Friday 16 October 2009

Conservation conference and other thoughts

Our conservators are currently busy lending their hands and time to organise the 2009 New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Material annual conference to be held from 21-22 October in Auckland.

Now, most of you know that I’m not a conservator, but I was attracted to this event because the keynote speech, by John Holden on 21 October, will be free, open to the public and presented by videolink at the Auckland University of Technology. This means of getting the best presenters despite their location opens up all sorts of debate for me about conferences.

The reason for the videolink, I have found out, is to save money spent flying John, from the UK, out to New Zealand, so allowing some ‘think-tank demos’ (sounds intriguing) to be affordable for the conference. I like the lateral thinking here, John will still be answering questions etc, but without the thousands of dollars spent on flights.

The more I think about it the more I wonder whether the way forward for conference is to open up the information live online, with people from around the world talking to others who are not able to attend the conference in person for various reasons, often financial. I know this kind of happens with twitter at the moment but it needs to be actual and real (even though only virtual reality).

Why not share the information from conferences, live, not three weeks later, allow people to see and discuss topics even if they are not physically there. Maybe by conducting conferences in this way it might start even more discussions, collaborations and networks and open up the sacred doors of conferences that are so often closed to many. I know there is a financial reason for people attending but I imagine some sort of cheaper online subscription to conferences might be beneficial also. Just my thought for today.

Ok, that’s my rant over, back to the conference in hand, for those interested in attending the keynote speech on Wednesday 21 October, 6.30pm, it is being held at AUT, in lecture theatre WE240. Best of all it’s free and open to anyone.

Here is the brief synopses and bio taken from the poster for the event:

the importance of conservation and its place in wider culture

The meaning of ‘culture’ has undergone radical change over a short space of time, but policy is based on an outdated concept of what culture means. Culture has become more participative, more integrated with other aspects of life, and hence more important to the way that people shape their identities. The concept and practices of museum and heritage conservation reflect an ethic of care for the material world that has wider application in the public realm and in society. Conservation has been seen in very narrow terms for too long, and conservators need to make the case for conservation not only in terms of its importance in relation to objects and the past, but also its role in shaping the values and creating the world of tomorrow. In doing so, conservators need to open up much more to public engagement and public dialogue.
John Holden was previously Head of Culture at Demos ( and is a Visiting Professor at City University.
He has Masters Degrees in law and art history and his main professional interest is in the development of people and organisations in the cultural sector.

The event is sponsored by National Services Te Paerangi, Auckland University of Technology, the NZCCM and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

By the looks of the tired but excited faces of our conservators it is going to be a cracking event (excuse the conservation pun).

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