Newsletter Archive: Spring 2003
In September 2002 the International Council of Museums, Conservation Committee (ICOM-CC) held the first high profile conservation conference in Latin America, in Rio de Janeiro.The ICOM-CC Triennial Meeting is a unique event presenting cutting-edge research from every area of conservation activity and 24 specialist Working Groups. This Triennial attracted over 500 delegates from 64 different countries, and 113 bursaries were awarded to delegates from Latin America and from developing countries in order to ensure as wide a participation as possible. My own attendance was the culmination of three-years work as an elected member of the Directory Board of ICOM-CC and since 2001, vice Chair of the Board, a position to which I was fortunate enough to be re-elected in Rio
The Triennial Meeting is a hectic week with five parallel sessions running each day, so that as well as following ones own specialism there is the opportunity to reconnoitre less familiar territory and to get a feeling for innovation and development across the entire field. Paintings is one of the largest of the Working Groups and there were many excellent papers. A key topic was fundamental research into the complex interaction between drying oil media and pigments, the results of which have implications for both interventive and preventive conservation. Other papers discussed the results of the focused study of groups of paintings and made me think that the relatively recent term "technical art history" is in fact an indicator of the maturity of technical and material studies that now are able to draw on a large pool of data. All the papers presented were made available electronically one month in advance and at the conference both as bound Preprints and on CD-ROM.
Plenary sessions brought delegates together to consider issues of general relevance. The debate in conservation has extended far beyond what we do to objects, to consider why we do it and for whom. An important theme in the conference was community involvement in conservation, which was addressed at a mid- week Plenary. It was particularly stimulating to consider the span of activities that can be included under the name of conservation within a political context. For example, a presentation from El Salvador discussed an archive programme set up without any government funding as a tool for reconciliation at the end of the period of armed conflict. And a presentation from Argentina described a "cultural resistance phenomenon" in response to the destruction of a radical café where local residents drew attention to the symbolic significance of the café by dancing the Tango in the street outside the ruin, campaigning for its reconstruction. Such efforts also represent an attempt to sustain Latin American identities in a period of globalisation and centralisation.
On reflection I see this Triennial Meeting as marking a turning point for ICOM-CC, becoming a more activist and more inclusive organisation determined to raise public awareness of conservation as well as to continue to network the profession and to promote the dissemination of high quality research and practice.
CAROLINE VILLERS — Head of Conservation and Technology