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News Student Blog: IIC Conference

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Melissa King (WUDPAC), Beth Parker Miller (Winterthur Registrar), and Dr. Joelle Wickens (Winterthur Preventive Conservator/Associate Director of WUDPAC preparing to board their flight to Turin Italy.

Thanks in part to the generous award from the Brommelle Memorial Fund, the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation professional development fund, and the Society of Winterthur Fellows, I was able to travel to Turin, Italy in early September to attend the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) 27th Biennial Congress—my first international conference. The theme of this congress was, “Preventive Conservation: The State of the Art.” It was an especially timely conference for me in my studies as this past spring I had declared my specialty at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) to be Preventive Conservation. At WUDPAC we spend our first year of study covering knowledge and applied science in nine specialties: preventive, textiles, paper, organic objects, wooden artifacts, photographs, library and archives, paintings, and inorganic objects. Our second and third years provide the opportunity to delve into a specific topic and develop in-depth skills in that specialty. I became the first student from our program (or from other art conservation graduate schools in North America) to declare Preventive Conservation as my specialty.

​Cappuccino from a local café in Turin, and a view of the Palazzo Reale where the opening reception took place.

Attending a conference on preventive conservation prior to beginning my studies in the topic was the perfect complement to my academic goals. Traveling with my major supervisor, Dr. Joelle Wickens (Winterthur Museum’s Preventive Conservator, and WUDPAC’s Associate Director) made the experience even richer as we were able to confer on topics we heard and work together to develop a real plan for my course of study for the year. We paid close attention to the topics I found especially exciting. Having studied in Italy as an undergraduate student, I was elated to return to the country and embrace the culture, the arts, the language, and especially the food.

Dr. Wickens presented her paper on the imperative of teaching soft skills in a preventive conservation training program. Her talk set the tone for many of the others throughout the week, as people reiterated the importance of communicating and developing our interpersonal relationships as a means of promoting preventive conservation. We were both excited that she had the opportunity to announce the implementation of a preventive conservation major based on my decision earlier in the year. The announcement was well received; many conference attendees approached Joelle and me expressing their interest in the program and offering suggestions on technical skills I should develop in the coming years.

​Dr. Joelle Wickens being introduced for the presentation of her paper, and Beth Parker Miller (Winterthur Registrar) discussing the poster she coauthored with Joelle on sustainable storage.

One presentation that stood out particularly for me was by Lynne Harrison of the National Gallery in London. She discussed the development of a cross-departmental team with a unified purpose of promoting preventive conservation within the museum. I feel strongly that communication and shared ownership in the stewardship of museum collections can have positive effects in the overall mission of preservation. In a conversation with Lynne after her talk, I discovered that we both agree that it is important to listen to the voiced opinions of security staff when considering the threats of physical forces within the galleries. They are, among many others, museum staff members with valuable input that should be heard.

I was riveted by English Heritage’s Amber Xavier-Rowe and Dr. Paul Lankester’s presentation on the use of citizen science and the press to learn more about an increasing clothes moth population in England. As a student who is excited by Integrated Pest Management with a strong background in marketing, I was especially enthralled by this transparent, creative marketing strategy that excited the public about a topic that is often swept under the rug. On a similar theme of outreach and education, I appreciated Simon Lambert’s (Canadian Conservation Institute) presentation about the evolution of learning and teaching strategies. It served as inspiration to create my own content with the goal of education in preventive conservation.

​Left: Dr. Paul Lankester (Conservation scientist at English Heritage) presenting on the creative strategy English Heritage used to collect data on the clothes moth epidemic in England. Right: Michael Henry (University of Pennsylvania), Melissa King (WUDPAC), and Dr. Joelle Wickens (Winterthur/University of Delaware) at the congress banquet dinner.

Since I am in the middle of a literature search for my own scientific research project, I listened carefully to talks that posed interesting research angles and topics that could benefit from further examination. It was fascinating to hear Dr. David Thickett (conservation scientist for English Heritage) discuss some of what he considers the frontiers of preventive conservation research. I was excited by Sarah-Jane Fox’s technique for monitoring particulate matter deposition, and I am considering other applications for this technology. My interest was piqued by the research being carried out by Patricia Poreira and Nadia Silva (Universidade Católica Portuguesa) on the development of bionanomaterials for antimicrobial properties in cultural heritage. I will certainly be considering some of these topics and their applications to my own scientific research this year.

Aside from the talks and posters, my trip to IIC Turin this year offered an invaluable opportunity to meet other conservators from around the world with a shared passion for the growth of preventive conservation as a field. I am grateful for the generosity I experienced as these practicing conservators answered my questions and offered support and suggestions. The opportunity to meet others was enhanced by the beautiful settings within the Palazzo Reale, the Veneria Reale, and the Palazzo Madama. A surreal moment that epitomized the magic of my trip happened while I was sitting between Dr. Joelle Wickens and my professor in building diagnostics at the University of Pennsylvania, Michael Henry. We were discussing the various properties of fluid dynamics and surface cooling within an environment when a musical fountain show erupted in the courtyard of the palace. I feel lucky to be a student in this enriching field and am so grateful for the support that I have received now and as I move forward with my studies.

— Melissa King, WUDPAC Class of 2020

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Fellow and Preventive Conservation major Melissa King reflects on her experience attending the International Institute for Conservation conference in Turin, Italy.

​In this blog post, WUDPAC Fellow and Preventive Conservation major Melissa King reflects on her experience attending the International Institute for Conservation conference in Turin, Italy.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489