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Subject: Publication: It's a Material World: Caring for the public realm

Publication: It's a Material World: Caring for the public realm

From: Nell Hoare <p.m.hoare<-a>
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008
On 28 November, Demos launched the publication of their report, It's
a Material World: Caring for the public realm.  The research was
sponsored by the Textile Conservation Centre Foundation, with
support from The Clothworkers' Foundation, Historic Royal Palaces,
Icon and the Anna Plowden Trust.

The report can be downloaded from:


Below is a short summary of the salient points/recommendations in
the pamphlet.

   "What we conserve is a statement of what we respect, who we are
    and who we wish to be. Conservation therefore not only sustains
    and refreshes the values of the past--giving us an understanding
    of where we have come from--but also reflects values for the
    present and the future...

   "On a public level, engagement in conservation provides new ways
   to connect people with the public realm, but it also provides a
   space in which people can negotiate between the many values that
   we encounter in modern society.  Public engagement in
   conservation is underpinned and made possible by conservation
   professionals who provide a professional framework, expertise and
   standards when caring for the material world." (Demos Report

Summary: UK's world leadership in conservation is currently under
threat. Some of the UK's leading conservation training courses are
facing closure or reductions in funding. The crucial role that
conservation can play in enhancing and developing social value is
not appreciated as conservation's public and policy profile in the
UK is too low. The Demos report echoes many of the concerns raised
by the UK's House of Lords' report, Science and Heritage, Report
with Evidence, HL paper 256.

Recommendations (pp 16-19)

    *   The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) should
        lead on a policy agenda focussed on the social importance of
        caring for the material world

    *   DCMS should establish The Material World Board--convened and
        coordinated by an Advisor, this would be a conservation
        steering group but with representatives from other relevant
        UK government departments.

    *   Funding for large conservation projects should include a
        conservation training component

    *   Cultural leaders should champion the conservation sector as
        adding value and new avenues for public engagement:
        conservation contributes to 'social capital' as well as to
        the economy; maintains and reveals values that define
        cultural heritage; public engagement will lead to wider
        social benefits; conservation is of central importance of to
        the mission and function of museums; conservation, and
        conservation education and research, have a role in cultural

    *   Greater representation of conservation in exhibitions and in
        public engagement: "Conservators should seek to use public
        engagement and communication to reflect the social
        importance of caring for the material world and reflect the
        different values, past and present that objects represent."

    *   At least annually space should be devoted in every publicly
        funded museum for an object contributed and cared for by a
        member of the local public that represents their community

    *   Conservators should visit schools as part of the
        government's five hours of culture a week

    *   Where large amounts of public money are involved in
        conservation projects, conservation juries should be
        appointed to take into account public opinion

    *   Conservators and cultural institutions should encourage and
        supervise volunteering for non-interventive and preventive
        conservation work

    *   There should be a nationwide initiative to communicate and
        celebrate the values of conservation

Please do alert colleagues (Directors, Curators, Conservators and
policy makers) to the report and encourage them to read it.  The
UK's Institute of Conservation (Icon) is leading the follow up to
the report and so if you have any feedback or thoughts on the report
please do contact Icon <URL:>

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:37
                 Distributed: Friday, December 19, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-37-013
Received on Wednesday, 17 December, 2008

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