By Julian Bickersteth and Sharra Grow
One of the highlights of the IIC Turin Congress was the Point of the Matter dialogue jointly presented by ICCROM and IIC, “Culture Cannot Wait: Integrating Cultural Heritage First Aid with Humanitarian Assistance in Crises”. The collaboration between IIC and ICCROM (the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) provided an opportunity to renew a long standing MOU between the two organisations.
These two peak bodies in the conservation world are both products of The Second World War, which resulted in such a massive and widespread destruction of cultural property that a great international interest in their protection spurred the formation of several organizations and institutions.
Between 1946 and 1948 a series of meetings was held to discuss the formation of an international body of conservators to continue the interchange of information which had been of such benefit in the aftermath of the war. Foremost among those involved were George Stout from the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, W.G.Constable (Boston), Ian Rawlins (London) and Paul Coremans (Brussels). Finally, in 1950, the International Institute for the Conservation of Museum Objects (it acquired its present title in 1959) was incorporated as a limited company in the United Kingdom. Its aims were "to improve the state of knowledge and standards of practice and to provide a common meeting ground and publishing body for all who are interested in and professionally skilled in the conservation of museum objects". The Institute would accomplish these goals by forming a professional self-electing body, publishing technical literature and original work with a scientific bias, and helping to facilitate training with the aim of raising professional standards.
George Stout became the Institute's first President, with Harold Plenderleith as Treasurer and Ian Rawlins as Secretary. From its early days, the Institute has been governed by committee, today consisting of an elected Council of 18. Membership now consists of individual Fellows, Associates, and Students, as well as Institutions. From 1958 onwards, regional IIC groups were organized, and continue to grow world-wide.
Since 1952, Studies in Conservation, IIC’s peer-reviewed journal, has been published on a twice-yearly and now quarterly schedule. IIC Abstracts (later Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts - AATA) followed in 1955. In 1961, with the help of a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Institute organized its first international conference, held in Rome. The papers were published by Butterworths under the title, Recent Advances in Conservation. Subsequently, conferences have been held at two or three year intervals and the papers published by IIC. The more recent IIC newsletter News in Conservation was launched in 2007 and has since grown to become IIC’s bi-monthly e-magazine.
ICCROM is an intergovernmental organisation being the only institution of its kind with a worldwide mandate to promote the preservation of cultural heritage in all of its forms, for the benefit of all people.
It was in the aftermath of the Second World War that the proposal was made to create an intergovernmental centre for the study and improvement of methods of restoration. The proposal was adopted at the 9th Session of the UNESCO General Conference held in New Delhi, in 1956.
Following an agreement with the Italian government, ICCROM was established in Rome in 1959. Dr. H.J. Plenderleith, who also acted as the IIC’s first Treasurer, was appointed as ICCROM’s first Director. By the end of his mandate in 1971, 55 states had already become members (the number today is over 110). Today, ICCROM is overseen by a 25 member Council chosen from amongst the best-qualified experts in the field of conservation and restoration of cultural property, world-wide.
The Centre identifies experts and specialized institutions in the conservation and restoration of different types of cultural property, and has created a growing worldwide network. ICCROM has always devoted particular attention to interdisciplinary collaboration in conservation involving scientists, conservators, restorers, archaeologists, art historians, curators, architects, engineers and city planners. Exploring conservation issues in research meetings and seminars led to publications, guidelines and international training programmes.
Today ICCROM has a strong worldwide platform focused on facilitating training, making information more readily available (housing one of the world’s leading conservation libraries containing over 17,000 images and 115,000 books, reports, and specialized journals in more than 60 languages), promoting research, cooperating with other organizations and member states, and advocacy.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU)
With so much overlapping history and common goals, it is not hard to see why IIC and ICCROM have sought out partnership. Pairing ICCROM’s governmental and national network with IIC’s resources of individual and institutional experts creates a powerful team with the potential to promote and grow diversity in the heritage conservation community, identify and fill knowledge gaps, and raise public and professional awareness, among other goals.
So, here’s to future collaborations between IIC and ICCROM under the new MOU!
IIC Director of Communications
Editor, News in Conservation