Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Conservation according to IIC

So a second week of international conservation conferences has just concluded with the IIC (International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works) 2014 Biennial Congress in Hong Kong wrapping up on Friday. And the first thing to comment on is that two solid weeks of conferencing has in the end gone in a flash and not been as exhausting as I thought it would be, helped by the very different nature of ICOM-CC and IIC conferences and the different locations (Melbourne and Hong Kong). I noted that 24 conservators from  around the world attended both.

450 conservators attended IIC with, by my reckoning, about 50% of them Chinese speaking. That meant for a quality of dialogue I have never been exposed to in terms of exploring east vs west approaches to conservation (and for some occasional word mis-conversions by the translators, the best of which unfortunately cannot be repeated online!).

Takeaways for me from the papers were:
  • the extent of the cross over between craft skills and conservation in Chinese conservation projects.
  • the extraordinary richness of early Chinese textiles (11th Century and earlier) excavated from Tang, Han and Ming dynasty tombs and the challenges of their conservation.
  • the challenges of climate change in subtropical climates, where mould and increasing pest activity are requiring greater vigilance in collection care.
A great social program with receptions organised every night at respectively the Museum of Coastal Defence, the Heritage Museum, the British Consulate and the Asia Society. The highlight was the conference dinner on the Jumbo Floating Restaurant complete with a dotting the eyes on the lion ceremony and face mask magicians. Like all good conferences, the receptions are a key part of the show, as not only do conservators like to drink (in moderation of course), but it is where invariably I find the most useful networking is achieved.

However, the big news for IIC coming out of the conference was twofold. Firstly, we managed through a panel session to get agreement on the Environmental Guidelines we had drafted at the ICOM-CC conference. These have now been formally declared as a joint IIC / ICOM-CC position on environmental conditions and without a doubt moves us forward in this complex area. The next stage is to build on this declaration to provide more specific details.

Secondly, and somewhat unexpectedly, IIC ended up signing a MOU with the Palace Museum in Beijing to cooperate on a range of initiatives including a training program. How this came about was that the Director of the Palace Museum, Dr Jixiang Shan, was invited to give the Forbes Prize lecture, which is the Congress' equivalent of the key note address.  So impressed was Dr Shan by IIC and the congress that he delayed his flight back to Beijing to work through with us how such a relationship would work.

Although it is very early days, fundamentally this means that the good will and professional exchange that has been established with our South East Asian colleagues over the last week now has a mechanism by which this can be built upon.

Genuinely exciting times for conservation!

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