world, this being my fourth one. I am also Vice President of IIC.
So what did I bring back from a week in this World Heritage city? As always at IIC conferences, a realisation of the wealth of conservation work which is going on in highly specialised areas all over the world. Conservation papers ranged from treatment of tin relief on thirteenth century Cypriot wall paintings to decorative paint on seventeenth century Flemish harpsichords, wall paintings in Tutankhamen's tomb, crystal torcheres in Hawaii and Le Corbusier kitchens.

Stand out moments for me were Kasi Albert from Artlab Australia tackling the difficult issue of what to do about rivets used in old ceramic repairs, Heather Tetley on the challenges of in situ historic carpet repairs in an aptly tilted paper "Underfoot and Overlooked", and Sarah Staniforth from the National Trust on 'Use it or Lose it", discussing the need to make the National Trust collections accessible, and accept that some damage may occur in the process.

Along the way I could not resist slipping out to explore the extraordinary diversity of Vienna's cultural collections from the fabulous KunstHistoriche Museum to the Albertina. Stand outs for me were:

- the collections of the Natural History Museum, which pays limited lipservice to modern interpretative methodologies and lives by the depth of its collections presented with minimal interpretation in beautiful mahogany showcases in stunningly decorated rooms

- the new Klimt exhibition at the Belvedere which employs a series of apt dual language quotes in English and German written high on the wall of each gallery thus avoiding a cram of people trying to catch up with storyboards

The next IIC Congress will be in Hong Kong in September 2014. As in the same month ICOM's Committee for Conservation will be meeting in Melbourne, it promises to be a big year for conservation conferences.

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