Historic Environment Scotland Survey

In these unprecedented times, Historic Environment Scotland have launched a new survey to understand the impacts of this fast-changing situation on the historic environment sector across Scotland. 

 To paint as broad and accurate a picture as possible, please take the time to share your views. You can help us understand the current position and outlook as businesses, organisations and community groups within Scotland’s historic environment sector. 

The survey will be open until Thursday 30 April and takes less than 15 minutes to complete!
Take the survey here

Conservators in Lockdown Keeping in Touch


Now that we are very much in lockdown until further notice, Icon Scotland Group Committee want to know how you are managing. Are you still able to work or if not are you coping in isolation? Let us know what you are doing… are you using your skills to tackle other activities? [see mobile making above].

Would you like to share your experiences with the conservation community in Scotland? Perhaps you could contribute some training or give us an insight into your work [or lack of it as a result of the pandemic]. A single or series of photographs would be welcome or perhaps a vlog could be a good way to keep in touch. We are very keen to hear from you, let’s keep connected…please send contributions to….scotland@icon.org.uk

Thank you and stay safe.

Emergency response during a period of lockdown

Some thoughts about emergency response during a period of lockdown

By Julie Bon, ACR, Head of Collections Care, National Library of Scotland

Now that most of us are working from home, and unable to access our collections, this might be a good time to take a look at your emergency plan: can it still be enacted, if necessary, during this period of lockdown? There are some important staffing issues that you may need to consider:

  • Are the members of staff listed in your plan still available for call out?
  • Are these members of staff at risk, or living with someone in the at-risk category? This may mean that they would not be able to respond to an emergency situation and may need to temporarily come off your call-out list
  • How will staff be able to travel to site? Are they reliant on public transport and is this still available? Can they attend on foot? Do they have their own transport, and would there be somewhere for them to park that would not affect emergency vehicle access? If access to site will be difficult for some members of staff, then they too may need to come off you call-out list temporarily
  • Are there other members of staff that could be temporarily drafted in for emergency call outs? The above issues will still need to be considered, as will ensuring a varied coverage of skills and seniority so that the emergency plan can be enacted safely and effectively
  • Are there members of staff that can be involved in emergency response remotely? Perhaps there are calls and other tasks that can be coordinated remotely? Perhaps key staff, like conservators, can be available for video calls in order to assist with the incident assessment and give guidance for staff on the ground in terms of identifying priority tasks?
  • The lockdown is likely to be a changing situation, with some staff showing symptoms and becoming unavailable through self-isolation. Is there a way that you can be in touch with your emergency response volunteers regularly to check their status so that you have up-to-date information? What’s App, Doodle Polls or Survey Monkey might be useful tools to help you with this
  • Do you need to plan a procedure for isolating volunteers after an incident? Should volunteers self-isolate after responding due to the nature of salvage work and the challenges it poses to social distancing?

There are a number of other issues to consider during this lockdown period. If thought is given to these in advance it will make any emergency response more efficient:

  • Will staff need a letter and ID to demonstrate that they are considered essential staff if they are called out in an emergency situation? Who in your organisation can write and sign this letter and how can it be distributed? Can this be actioned now so that it is ready if required?
  • If you are drafting new recruits into your emergency response call-out list, do they know what would be expected of them in an emergency situation? Give some thought to an emergency volunteer role description that could be shared with recruits (and those that are more experienced) detailing the key responsibilities and tasks they would be asked to undertake. This will be useful for training purposes in the future too.
  • Are there any training resources that can be shared with new recruits? These could also be a useful refresher for more experienced staff who may currently have more time for training than usual. It is worthwhile remembering that different organisations will have different salvage approaches but some good general online resources include:
  • Will you be able to access emergency response materials and equipment as usual? Have you been asked to donate PPE to the NHS? It is clearly essential that we support our health workers but consider that you may need some supplies in an emergency situation and there will be no possibility of purchasing additional PPE
  • This could be a good opportunity to consider the distribution of disaster equipment across sites (if you have multiple sites) or even where they are located within buildings. It would be a good time to clearly communicate this information to volunteers so that they can easily find what they need.
  • Are there local emergency response networks that you can hook into? Are there other local heritage organisations in the area that are in a similar position? Perhaps you can make contact and offer to share support and resources in an emergency situation? This might be particularly important when it comes to PPE. There are active groups in Edinburgh and Glasgow but perhaps now is the time to build local resilience networks across the country?


We all hope that the worst will not happen but we need to be ready in case it does. If thought is given to the above questions then you will be in a better position to respond, or help others to respond, should an emergency occur. Good luck and stay safe.

