Back from the ICOM-CC triennial conference!

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Kate and I recently returned from the ICOM-CC Triennial Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and had such a great and productive week that we want to share ALL of it with you! Thus a rather lengthy post for you to enjoy.
First of all, what’s ICOM-CC you ask?! Well, ICOM-CC stands for International Council of Museums –Committee for Conservation. Remember when we went to Chicago in April? ICOM-CC is the international version of AIC (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Work, i.e. the American conservation association).
ICOM’s activities are focused on the following themes:
– professional cooperation and exchange;
– dissemination of knowledge and raising public awareness of museums;
– training of personnel;
– advancement of professional standards;
– elaboration and promotion of professional ethics;
– preservation of heritage and combating the illicit traffic in cultural property.
You can find out more about ICOM here.

This triennial conference marked the 50th anniversary of ICOM-CC which evolved from two ICOM groups and about 100 members in 1967 to 21 groups and about 3000 members in 2017. This year’s meeting hosted approximately 1000 members from 58 countries! (Talk about being connected to one another!!)
Kate and I (and most of us here in the lab) are members of two of those 21 groups: the WOAM group (Wet Organic Archaeological Materials) and the Metals group.

From September 4th to September 8th, 250 presentations, including 150 papers and 100 posters, Working Groups business meetings, educational events, and inspiring keynote lectures took place from 9am to 9pm-ish.
During the WOAM Working Group session, Kate and I presented a poster about the last results of our sodium nitrite research here in the lab. You can read the poster here: Sangouard and Sullivan ICOMCC poster final. It was very well received and we had great feedback from many colleagues, which is always exciting.
Some former Swiss National Museum coworkers and I were also presenting results from a joint research project in the Metals Working Group session. Here is the article: BRUHIN et al_ICOMCC_2017. This too was very well received!

To celebrate the organization’s anniversary, two keynote speakers were invited mid-week to give lectures. And what a treat this was!! Eske Willerslev from the University of Copenhagen and Salvador Muñoz-Viñas from the University of Valencia were such inspiring lecturers.
The first one demonstrated how we all are connected to one another (ha!) through advances in evolutionary genetics research (please go read more about the work Eske and his team are doing, this is incredible). And the second lecturer discussed museums’ survival in today’s world, where our profession is non-profitable and often leads to non-tangible results…
Food for thought indeed!!

Keynote speakers panel

In the midst of all this, we had many fruitful discussions during coffee breaks with colleagues who also do what we do on the other side of the globe.
We also made new contacts and TMMP may, in the future, receive interns from the Guthenberg University in Sweden or the University of Delaware, two of the rare worldwide recognized training programs for conservators.
During the week, I was offered the opportunity of becoming one of the Assistant Coordinators (ACO) for the WOAM working group. This three year position consists of helping select papers and posters for the Interim WOAM meeting (also triennial), chairing sessions in the interim meeting, grading and selecting papers for the triennial ICOM-CC meeting and soliciting updates for the newsletter… This ACO appointment still needs to be approved by ICOM’s Directory Board but it would be a huge honor to be able to serve this organization more actively!
Finally both Kate and I were able to visit the National Museum of Denmark’s conservation labs as part of the tours organized during the conference. Their labs were incredible and the staff very kindly spent an afternoon showing us their facility and current projects. They’re doing some very interesting work investigating plastics and low energy collections storage buildings as well as treating wall murals, zinc statues and Viking ships, just to give a few examples. The vacuum freeze dryer in the wet organic conservation lab was ENORMOUS!

The metals conservation lab of the National Museum of Denmark
Kate in front of the ginormous freeze-dryer of the National Museum of Denmark

On personal time, I was able to t visit the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde (DK) and, we both separately visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm! Seeing the Vasa in person is such a breathtaking experience…

Overall, this was a trip of a lifetime. The conservation field is so small, and the archaeological conservation field is even smaller, we often feel isolated in our work. Even today, in the era of the World Wide Web and instantaneous international communication. . . (there is just nothing like “face time”…). But more seriously, such meetings are fundamental to cultivate institutional, professional, and personal growth. We’re both very thankful to have been able to represent our beloved TMMP internationally at the ICOM-CC triennial conference this year.

4 thoughts on “Back from the ICOM-CC triennial conference!”

  1. Elsa and Kate I am GREEN with envy! What a terrific opportunity!!! The Wasa and the Roskilde ships are about as pure maritime history as you can get! What a wonderful conference it must have been. And I’m quite sure the hosts realized what a learned and passionate pair of conservators were in their midst.
    Very Best,
    Ron

  2. Elsa, great report, thanks for keeping us informed. I’m sure you two had a ball. What an awesome experience. Wait until those folks in Europe get to come over and see the wonderful work you are doing over here, they will be envious of your accomplishments, I know we are.
    Take care,

    1. As always, thanks for your support Fran! We hope to see you in March at the BOHR.
      We’ve missed you this year!

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