It is with great pleasure and excitement that we join our conservation friends and colleagues in the 28th IIC biennial Congress 2020. This is a very special edition in a very complex context, but rather than be worried, we would like to share the spirit of this edition, so welcome one and all! Also, Bienvenidos from Argentina (Cecilia) and Namaste from India (Priyanka)!
During this week we will travel from East to West and South to North, sharing experiences related to the theme of this congress: Current Practices and Challenges in Built Heritage Conservation. Therefore, this is a great opportunity to make our community extensive and stronger and, as emerging conservators, this is an excellent chance not only to learn from professionals with larger careers, but also to get in contact with other students and early career conservators around the world. Building these connections is the goal of this congress too, especially in this current situation.
The conference began with a fantastic opening ceremony. President of the IIC, Julian Bickersteth (Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts) encouraged the listeners to ‘seek wisdom with understanding’ of the diverse conversations that will follow in the week. President Bickersteth also distinguished the design of the Congress, the expert presentations holistically bridging the divide of heritage buildings and in situ collections. We must admit that this reimagined virtual gathering with the international heritage community is gratifying, in spite of the physical distance and the time differences.
The next speaker Fiona Hyslop is the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture of the Scottish Government and Member of Scottish Parliament. From her honourable position, she helped us understand the various challenges to cultural heritage during the pandemic. Her confident spirit to use this time as an opportunity to pause, rethink and recover is admirable. She emphasized the need to decarbonize across all sectors to create a net zero society by 2045. In this regard, the papers in the sessions of 'Sustainability and Preventive Conservation' on November 4th and 5th respectively, are to look forward to in our opinion.
As this conference was initially planned in the charming city of Edinburgh, it has a strong Scottish presence with sessions and virtual tours giving a glimpse of the vast cultural heritage initiatives in the region. This was discussed by the third speaker of the opening ceremony, Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, who welcomed the audience warmly. What a great feeling it was to be transported to the Hill House through the 3D documentation and virtual tour of Mackintosh on Day 1! Even the following speaker, Sir John Leighton from National Galleries Scotland, remarked about Edinburgh’s dramatic vistas which will be brought to life through the digital medium in this Congress. Sir Leighton’s thoughts on harnessing positivity during this tough time is highly appreciated. We wholeheartedly agree with him about “...the power of digital technology, increase in collaboration, renewed sense of localism and community, emphasis on education and creativity”. He summarized our sentiments when he said that the sense of being deprived access to heritage has heightened the sense of appreciation for their vulnerability.
The last speaker of the opening ceremony Sir Mark Jones, Chair of The National Trust for Scotland, gave an overview of the building preservation activities and collections care at the wide range of historic and natural properties of the Trust. He concluded by saying it is important to recognize that less is better in conservation.
Finally, we would like to highlight the enthusiasm and huge participation. During the week before the Congress began, the general chat was full of greetings and messages from all over the world expressing their expectation and willingness to participate, that was very exciting! And while the opening ceremony was in progress, the chat box counted 250 people online. Many of you have commended the content and accessibility of the website, this is possible thanks to a talented team behind the scenes working on every detail.
Hence without much ado, we encourage you to make most of the live sessions during the week. Wish you all cheerful and safe times!
Cecilia Romero is an Art and Book Conservator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Priyanka Panjwani is a Conservation Architect based in Mumbai, India.