Why wait? A message from IIC President Jerry Podany, and a request for feedback

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IIC President Jerry Podany (c) Jerry Podany

In a few short months IIC will have its 24th biennial congress and will welcome the international conservation community to Vienna (http://www.iiconservation.org/congress ). The papers being prepared are an extraordinary bunch and the posters, including the student submissions, promise to be both informative and expansive in content. Vienna will be a congress to remember … .and to attend.

It is customary for the President to offer a few summary remarks at the congress, addressing the state of IIC and updating the delegates about IIC’s activities. As I was beginning to prepare those remarks it occurred to me “Why wait?” We live in a world of greater and more immediate communication, as the over 8000 active IIC Facebook fans will attest to. Hence this outreach message to you.

This is my sixth and final year as president of IIC and as I scan the horizon of the organization’s change and growth the topography is full of promise…and challenges. IIC has achieved a great deal in a few short years, building on the solid foundations continually formed since 1950. The Council has worked hard to develop a new flexibility allowing the organization to respond to opportunities faster, to initiate change in a more timely manner and to be open to more creative possibilities. All of this is, or course, done with attention to fiscal responsibility so to assure the future health of the organization. It has been both a pleasure and, in these financially difficult times, a challenge.

The focus of these efforts has always been to increase the organization’s value and relevance to the profession; to advocate for the care of heritage and to champion a broader world view of heritage preservation. Much has been achieved.

There are now full transcripts of seven events from the IIC initiative “Dialogues for the New Century” on the IIC web site (http://www.iiconservation.org/dialogues ). Freely available to all. The initiative was launched to provide open discussion of difficult, sometimes controversial issues and to give voice to a wide variety of stakeholders involved in and directly affected by such issues. From the impact of global climate change on heritage to the often tense interface between gentrification and preservation of living historic places, these events have been far from the traditional presentation format. They have all been dynamic exchanges and, we hope you agree, have long term relevance. For these to have the broadest relevance possible, IIC launched Project Lingua, an initiative that has welcomed a growing number of professionals willing to apply their language skills toward translating the records of these events. There are now 14 languages represented on the Dialogues page of the IIC web site and each month more languages and more translations are added. Truly this has been a communal effort and many of the “Linguas” have commented that they feel more of an integral part of the international community by joining this effort. I want to take this moment to thank each of them and encourage anyone who wishes to join them not to hesitate. And to encourage you to send IIC any ideas you might have for future Dialogue events.

Publication is a core area of IIC’s activities and it has seen the greatest changes of all (http://www.iiconservation.org/browse/publications ). We have integrated Reviews into Studies in Conservation and have shifted the very popular News in Conservation to a web based publication where it can do far more while costing far less. IIC has completely revamped the way in which papers pass through the peer review process, resulting in a much faster turnaround, indeed a time frame which is among the fastest anywhere in the field. A concerted effort has been made to have Studies in Conservation and back issues of Reviews in Conservation as well as congress preprints more easily searchable online. This means that contributions are cited more often and recognized more fully, raising the status and visibility of your work. And IIC now has partnered with a new publisher, one that provides IIC with the kind of stability and future growth potential it, and you, deserve. These have been demanding changes and some have been costly, but they all have been necessary to keep pace both with the world we all work in and the realities we all face. And you have responded positively. Studies in Conservation has seen a dramatic and steady increase in the number of submissions in this last two years and News in Conservation continues to elicit comments and praise. Through these changes, and those yet to come (look for an upcoming article in News in Conservation by Joyce Townsend, Director of Publications) , IIC will continue to be stronger and will be better able to serve the Heritage Conservation community worldwide.

The Community has also responded with generosity to the IIC World Membership program which, through the Opportunities Fund, has made it possible for our colleagues working under demanding conditions in less economically privileged countries, to join and benefit from the international community of IIC. Over 11 institutional memberships, from Bulgaria to Vietnam, Peru to Turkey and beyond, have been funded to date and we hope to do more each coming year. Thank you World Members!

And thank you to the international community of conservation students who have responded so enthusiastically to IIC’s efforts to create meaningful programming and opportunities targeted to their interests and needs. In September 2012 IIC held the first Student & Emerging Conservator Conferences, at University College London, a cutting-edge event, focusing on the relationship between conservation in education and the actualities of conservation in practice. this event attracted and international audience of over 100 students who took part online as well as in person. IIC student membership is on the rise and our hopes are to reach out even more energetically to this next generation, the future of heritage conservation.

Are you exhausted yet? I hope not, because there’s more!

Through a generous grant from the Getty Foundation, the IIC has restructured its web site. While we realize it may not look much different on the outside just yet, the “inside” now allows for greater stability, flexibility, depth and potential for expansion. We hope you have noticed better performance. A new look and a more intuitive interface is soon to come.

Partnering with other national and international organizations has been a focus of IIC for the last several years in efforts to do more through partnerships and to build stronger networking among us all. In partnership with INCCA and INCCA-NA we are planning a very exciting roundtable in Vienna in September that may well have an extended life beyond the congress and the transcript. IIC is also working productively with ICCROM and other organizations on forthcoming events which we are confident will excite and serve the profession. There is great promise in this kind of collaboration and we know that many more initiatives of this sort will be realized in the future.

The IIC has always seen advocacy and development of the profession of heritage conservation among its key roles internationally and part of that development is the creation of national and regional IIC groups (http://www.iiconservation.org/about/regional-groups ), some of which over time have become quite successful and independent, such as the American Institute for Conservation (formerly the IIC American Group) and the UK group Icon (formerly IIC's UK Group). Recently IIC has helped bring into existence several new IIC national groups, including the IIC Croatian, and the IIC Arabic groups. Both are already impressively active and are raising the bar for heritage preservation in their regions.

The economic condition for all of us, every professional organization, every not-for-profit, every learned society and every individual in the world at this moment is a challenge. And yet IIC has done more, with less. Imagine what it will do as it grows stronger.
But IIC cannot grow stronger unless you are involved.

For that growth to be a reality and for each of us… all of us… to benefit, the IIC needs your support and your involvement. The IIC encourages you to join our world community… your world community. New opportunities and new challenges are on the horizon and so is new leadership. The IIC will need a new president and there remain several positions available on the Council. And as the IIC’s strategic plan matures, the clear need for greater involvement of the membership is the only way forward. Groups who share a concern, an interest, and a focus need to come together and work for the betterment of our profession, for the preservation of heritage all around the world and for the expansion of one of the oldest and most established conservation organizations in the world…IIC.

Will you join us? Will you lend your talent, your experience, and your creativity to our shared cause? Those who have will tell you that a deep sense of satisfaction awaits you as a member of this community.

And a final note. When I first ran for president, I emphasized that the first “I” in IIC, stood for “International”. I remain convinced that one of IIC’s most important purposes is the formation and maintenance of a world community brought together to support and advance heritage conservation. This is more important now than it has ever been within our profession. We have made great advances, but more… much more… needs to be done, and can be done…so, why wait?

Jerry Podany
IIC President

What next?

How can you add to the many activities and advances described above by IIC President Jerry Podany? There are many opportunities that await you. During your training or professional career have you ever thought, 'This could be done better'. Do you have ideas you would like to see debated in an open forum? Do you want to do more with your foreign language skills? Do you miss the contact with former colleagues, or do you want to establish new contacts within the profession? If you want to find out how you can play an active role with IIC, do contact the IIC office on iic@iiconservation.org or by telephone: +44 20 7799 5500. We welcome your involvement!

Jo Kirby Atkinson
IIC Secretary-General