Event Review: IIC 2017 Student & Emerging Conservator Conference – Head, Hands & Heart, Bern

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Conference participants at the entrance of the HKB. Picture: ©T. Demmel 2017.

By Mariana Escamilla Martínez, Charlotte Hoffmann and Naja Staats

From October 12-13, 2017, the IIC Student and Emerging Conservator Conference (IIC-SECC) was hosted at the Bern University of the Arts (HKB). This conference was the fourth in the series, following those previously held in London (2011), Copenhagen (2013), and Warsaw (2015). This year’s conference was attended by 94 participants from various countries including China, Cuba, Germany, Poland, and Russia among others. The local organizing committee, directed by Isa von Lenthe, consisted of 16 students from the HKB.

The round-table format of the conference encouraged emerging conservators to discuss important topics with one another and with experienced professionals in attendance. Talks and discussions were broadcast live online, enabling a wide audience to take part in the sessions. The conference topics were divided into three sessions inspired by the credo of Joachim Pestalozzi, "Learning with Head, Hands and Heart.” The conference opened with interesting guided tours in some of Bern’s cultural institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts Bern and the Natural History Museum of Bern.

Talks by Stefan Brüggerhoff, Hannah Flock and Velson Horie opened the first session, "Head: Scientific Research/Conservation Science and its Application." The speakers commented on their personal experiences and recommended use of scientific tools to correctly assess the practical purposes of conservation. Moreover, speakers encouraged attendees to enhance their work by taking an interdisciplinary approach and including scientists and other professionals.

In the second session “Hands: Conservation/Restoration in Practice,” Rupert Featherstone, Christoph Waller, and Anja Romanowski discussed different work situations in their institutions, as well as the importance of finding a balance between practical and theoretical work during training. The introduction of conservators into other industries or professional fields was discussed and presented as a plausible career path, bringing conservation into new markets and management positions.

The last session, “Heart: Passion and Communication in Conservation” was led by Ana Galán, Helen Hughes, and Renate Poggendorf, who emphasized the urgent need for interdisciplinary collaboration in order to raise awareness of and acknowledge the work of conservators, increasing recognition of the profession.

After these three sessions, participants were invited to visit the HKB conservation workrooms where students presented interesting presentations on current conservation projects.

From our discussions during and after our time in Bern, we have come to the conclusion that it is important to participate in such events as emerging conservators because of the transcendence of the discussions. The IIC-SECC Bern has motivated us to keep training and working scientifically. We must also keep in mind that outreach to other professionals is important. During the conference we were confronted with the difficulties and issues of our profession, but left Bern inspired to become an active part of the solutions. Events such as the well-organized and successful IIC-SECC 2017 at the HKB not only offer platforms for discussion and gaining advice from fellow conservators, but they also create a space for sharing ideas, exchanging research, and networking. We fully recommend and encourage fellow students and emerging conservators to attend the next IIC-SECC.

For more information about the IIC-SECC conferences, please visit: www.iiconservation.org/student-conferences/2017bern

All the mentioned sessions, as well as those from past SECC conferences are available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgJNIbbqmfs&t=46s


Mariana Escamilla Martínez studied conservation and restoration of paintings and polychrome sculpture at the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS). She is currently working on her Master’s thesis project, which deals with the use of “Green Solvents” for varnish treatments on oil paintings. Mariana is also a member of Sustainability in Conservation (SiC), promoting sustainable practices in the conservation of cultural heritage.

Naja-Anissa Staats received her Bachelor’s degree in conservation and restoration of paintings and polychrome sculpture at the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS). She is presently writing her Master’s thesis on the possible applications of terahertz radiation in painting conservation. Simultaneously, she is committed to protecting the restoration profession in North Rhine Westphalia.

Charlotte Hoffmann currently studies at the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS) where she received her Bachelor’s degree in conservation and restoration of paintings and polychrome sculptures. At present she is working on her Master’s thesis project focusing on discoloration of green, copper based pigments in 17th century oil paintings. Charlotte is chairwoman of the student council at CICS.