Covid-19 General advice from the wider sector and potential funding for small businesses in Scotland and beyond

In this second blog post, Icon Scotland Group has compiled a list of resources for freelancers and others. We will be expanding on this list and will endeavour to keep conservators in Scotland up to date with whatever information they require:

Scottish Government:

Support for small businesses, helpline:



Creative Scotland:

Includes helpline, grants for small businesses, existing grantholders



Built Environment Forum Scotland:

Comprehensive list of sites and links to support advice and funding

Cultural Heritage Advice on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)


Useful accountant’s advice (Scotland):



For Charities in Scotland (Museums and others )

3rd Sector resilience advice from SCVO




Arts Council England:

Package of 160M grants for small business in creative sector (not Scotland obviously)




The Art Newspaper’s useful list (by country) of help and guidance for small arts businesses:



For Conservators

Icon’s Covid-19 resource page:



VDR (Germany – by region)

Gut durch die Krise kommen – Aktuelle Links und Hinweise für Restauratoren



Handling Library materials and collections during a Pandemic

useful web links and guidance



Stay safe and keep well

Covid-19 Government Support Scheme for the Self-Employed

In this first Covid-19 support blog post, Icon Scotland Group has compiled the latest information regarding Government support for the self-employed, summarised by Business Gateway below:

Business Gateway: UK Self-Employment Support Package

How do I claim the help?

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will use existing information to identify those eligible and will invite applications
  • The application will require them to confirm that they meet the eligibility requirements
  • It will be paid straight into a bank account, which eligible taxpayers will need to confirm on their application form
  • People do not need to contact HMRC now if they are eligible HMRC will contact them directly
  • The scheme will pay 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for three months initially
  • The money, backdated till March, will arrive directly into people’s bank accounts from HMRC as a lump sum for all three months, but not until June
  • The grants will be taxable and will need to be declared on tax returns by January 2022
  • At least half your income needs to have come from self-employment as registered on the 2019-20 tax return filed in January or averaged over the three previous years
  • Company owners who pay themselves a dividend are not covered


For more information find a link to the HMRC website below:

HMRC [Covid-19] Self Employment Income Support Scheme

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.



Self-employment Income Support Scheme FAQs

Furthermore, Ii you are self-employed and not claiming any benefits, you may be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit.


Spotlight on Scotland’s Private Sector

Sara Crofts meets up with private conservators in Scotland

Isobel Griffin

The Icon Scotland Group was delighted to welcome Sara Crofts to Scotland for our Annual Plenderleith Memorial Lecture in November, and Sara made time the next day to meet with a group of private conservators working in Scotland. They were Sarah Gerrish, Graciela Ainsworth, Karen Dundas, Gretel Evans, Wilma Bouwmeester and Anna Trist, plus Helen Creasy, Tuula Pardoe and Will Murray from the Scottish Conservation Studio. We would have liked to invite more people but we were limited by space, so we’re hoping this blog will be useful to all those who we couldn’t accommodate in person, and indeed to private conservators from all parts of the UK.

The meeting was held at the Scottish Conservation Studio’s premises at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh, with wonderful refreshments kindly provided by the resident conservators. We began with a quick tour of ‘work on the go’, which included archival items and  navigational instruments being prepared for the David Livingstone Museum, textiles being conserved for Edinburgh City Museums and a wonderful umbrella stand from the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh building. Many interesting topics came up during the tour, including the worrying decline in requests for training from local museums; the importance of keeping copies of the conservation reports produced for local museums; and the potential to use big projects which have employed many different conservation specialisms for advocacy purposes.

The tour was followed by a round-table discussion, as follows:

Volunteering for Icon – private conservators are keen to volunteer, but it is particularly challenging for them because they are giving up time when they could be earning money. It is particularly challenging for conservators from Scotland because the training for aspects of volunteering such as being PACR mentors almost always takes place in London.

The discontinuation of the standard contract which used to be available through the Icon website – this is probably mourned by private conservators everywhere, but Sara explained that Icon’s lawyers have advised that it is too risky for Icon to provide a template contract.

Business skills assistance – there is an ongoing need for this amongst private conservators. Sara noted that Icon is currently pulling together private practice training material covering insurance, health and safety and so on, and that it might be possible to create a business skills hub of shared resources. Icon would welcome further suggestions of what is needed.

Slow payment of invoices by clients – this was clearly a big issue for every conservator around the table! Sara said that she will flag the need for swift payment of small conservation practices when she meets with senior figures from major institutions. It was also suggested that Icon could help with lobbying for conservation practices to be put into the same category as building contractors, where they would have to be paid within two weeks.

