What is your main area of Conservation?
I don’t really have a traditional “discipline” as such in conservation any more, as I am a consultant helping all colours of heritage organisations and clients run skills programmes and write grant applications. I was trained originally as an archaeological conservator though and worked with social history and applied art collections in Museums.
What is your position within the Icon Scotland Group?
I am consultations secretary – keeping an eye on the historic environment scene here in Scotland to see where conservation and ISG can contribute and get involved in wider heritage policy, maintaining a network of contacts. I also keep the contact lists and compile the Iconnect news bulletins for the Group.
How did you first become interested in Conservation?
I worked as an archaeologist and spent a season in the Orkney islands collecting soil and pollen samples. This involved Winter days spent wet-sieving buckets of soil while standing soaking wet in a freezing burn. It came to my attention that other members of the team (the conservators) got to handle and care for the wonderful artefacts we were finding – and that they worked indoors in the warmth. I was sold!
Describe your typical day at work…
The fact that I never have a typical day is one of the attractions of being self-employed as a consultant. A typical week might involve spending a couple of days in the office 9-5 interviewing trainees from conservation skills programmes in order to evaluate a programme, writing reports then a day drafting a database tender document for a client, another day “on site” meeting a curator or archivist to about monitoring a store.
What has been your favourite conservation moment?
There were many wonderful rewards in managing Icon’s HLF-supported internship scheme up to 2012. There is not much to beat the feeling of helping people at the start of their careers to get a foot onto the conservation career ladder. But when I consider the question, what actually appears in my mind is a scene in the sun in a deep trench in Gozo, Malta in a corner of a pit, excavating a 3rd-millennium limestone statuette from the hard compacted soil, terrified that I will damage it, or remove some key information while the excavation Directors watched from above… I later felt in awe at what was emerging from the soil (a couple of ladies sitting on a bed!) and the knowledge that this had not been seen or touched for thousands of years – what a privilege.
Conservation is often misunderstood by those outside the profession. What would you like to tell the world about Conservation?
I don’t think conservation is exactly misunderstood – we just need to be better at getting out the message out about who we are as conservators and making more links with the wider community. Most people are clued up by the media in understanding the principles of preserving biodiversity and the environment – we need to use tactics from those fields to help people make the connection between the natural environment and the artefactual and built heritage one. Conservation can be used in the same way as the “green” agenda, it can be a tool to benefit well-being, provide educational resources and help people appreciate their local environment and heritage.