By Marina Herriges
November 2021—this was the month that all eyes from around the globe were looking at Glasgow where the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, was held. The venue was divided into two zones on either side of the River Clyde: the Blue Zone, where negotiations between world leaders took place, and the Green Zone, where the public shared a platform to voice concerns and perspectives and where IIC had its stall for two days.
Being interested in climate change, I was quite excited to learn the outcomes of the conference as well as participate in it. Seeing the lack of engagement or commitment to change by some world leaders, as well as witnessing greenwashing in some of the stalls in the Green Zone, was rather disappointing. On the other hand, it was inspiring to hear indigenous communities speak their truth, encouraging everyone to respect nature and, in consequence, address climate change. It was also great to hear the younger generation’s voices as the people who will be most affected by climate change.
IIC also wanted to contribute towards this agenda by hosting a 24-hour Edit-a-thon, generating professional open access content with useful knowledge for the conservation community and improving the profile of the profession. The Edit-a-thon was the perfect way to make conservators, students, professors and universities commit to and directly engage in mitigating the effects of climate change; participants signed in from Brazil to Australia, from Europe to Asia. Wikipedia was perfect as an open access publishing platform.
The work behind the scenes started in September. Organizing this promising event took some time, but it was worth every minute. Discussions between IIC and Wikipedia were very important for getting everything sorted in advance.
After calling for registration, IIC and Wikipedia trained participants to become editors using the Wikipedia platform. During the last week of October, Richard Nevell, our Wikimedia liaison, demonstrated the tools that participants would use to edit and walked trainees through how to create open access content. Q&A sessions were also carried out to allay any doubts and make sure editors were capable of using the platform and generating content during the 24-hour event.
The actual Edit-a-thon started online at midnight, UK time, on 10 November 2021. Sarah Stannage (IIC Executive Di-rector) and I were live from Glasgow at COP26 during the day. Australia kicked off the editing with the University of Melbourne followed by the University of Canberra. Their students passed the baton to the students at the University of Glasgow (Scotland) and Cardiff University (Wales) which was followed by Gothenburg University (Sweden), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). Other conservators from around the globe also participated in the event contributing throughout the 24 hours.
Social media was used to connect everyone who was taking part in the event and let the wider conservation community know the outcomes of the IIC Edit-a-thon. Universities posted images of their students in action, and our IIC communication team did a brilliant job reposting content and keeping people up-to-date as the event evolved throughout the 24 hours.
In the end we had exceptional numbers: more than 50 editors were trained and participated in the event, more than 50,000 words were added on Wikipedia, 18 new pages were created as well as translations in Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Subjects were various including green museums, sustainable initiatives in museums, collection maintenance, agents of deterioration, conservation and restoration of movable heritage and collections management among others.
I am ever so grateful to everyone who participated in the IIC COP26 Edit-a-thon. You did a brilliant job working together. Please keep adding and editing content on Wikipedia. Keep an eye out for other possible editions of IIC Edit-a-thon in the future, as we really enjoyed making it happen and aim to continue. I would also like to thank the IIC and Wikipedia teams who helped before and during the 24-hour event; you did a fantastic job!
If you did not participate, please take a look at content related to sustainability in conservation on Wikipedia. Chances are, it was created during our IIC 24-hour Edit-a-thon.
A FINAL NOTE ON COP26
Last but not the least, I would like to share some personal reflections on the COP26. The effects of global warming will not be experienced equally across the globe; these differences are especially notable where communities are suffering from extreme conditions and living in poverty. Climate change is also a matter of inequality.
Elizabeth Wathuti, a climate activist from Kenya, highlighted in her speech at COP 26 the starvation, failing rainy seasons and rivers running dry as some of the results of climate change in her area. Txai Suruí, an indigenous activist from the Suruí people in the Brazilian Amazon emphasized that we need to act immediately: “It is not 2030 or 2050”, she said, “it is now”, as she sees unprecedented changes in the landscape of the Amazon.
David Attenborough, an English broadcaster, natural historian and author, presented the changes he has been seeing throughout his lifetime. David also highlighted some things in his presentation that I believe are quite present in our profession that we can make full use of. He observed that humans are quite good at problem-solving, and I believe we, as conservators, are natural problem solvers. Conservators work in a constant cycle of evaluating available materials, possible treatments and related activities during our decision-making process.
He also mentioned the long-term impact of our actions. In my view, climate change may seem like a challenge as we live in times where the culture of immediacy makes long-term goals look difficult to commit to. However, this is not how we will solve the climate issue. Resilience will help us to solve this challenge. As conservators, we preserve heritage for those who are yet to come, therefore, resilience is embedded in our daily work. Ultimately this can help us to change the status quo and evolve towards a more environmentally friendly profession.
Note: If you are interested in climate change, you can watch the proceedings from the Climate.Culture.Peace. virtual conference, which took place 24-28 January 2022, in partnership between ICCROM and IIC.
Marina Herriges works as a textile conservator at Textile Conservation Limited in Bristol, UK. She holds an MPhil in textile conservation from the University of Glasgow. She currently researches embedding environmental sustainability in conservation education at the Kelvin Centre for Conservation and Cultural Heritage Research at the University of Glasgow. Marina has worked in a range of different heritage and conservation organizations in Brazil, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
(Read the whole article in the February-March 2022 "News in Conservation" Issue 88, p. 52-55)