Highlights from the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) 3rd Student and Emerging Conservator Conference

Warsaw, Poland
15-17 October 2015

by Elizabeth Hippisley-Cox

Photo - IIC Conference 2015 delegates
IIC Conference 2015 delegates, photo by Tymon Rizov-Ciechanski

This recent conference in Warsaw followed on from the success of two previous IIC Student and Emerging Conservator conferences, the first of which was in London in 2011, and the second in Copenhagen in 2013. The aim of the series is to provide students, recent graduates and those in the first stages of their career with information to help prepare them for a career in conservation. It also presents a valuable opportunity to network with conservators from around the world, and to discuss and engage with the issues in conservation training today.

Alongside the main conference there were also many student posters featuring projects from the leading conservation courses in Poland, and a guided tour around the conservation departments of the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw. The conservation courses at the Academy are ‘long-cycle’ programmes, 6 years in duration, with students starting study after upper secondary school and graduating with an MA. Students specialise early on in their studies, broadly divided into paintings, paper and leather, sculpture, or textiles. During the tour we saw how chemistry classes, practical craft training, real conservation projects, and excellent facilities equip their students with the skills to enter the profession.

153 delegates of 20 different nationalities participated in the event, held at the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The staff and students at the Academy did an incredible job of planning and organising visits to twelve different conservation studios around Warsaw, and facilitating three ’round-table’ style sessions that were also open to web-participants online via live stream.

Photo - Academy tour, IIC Conference 2015
Academy tour, IIC Conference 2015, photo by E. Hippisley-Cox

Sessions included: Making the Transition: From Student to Conservation – Restoration Professional, session 1: Different beginnings for the same journey, session 2: Bridging the gap between studies and work, and session 3: The professional conservator – restorer. The three sessions covered a lot of ground, from examining the relative merits of various conservation training programs available internationally, to the benefits of learning abroad, the ethics of volunteering and unpaid training, and the role of professional organisations, and much more. It was very interesting to see broad patterns emerging from the conference, and also (away from the cameras!) discussions during the social elements of the event. In particular there was a common feeling that despite financial cuts to institutions, increasing training costs and job competition, the prevailing attitudes of emerging conservators were overwhelmingly positive and cooperative.

The recordings of the three sessions are available to view on YouTube: