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Icon ACR Conference 2019: Collaborative Working

Icon ACR Conference 2019

The Annual ACR Conference is taking place in London on 22nd November. It is only open to Icon's Accredited Members and is specifically designed to inspire them in their professional development. 

This years' conference will be addressing the theme of collaborative working. Chaired by Sandra Smith ACR, speakers from inside and outside of the profession will discuss how conservators work with other conservators, other professionals, clients or even members of the public to shape the development of projects as well as their own professional development. 

Download Programme.
Download Speaker Biographies.


Speaker biographies



Conference Opens

Welcome & Introductions
Sandra Smith ACR, Head of Collections Care, British Museum

Session 1 | Advocacy

HS2 and collaboration in the heritage sector
Helen Wass, Head of Heritage, HS2
Before we build the bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations for HS2 an unprecedented amount of archaeological work will take place – the largest ever programme of investigation in the UK. We can only achieve this through collaboration with our stakeholders and supply chain. My talk will outline the opportunities and challenges that HS2 offers in terms of knowledge creation, engagement and legacy. With site works now underway there will be recent discoveries to share.

‘Making an impact’  an effective conservation partnership for small independent museums 
Emma Chaplin, Director and Justeen Stone, Programmes & Finance Officer, Association of Independent Museums
The Association of Independent has over 1000 member museums across the UK who care for a large and significant range of historic objects and collections. They range from fine art collections to locomotives, textiles to ships, decorative art and social and industrial history collections. Over 70% of our members have fewer than 20k visitors a year and struggle to find the resources and expertise to meet their collections care and conservation needs. AIM's partnership with the Pilgrim Trust over the last 10 years and, more recently, with Icon, has developed a complementary range of grant schemes from audit to collections care to remedial work. Emma Chaplin, AIM Director and Justeen Stone, Programmes and Finance Officer, will explore the impact of the schemes and lessons learned for both museums and conservators

Take me to your Leader!
Ylva Dahnsjo ACR, Director, Ylva Dahnsjo Conservation
This paper will consider collaborative working in various contexts, and its complicated and rewarding inter-relationships. It will compare and contrast the pan-disciplinary structures of major conservation organisations with recent large projects in the private sector, where conservation is only one part of the jigsaw. It will chart the exhilarating roller-coaster rides of working for clients who are themselves an integral part of the material culture and it will try to “see ourselves as others see us”, and to talk about the secret symbols among professional groups.

Session 2 | Excellence

Exeter cathedral medieval stained glass
Steve Clare ACR, Director, Holywell Glass
In 2018, as part of the cathedral's medium and long term conservation planning, architect Camilla Findlay commissioned Steve Clare to carry out a full condition survey of all of the stained glass in the cathedral. The Clerk of Works Chris Sampson, and cathedral archaeologist John Allan gave generous assistance to the survey process.  Steve will discuss his experiences of working as part of this collaborative project and how he brought in additional expertise to contribute towards this important project.

Using an ATP hygiene monitoring kit and usb microscope to identify mould on archival documents
Natalie Brown, Senior Conservation Manager - Engagement, The National Archives
Mould in archival collections is a common challenge. Conservators are often required to identify mould and make treatment decisions based on nothing more than analysis of the affected document with the naked eye. As mould cleaning of archival documents can be costly and time-consuming, conservators need a quick tool that improves the accuracy of identification. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) hygiene monitoring kits are used extensively in the health care and food and beverage industry to measure surface cleanliness. They are rapid, non-destructive tests that quantify the presence of ATP molecules, which are found in all life forms. As ATP is present in fungi, complementary research projects were undertaken with researchers from the National Trust to adapt testing procedures to identify mould in paper collections. Through this knowledge sharing opportunity we were able to support each other’s findings, share data and resources in order to adapt this technology in two different contexts. Natalie’s talk will discuss how the test was adapted to be used in combination with a USB microscope, considerations when using different testing kit types, the protocols created and the pilot study at the National Archives to introduce the method to inform decision making on conservation treatments.

Developing a sector-wide toolkit for workforce research
Anni Mäntyniemi, Policy & Communications Manager, Icon
​Stephen O'Reilly, Director, Loud Marketing 

Throughout 2019, Icon has been working with Loud Marketing, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and Historic England to develop a Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) toolkit that will enable the collection, analysis and reporting of LMI within the heritage sector. The project aims to empower heritage organisations with a mechanism to independently conduct workforce research on a regular basis and to provide data that can be cross-referenced and compared across different subsectors. Anni and Stephen will present the results of the project and outline the central role collaborative working played in delivering a toolkit that is relevant and accessible to all bodies and organisations wishing to survey the heritage workforce.

Session 3 | Engagement

Cross disciplinarity in Conservation
Dr Renata Peters, Associate Professor in Conservation, UCL
Regardless of specialism, the conservation process today can be described as a cross-disciplinary and recursive. This talk will draw on archaeology, ethnography, contemporary art and cross-disciplinary teaching to explore implications of cross-disciplinarity for conservation thinking, practice and training.

Integrating Refugees into a Conservation Volunteer Team
Dr Christian Baars ACR, Senior Preventive Conservator, National Museum Wales
In 2016 National Museum Cardiff broke new ground when the first refugee was integrated into its Preventive Conservation volunteer team. The team had only been set up one year previously and had recently started operating in galleries during opening hours with the intention of increasing public engagement with conservation activities. The introduction of a refugee from Eritrea was undertaken with careful planning and only after preparing both the refugee and the volunteer team. Taking time to plan this process paid off, because integration was almost seamless and had positive impacts on the refugee, the volunteer team and the museum. The volunteer team operated as before the introduction and continued to make important contributions to the care of collections in stores and public galleries. The refugee had his asylum claim approved and eventually moved on into paid work.

Training prisoners and ex-prisoners in textiles and fine needlework
Dr Katy Emck OBE, Founding Director, and Wendy Cramer, Workshops and Training Manager, of Fine Cell Work
Fine Cell Work is a charity which trains and pays prisoners and ex-offenders to create high quality, hand-embroidered and quilted products which are commissioned by and sold to museums, interior designers, artists and private customers. This talk will outline the process by which these products are made; as well as the numerous collaborations with prisons and probation, other charities, training, arts and rehabilitation organisations and businesses willing to employ ex-offenders, which are necessary in order to successfully train and rehabilitate offenders through the making of textile products.

Session 4 | Quick fire presentations 

National Trust ‘Hands On or Hands Off Project'
Catriona Ward ACR, Ward & Co.
The Hands On Or Hands Off project was set up in response to a regional challenge that we were seeing at National Trust properties - an increase in accidental damage, more wear & tear and pinch points and reports from volunteers and visitors of more confrontational incidents and challenging conversations. This two year project has been looking at how we connect people with our conservation work in a consistent, clear and creative way. It has involved a group of property and volunteer leads from 5 properties: Attingham, Greyfriars, Sudbury, The Workhouse and Upton, who have been supported by a multi-disciplinary team including Conservator, Curator, Volunteering & Participation, Visitor Experience, Gardens and Digital Consultants led by freelance Project Conservator, Catriona Ward.

Working toward being a welcomer as opposed to a gatekeeper
Peter Martindale ACR, Peter Martindale Conservation

Collaboration of a Private Conservation Practice
Veronika Vlková ACR, Director, Mareva Conservation Limited

Redevelopment of the Conservation Register
Michael Nelles, Head of Membership, Icon

A call to Action!

What does accreditation mean to you?
Sarah Peek ACR, Director, Sarah Peek Conservation.

Closing Remarks

Closing remarks
Sandra Smith ACR, Head of Collections Care, British Museum


Speaker biographies

Dr Christian Baars ACR, Senior Preventive Conservator, National Museum Wales
christian.jpgDr Christian Baars AMA ACR is the Senior Preventive Conservator at National Museum Cardiff. He worked as a palaeontological preparator before managing a programme of collection reviews in 18 Welsh museums to improve the use, visibility and conservation of collections. He has been coordinating the care of three million objects across five collection disciplines at National Museum Cardiff since 2014. Christian is Treasurer of the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries in Wales, and a member of the ICOM UK committee where he represents international aspects of the conservation profession. His interests lie in using multidisciplinary scientific enquiry to develop improvements for the care of museum collections, and in enhancing the public profile of heritage preservation.

Natalie Brown, Senior Conservation Manager – Engagement, The National Archives
natalie_headshot_0.jpg​Natalie is the Senior Conservation Manager – Engagement at The National Archives. In her role she leads on developing and managing programmes of public, academic and policy engagement, as well as researching the integration of new technologies into conservation practice. Prior to joining The National Archives, Natalie worked for the European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science where she led the UK hub’s communication activities. Natalie trained as a paper conservator and heritage scientist, and is currently completing her PhD at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage, University College London. Her thesis focuses on the assessment of near-infrared spectroscopy as a collection survey method for library collections. Her varied roles and research have led to a keen interest in data-driven research, accessible technologies and the assessment of impact in conservation practice. For the past four years Natalie has sat on the Icon Heritage Science Committee, and also sits on the National Heritage Science Forum Communities working group.

Emma Chaplin, Director, Association of Independent Museums
emma_chaplin_image.jpgEmma Chaplin has worked in curatorial and senior management roles in independent and local authority museums in England and Wales for over 25 years as well as running a successful consultancy business, specialising in collections management and business planning. She has been Director of the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) since early 2018. AIM supports, champions and advises over 1000 member museums across the UK and is an Arts Council England Sector Support Organisation. AIM members range from some of the biggest attractions in the UK such as the Black Country Living Museum and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust through to small community museums that are run by volunteers. Emma holds the Fellowship of the Museums Association, is a Trustee of the Port Sunlight Village Trust and a member of the Canal and River Trust’s Museum Advisory Board.

Steve Clare ACR, Director, Holywell Glass
dsc02841_0.jpgSteve Clare is stained glass conservator by Royal Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen. He is an Icon ACR accredited conservator, and national Stained Glass Adviser to the National Trust. Steve founded Holy Well Glass in 1995 after training at The Glasshouse in Fulham, and a decade working with Alfred Fisher at Chapel Studio. In a long career, he has supervised major projects at the cathedrals at Wells, Winchester and Exeter, and at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle as well as numerous parish churches, Steve has acted as consultant to some of the most significant buildings in England, including King's College Chapel at Cambridge. Holy Well Glass Limited, and Holy Well Design operate from a remarkable medieval water mill in the beautiful city of Wells in Somerset, with a large staff working on historic glass conservation and contemporary work, including collaborating with contemporary artists in the realisation of their creative works in glass.

Wendy Cramer, Workshops Manager, Fine Cell Work
wc.jpg​Wendy is a textiles teacher with many years working with diploma and degree students. Now managing Fine Cell Work's training programmes across over 20 prisons, where she has been instrumental in establishing and running Fine Cell Work's 'Open the Gates' project, working with offenders post-release in our Battersea studio.


Ylva Dahnsjo ACR, Director, Ylva Dahnsjo Conservation

ylva_dahnsjo.jpg​Ylva Dahnsjo is an independent conservator, educator, and writer who works internationally with material culture. She is passionate about the environment and is convinced that conservators have a major role to play in sustainability by sharing their skills and insights widely. She has held senior management roles in major conservation charities and designed several large state- of- the- art conservation facilities with public and private money. She has served as an Icon Trustee, as President of ECCO and was External Examiner for the University of the Arts London MA Conservation at Camberwell College. She is an ACR, a Fellow of IIC and of the Linnean Society of London, and an active member of Fashion Revolution.


Dr Katy Emck OBE, Founding Director, Fine Cell Work
katy_emck_headshot_2018.jpg​​Dr Katy Emck is Founding Director of Fine Cell Work, the charity that trains British prisoners to do fine commercial needlework. She has worked for the charity for 22 years, helping to develop a national network of volunteers who now work in 24 prisons with 600 prisoners annually, and to establish Fine Cell Work as a brand selling top quality soft furnishings made in prison. She has also taught and performed theatre in US and UK prisons and worked as a literary journalist.

Anni Mäntyniemi, Policy & Communications Manager, Icon
anni.jpgAnni is the Policy and Communications Manager at Icon. She works closely with the Chief Executive to enhance Icon’s advocacy capacity and to influence the policies of governments, NGOs and other voluntary and professional bodies. In her role as Project Manager, she oversaw the day-to-day operation of developing the LMI Toolkit. Before joining Icon, Anni worked as a current affairs officer at the US Embassy in London, specializing in Northern European politics. She has four years of curatorial experience, having worked in various research roles at Historic Royal Palaces. Anni has a BA in Art History from the University of Sussex and an MA in the Principles of Conservation from UCL

Peter Martindale ACR, Peter Martindale Conservation
1pm.jpgAfter graduating in Fine Art, Peter Martindale ACR undertook a three-year apprenticeship in the conservation of wall paintings at Canterbury Cathedral Wall Paintings Workshop. He then worked for a number of conservators in the private sector on wall paintings, paintings and stone before founding his own company in 2003. Over the years, Peter has played an active part in Icon Stone and Wall Paintings Group, co-organising a number of conferences. He is an Icon Mentor, member of the Science and Heritage sub-committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a trained yoga teacher.

Michael Nelles,Head of Membership, Icon
2pm.jpgMichael Nelles previously worked for six years in the museum sector in Hampshire. He worked at the Old Maritime Museum in Southampton as a Curatorial Assistant after he finished his first degree in History in Canada. That led to a frontline management role at Winchester Museums, and while there he joined the Committee of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society as Hon Membership Secretary. He is currently studying for a PhD in History.

