Join our Socratic Dialogues for conservators - an experiment in how we communicate and think

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Socrates statue
Wednesday, 27 April, 2022 to Wednesday, 1 March, 2023

A series of events for 2022 - 23, beginning on 27 April
Free and exclusive to IIC Student and Early Career members

Sign up for the first event here.
Not an IIC Student or Early Career member?  explore your joining options here, including discounts by country.

As a student, or someone beginning a professional career in conservation, you will recently have been exposed to the many concepts in conservation ethics - in forms ranging from lectures, discussion groups and workshops to conservation studio experience.

You have become aware that issues such as minimal treatment, original appearance, respect for an object, retouching, and value, are subject to often heated debate. You will also know that thinking about conservation ethics is in a constant state of flux. However it can still be difficult to find the time to reflect on what you have learned and experienced without feeling like you are being judged by your colleagues or the faculty.

"The creation of a free space requires active participation and discipline - with the goal to listen to one another."

In order to provide free space for you to think about your future role in conservation, IIC is offering a series of so-called Socratic Dialogues to help you reflect on a number of important issues in conservation and conservation ethics.

The Socratic method developed in modern times by the German philosopher Leonard Nelson, is an excellent, proven method for such reflections. It is a structured form of dialogue in which all participants actively contribute. The purpose of the dialogue is not to solve the question or controversies at hand with respect to issues in conservation and conservation ethics, but to investigate and understand each other’s experience, opinions and concerns. The Socratic method provides a safe, open environment for participants to investigate what the essence is behind these issues, to understand your own points of view as well as those of others, and use that understanding to inform conservation decisions in the future.

Take part in our 'Socratic Dialogue' event

The Socratic dialogue series will consist of five dialogues spread over one school year. Each dialogue will be conducted in English. Depending on the particular format, the dialogues will last between two and three hours and will be conducted on-line. The starting times will depend on the geographic location of the international participants.

The first dialogue is scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Course leader: Dr Bill Wei

The series is led by Dr Bill Wei, a senior conservation scientist (retired) in the Cultural Heritage Laboratory of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE). He conducts research into the effects of cleaning and treatments of objects on their appearance and viewers’ perception, as well as the effect of vibrations and mechanical stresses on the condition of fragile works of art and cultural heritage. A major area of interest is how conservation decisions are influenced by the differing perception of objects by art historians, conservation scientists, conservators, curators, directors, and other collections staff.

Dr. Wei has trained as a Socratic dialogue moderator and has organized over 50 dialogues over the past eleven years.

We do hope you decide to join us for a stimulating opportunity to stretch and challenge how you think, alongside other Student and Early Career IIC members.

If you can't attend the first event, but would like to participate in the others, please register your interest or email Ellie Sweetnam at

Credit: Socrates. Image taken by Ben Crowe. Socrates | Ben Crowe | Flickr Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons — Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC BY 2.0