CSCS cards – in theory these are required by conservators working on construction sites, although it was noted that in practice some sites don’t seem to expect that conservators will have them. Concern was expressed that the online training required to obtain a card used to be fairly quick and straightforward, but has since become very time-consuming, and that it would be helpful if Icon could lobby for this to change.

New conservation register – there were differing levels of satisfaction with the current version of the conservation register, suggesting that it is working for some conservators but not for others. Sara explained that the specification for the new register came from a review that was undertaken around three years ago. There were concerns that the new register will list individuals rather than businesses, but it was clarified that individuals can link themselves to businesses and that it will still be possible to search for businesses. Searching by postcode will also be possible. The news that individuals will be able to update their own pages whenever they want was also welcomed. Sara noted that it crucial the conservation profession buys in to the new register, and that the prototype will undergo user testing, plus feedback will be gathered once the register is up and running.

Cross-sector working – many private conservators sometimes work with other heritage professionals, and Sara told us about a joined up piece of work Icon is undertaking with groups such as archaeologists and historic building specialists, to help clients identify the right professional for a particular job.

Recommending colleagues – private conservators often provide recommendations for colleagues, and there was discussion about the best way to do this through a practice’s website. It was agreed that featuring case studies which name relevant colleagues on a website is a good way of showcasing colleagues’ work without directly recommending them.

Promoting private practices – Sara noted that she would be very keen for short films about private practices to be shown through the Icon website.

Conservation training in the UK – this was an issue that everyone was concerned about. Sara noted that Icon is holding a round table meeting in January with education providers, big clients, big institutions and so on, to understand the current situation and ask whether there are other ways of providing training.

Making training events more accessible – it was noted that for conservators who cannot easily travel to London, it would be very helpful if more lectures and conferences were recorded and made available online.

Labour Market Intelligence – Sara explained that Icon is currently undertaking a project with funding from Historic England. This will provide a toolkit which any part of the heritage sector can customise and use to undertake its own research. Icon will issue its own survey once the toolkit is ready, and it is crucial to get input to this as widely as possible.

All in all it was an extremely productive afternoon. Sara ended by thanking everyone for their input, and encouraging further ideas and questions to be sent directly to her – sara.crofts@icon.org.uk. We found her visit hugely enjoyable and useful, and would encourage her to ‘haste ye back’, as we say in Scotland!


Isobel Griffin, Vice Chair, Icon Scotland Group

3D Documentation of Heritage Artefacts: Introduction to Photogrammetry – Training Course


3D Documentation of Heritage Artefacts: Introduction to Photogrammetry – Training Course 

Delivered by Marta Pilarska (@M_Pilarska), 3D Digitisation Project Manager at the Scottish Maritime Museum (@Scotmaritime) 

Date: 18 March 2020, 10.30 am – 4:30 pm 

Venue: Scottish Maritime Museum, Linthouse Building, Harbour Rd, Irvine KA12 8BT 

£ 50.00 regular tickets 

£ 40.00 Icon members 

£ 25.00 students 

Photogrammetry is a photography-based 3D imaging technique for documenting a variety of objects. From archaeological finds and intricately carved stonework to works of art or large-scale collections. 

By combining the data from many images of the object, photogrammetry produces a digital 3D model of the object. 

The training day will introduce course participants to methods of 3D digital documentation of historic objects, encouraging them to explore 3D documentation techniques. The session will cover basic data capture procedures and processing workflows enabling delivery of digital 3D models. The course will aim to create an understanding of the requirements, capabilities, and limitations of the technology. 

The Photogrammetry training course will show the possibilities of 3D documentation for a range of objects and materials. We will discuss what types of materials lend themselves well to photogrammetry and which present more challenges. 

Attendees are encouraged to bring their cameras/mobile phones and laptops with the photogrammetry software pre-installed. The installation instructions along with download packages can be found on the software manufacturer’s website: https://www.capturingreality.com/RealityCapture-PPI. 

During the session, we will be able to capture one dataset in a studio setup, however, attendees will also be encouraged to capture their datasets while in the museum. This will allow everyone to work with a unique set of images and will enable the creation of a broader understanding of technical requirements and workflows. 

The course is aimed at museum and heritage professionals and conservators, but everyone interested in photogrammetry is welcome. 

Marta Pilarska is an objects conservator and digital heritage specialist. Her professional interests focus on exploring how digital technologies combined with conservation science can aid heritage preservation. 