Stephen O'Reilly, Director, Loud Marketing
picture_of_stephen_2018.png​Stephen O’Reilly is business consultant working for a range of clients, with particular emphasis on the membership space. He helps clients improve performance through more effective communication and engagement. The process often starts with strategic advice and the delivery of insight and intelligence through market research. Branding and marketing communications campaigns and collateral often follow. Through Loud Marketing, Stephen provides a flexible extension to his clients' resources and often becomes a trusted advisor.

Sarah Peek ACR, Director, Sarah Peek Conservation
3pm.png​​Sarah began her career as an Art teacher working with primary age children before moving back to the UK to undertake her Postgraduate Diploma in Ceramic Conservation and Related Materials at West Dean. Shortly after completing her training, Sarah established her own practice, Sarah Peek Conservation in 1996, which has gown and developed enormously over the last 20 years. Sarah became Chair of the Icon Accreditation Committee in 2019, having previously been the representative for Ceramics and related materials, and Vice Chair of the Committee.

Dr Renata Peters, Associate Professor in Conservation, Institute of Archaeology, University College London
renata.jpgDr. Renata F. Peters runs the MA Principles of Conservation at UCL, where she has been working since 2005. She is an object conservator with a background in Fine Art and a keen interest in conservation decision-making, especially in how the interactions between manufacturing techniques, raw materials, uses and values associated with objects affect conservation approaches. Renata has worked with different kinds of collections in South and North America, Europe and Africa. Her research focuses on collections originating from indigenous nations from the Americas, but she also has extensive experience with archaeological conservation.  Currently, she is the conservation lead of a cross-disciplinary project in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.

Sandra Smith ACR, Head of Collection Care, British Museum
a6b1b71c5bd970398217785cf90873cf.jpg​Sandra Smith is Head of Collection Care at the British Museum. Prior to taking up this post in February 2019 , she was Head of Conservation and Technical Services at the V&A, with an overview for the long term care of the V&A collections. Sandra has taken a leading role in the development of the conservation profession as the Co-ordinator of the Ceramics and Glass working group of ICOM-CC, participating in working groups within Icon to develop career opportunities and education strategies in conservation. She was Senior Judge of the Nigel Williams Award, Treasurer of IIC and Icon and is a Trustee of the Gabo Trust and Vice President of IIC. Sandra is an accredited conservator and Fellow of International Institute of Conservation (FIIC) and the Society of Antiquaries (FSA). She was awarded Honorary Fellow by the City and Guilds art School in July 2019.

Veronika Vlková ACR, Director, Mareva Conservation Limited
01_02_01_14_social_media9559.jpg​Veronika Vlková ACR is a Director of Mareva Conservation Limited formerly known as V A Conservation. Her company specialises in conservation of works of art, sculptures, monuments, memorials and historic buildings providing services and consultancy work for owners of private collections, museums, galleries, institutions, churches, cathedrals as well as local councils among others. Prior to setting up her own business, Veronika worked on prominent collections of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and Birmingham Museums Trust where she treated objects ranging from antiquity to contemporary pieces. In early days, she also worked for a number of private conservation companies in London and participated in large conservation projects such as the conservation of St Paul’s Cathedral. Since 2010, Veronika has been giving lectures to post-graduate students in Conservation of the Built Environment at Birmingham City University on Conservation of Stone in Practice.

Catriona Ward ACR, Ward & Co.
catriona_ward_acr.jpgCatriona has worked in the heritage field in the UK and Australia for over twenty five years - in both the public and private sectors. Her specialisms are Project Management, Preventive Conservation and Conservation Management. She has managed many individual collections conservation projects, provides training in care of collections and has been a Project Conservator on several large historic building re-servicing projects.

Helen Wass, Head of Heritage, HS2
hjw_photo_0.jpg​Helen oversees the entire archaeology and built heritage work for the route between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London. Much of Helen’s career has been on linear infrastructure. She worked on High Speed One for nine years for Rail Link Engineering managing the delivery of the archaeological site and post excavation works. This proved the perfect hothouse for her current role.At HS2 Helen sets the project’s strategy and standards for the historic environment, supported by many consultants, academics and contractors, together with Historic England and local authority specialists. Working in what she calls ‘construction archaeology’, Helen sees a key part of her roles as communication, explaining the what, why and how of the archaeological works to communities, colleagues and clients alike.


The ACR Conference is taking place at the Institute of Historical Research in the heart of Bloomsbury.

Institute of Historical Research
School of Advanced Study,
Senate House,
Malet Street,


Tickets are on sale for £80. This includes lunch and refreshments.