Issue 20 : Autumn 2005
En route to The Hague for the first time to attend a meeting of the International
Council of Museums (ICOM) I remembered a conversation about marriage with
Robert Crumb and his wife Aline. I’d said my partnership and marriage
to Caroline had survived nearly 40 years because of the slight distance
we maintained from each other. “You’re not alone,” laughed
Aline, looking at Robert.
did I realise, that in the little gap between Caroline and myself one
day I would find thousands of people from seventy five nations; the Membership
of ICOM’s Committee for Conservation and its Directory Board of
which Caroline was, until her death in December 2004, the Vice-Chair.
She had earned a place in their heart.
The Triennial opened to a packed house of nearly a thousand
delegates. Looking down on them all was a vast photograph of Caroline,
in whose memory the Conference began with a minute’s silence. Five
days later her smiling face once again dominated the hall for the Final
Session, when, on her behalf, I received the prestigious ICOM Medal awarded
to her memory by the organisation.
Because of her mordant modesty the scale and impact of
her contribution internationally to her profession never came home to
us, her family. And I guess that most of her colleagues at Somerset House
may not have realised Caroline was in effect running not one, but TWO
major international organisations – her Department and ICOM’s
Conservation arm (ICOM-CC). In collaboration with the Getty Conservation
Institute she turned ICOM-CC into an increasingly powerful world force.
As one delegate after another, approached me to share their gratitude
for her kindness and guidance I could only wonder, how did she fit all
this into her life?
I then staggered off with the two volumes of the Conference
papers; a summary of world conservation practice across dozens of fields.
These illustrated books are the size of telephone directories and weigh
in at three and a half kilos. She edited these publications, now fittingly
dedicated to her memory.
It remains for the Conference on materials organised
jointly by the National Gallery, London and the Courtauld Institute in
February this year to appear in book form for Caroline’s contribution
to be complete. That volume, about the trade in artists’ materials
in Europe up to 1700, was as ever with her, realised in happy collaboration.
The subject was one I watched her develop over many years and I know the
conference, which she did not live to see, was one of her proudest achievements.
It will, in my view, be her enduring memorial as a Courtauld scholar.