See link below for tickets:


Icon19 Highlights in Edinburgh: Provisional Programme Announced

We are pleased to announce that the provisional programme for our upcoming event in Edinburgh

Icon Scotland Group: Icon Conference Highlights

is now finalised with all speakers confirmed!
Please find the information below:

Icon Scotland Group: Icon Conference Highlights
City Arts Centre
Friday 20 March, 9.20-16.45

This is a one day conference organised by the Icon Scotland Group, featuring 12 of the talks that were given at the Icon 2019 conference in Belfast. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion, plus opportunities for networking and socialising. Please contact Isobel Griffin (igriffin@nationalgalleries.org) if you have questions about this event. Tickets cost from £20-£40 and are available here.


Conservation In Action: Saving the Perth Mummy at Perth Museum and Art Gallery


Perth Museum and Art Gallery is due to undergo a transformation in the next couple of years with the development of the old City Hall into the new Perth Museum and the remodelling the present building into a dedicated Art Gallery.

This major project will allow much greater access to the city’s diverse collections, of which only 0.05 % is exhibited presently. In preparation for the move and for potential display, a project to conserve part of the collection is underway.


In an effort to engage and immerse the public in this work as much as possible, conservation officer Anna Zwagerman has curated the ‘Conservation in Action’ exhibition. The aim is to give a comprehensive overview of some of the material and ethical issues faced by conservators in caring for museum collections. Specimens with various forms of degradation are shown relating to natural ageing, pest infestation as well as problems associated with historic conservation treatments. The catastrophic flood of 1993 is referenced and the results of benign neglect of collections are also visible in the rather macabre specimen jars thirsty for fluid.

However, the central element of the exhibition is the opportunity for visitors to witness conservators at work on one of the treasures of the collection, the Perth Mummy Ta-Kr-Hb.

IMG_3389A temporary, glazed conservation studio forms the centre of the exhibition.

Inside visitors will be able to see conservators either undertaking certain aspects of the conservation of the mummy, the treatment of social history objects [such as the cleaning of a silver cloche presently on show] or volunteers working on the digitisation of the collections. When unoccupied, a film highlighting the work on the mummy will be shown on a screen at the back of the studio.

Will Murray of the Scottish Conservation Studio has been contracted to carry out the stabilisation of the mummy and sarcophagus with the expert guidance of Helena and Richard Jaeschke, who will spend three days with Will studying the mummy and forming a plan of action. Having undertaken a thorough investigation and with the information provided by a scan at Manchester Children’s Hospital, Will has an understanding of the condition of the human remains within the bituminous wrappings. However, the focus of this project is to stabilise the outer linens, to improve the stability and support of the mummy and to treat damages to the sarcophagus.

Whilst much of this process will be observable by the public, the highly sensitive nature of conserving human remains and the necessity for privacy to enable serious concentration dictates that certain procedures will be carried out in private. The ethical considerations regarding this treatment are paramount.

Make a trip to Perth Museum and Art Gallery to learn more about this fascinating project…on display until 19th April 2020.

Saving Ta-Kr-Hb; Conserving Perth’s Mummy

Perth Museum and Art Gallery need to raise £7,395 to conserve Perth’s much-loved Egyptian Mummy, Ta-Kr-Hb, so her story can be shared with visitors at the new City Hall Museum. Please see link below to contribute to this wonderful cause.



A Game-Changing 2 days in Stirling

Historic Environment Scotland: Monuments in Monuments 2019
Monday2 September  – Wednesday 4 September 2019 Engine Shed, Stirling

Meredith Macbeth – Conference Review

Autumn has absolutely flown by and the Monuments in Monuments 2019 Conference seems like a distant memory, but for me, the impact certainly lives on. MiM 2019 took place over three days in early September 2019. The speakers ranged from the technical to the theoretical. There were case studies and papers on policy, and a big focus on climate change and its effects on the historic environment. To catch up with friends old and new and to find out what lies in the heart of stone conservation today, all from the hub of the buzzing Engine Shed in Stirling made the experience more than beneficial. Attendees were able to explore notable sites in the Central belt which really gave the opportunity to tap into the work that is being done in Scotland. Delegates were able to choose from  Fossil Grove, Glasgow Cathedral or  Glasgow Necropolis on the first day. On the third day, delegates were able to choose between Dunblane Cathedral/Leighton Library, British Geological Survey or the South Gyle Conservation Centre. With such interesting options, it was hard to choose! And while I was unable to attend it, the ceilidh at Stirling Castle appeared to be a massive hit with more than a few bleary eyes and heads the next morning!

Monuments in Monuments 2019: the beginning of the conference.

