By Alice Tsang
Time flies. It has been a year since Hong Kong hosted the inaugural IIC-Palace Museum Symposium series with the theme “Unroll and Unfold: Preserving Textiles and Thangkas to Last” in November 2017.
With lingering fond memories, I attended the second symposium of the series at the Palace Museum from 1-2 November 2018 and served as a moderator for one of the technical sessions. Entitled “Scientific Approaches to Paper and Photograph Conservation”, the Symposium gathered together 16 distinguished speakers and 27 poster presenters to address a spectrum of varied challenges in our professional obligations. Amongst a worldwide attendance of over 120 were the 24 participants who completed the 4th IIC-International Training Centre for Conservation (IIC-ITCC) programme one day before the Symposium
Coupled with its prime location, cultural significance and huge collection of masterpieces in paintings and calligraphies collected over the past five centuries, the Palace Museum is indeed an ideal host for this thematic event. The event was kicked off with the warm welcome remarks from Dr Jixiang Shan (Director, Palace Museum), Ms Sarah Staniforth (Former President, IIC) and Mr Shing-wai Chan (Assistant Director, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong). The technical programme was arranged in four panel sessions which examined subjects related to the conservation of paintings & calligraphy, ancient books, film, archives & photographs and scientific analysis.
Beyond the technical programme, the first evening included a fascinating welcome reception at the Icehouse Café which was formerly the ice store of the imperial family. This was followed by a guided tour the next morning to the ‘Conservation Hospital’ which operates as the flagship that spearheads advances in conservation and scientific research in China. This unparalleled establishment, with a full range of cutting-edge facilities and conservation specialties, is a sublime place for pursuing conservation excellence, nurturing expertise as well as increasing professional connectivity in the field.
By the last evening, participants were all surely overloaded with information, inspired and ready to go home or continue with sightseeing to explore the historic city. But there was one more heart-warming souvenir for every participant to take home, which was a group photo beautifully wrapped in the style of a traditional Chinese handscroll. We are incredibly grateful to the event host - the Palace Museum - who made us all feel so welcome, and all the staff who gave of their time and access to their superb laboratories and conservation studios.
It was a whirlwind experience and very enjoyable. I will also take this opportunity to encourage conservators and museum professionals worldwide to stay tuned for the 5th (2019) IIC-ITCC workshop which will focus on ceramic conservation, as well as the 2nd Museum Summit to be organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in Hong Kong from 28-29 November 2019.
Alice Tsang holds a BSc in chemistry from University College London and a post-graduate certificate in archaeological conservation from University College London, an MA in cultural management from Chinese University of Hong Kong and an MA in museum studies from University of Sydney. She works as a conservation manager in the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong. She has been an IIC Fellow since 2015, and is a current member of the IIC Council.