I am fortunate enough to have a “dream position” job with Orkney Islands Council working at the extraordinary St. Magnus Cathedral – where I am the sole Stone Mason/Conservator. The job has its challenges but being able to exist within the red and white sandstone walls of St. Magnus is an absolute privilege. My tasks are quite varied from taking lime samples and helping to plan our next 10 years of work, through to changing lightbulbs and clearing drains. Every day is different and with big works on the horizon, every month and year will be different. Sourcing local stone continues to be a tough issue and working within a Council budget and bureaucracy also continues to be an opportunity for a challenge, although slightly less fun than taking samples from closed quarries.

I was given the opportunity to attend MiM 2019 and represent ICON Scotland as a representative on the Group’s “Trade Stand”. I was absolutely delighted to represent ICON Scotland and had many interesting chats with fellow members and interested parties while answering queries on the stand.

Meredith Macbeth representing ICON Scotland on the Group’s “Trade Stand”.

I found myself thinking “What a fast two years it has been since I attended the opening of the Engine Shed!”. I am always so pleased to step over the threshold as I know I will be greeted by a group of cheery folks passionate about the historic environment. Arriving at MiM 2019 was no different and more exciting as an international conference, we had the opportunity to ‘show off’ the Engine Shed and the impressive works undertaken by Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

I’ve been working in conservation since 2008 and I was really struck at this conference to see the radical improvement and accessibility of technology since then. It was exciting to see technology being assimilated and used well, primarily for documentation and interpretation. It was brilliant to see and certainly encouraged me to “up my game”. The use of drones (Brian Johnston, Queen’s University) for example, time-lapse cameras, (Sarah Hamilton, HES) thermal imaging (Kinley Laidlaw) and not to mention all the 3D recording. Exciting times! Inspired by this conference, I have recently employed Orkney Sky Cam to survey our East Window, internally and externally. Having such a set of high-resolution photos and videos is so useful for planning and worth their weight in high-level gold!

I found it incredibly heartening to see the community that came together at MiM 2019 with conservation as a common interest. There were speakers from all over the world including Ethiopia, New Mexico, Switzerland, Isle of Man, Washington D.C. and Italy all sharing their cultures, work and concerns, absolutely wonderful to see new sites and ponder new challenges. Blen Gemeda’s (Oxford University) talk on medieval rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia was visually stunning and an interesting challenge. The ongoing preservation of the inscriptions at El Morro National Monument by Angelyn Bass and Katharine Williams (University of New Mexico) was intriguing, not only the history of the inscriptions themselves but the history of the conservation of the inscriptions themselves.

Another unique question which was discussed at this event was the footprint of the Conservator. Should viewers and historians be aware of conservators’ interventions within the history of the object?  It was even asked- should a conservator always intervene? This was such an alluring topic, as so many treatments of the past have been done in good faith but certainly to the determent of the object or site itself; Portland Cement has kept a good many stone conservator in employment. Paul Wooles intriguingly discussed the merit of ferrous fixings, asking if  Conservators are too quick to remove them. Yes, I thought, they can be hazardous to stonework but at the same time, they are fabulous tell-tales for moisture movement and often part of the history of the object. Ending the conference was David Harkin from HES, speaking about ‘Cultural Heritage and Climate Change’. I have seen David speak before and he is always a delight, albeit his subject matter less cheery and optimistic. He manages to explain how climate breakdown impacts our everyday lives, but also how it will impact our historic building stock. This can be useful to raise the awareness of a modern conservator. Those treatments that worked in the past may not work now – due to our changing climate.

Although I have many colleagues, I am a one-man-band when it comes to the conservation and stone care at St. Magnus Cathedral. Conservation, in general, can involve quite a bit of solo work, so for me coming together with fellow professionals for a few days in September was much needed.  I have mentioned a few examples that really inspired me, but so many other little snippets have stuck with me – Christine Bläuer’s keynote advice on how to translate the meaning of your results to the stakeholders has helped me in my work. Christa Gerdwilker’s advice to take a holistic view and be able to question your approach has helped me too. A keynote tip from Sara Croft – that we should champion our profession and the skills, knowledge and judgment that we all bring to our own jobs was massively inspirational. Also Sara’s advice about setting out on the Accreditation process – don’t hold back there, get involved.

It was a wonderful few days and I would like to thank Christa Gerdwilker and her team for pulling together such an inspirational event.

Meredith Macbeth is the Stone Mason/Conservator at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. You can contact her at meredith.macbeth@orkney.gov.uk or on her sleepy twitter account @MeMacbeth.
Many thanks again to Christa Gerdwilker, ICON Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and the Friends of St. Magnus Cathedral for making this opportunity possible.