Newsletter Issue Number:
AICCM National Newsletter No 151 September 2020
Tegan Anthes and Elizabeth Thomson

The Preventive Conservation SIG committee would like to share with the AICCM membership the results of the survey that was undertaken recently on the Agents of Change Preventive Conservation Conference in planning for 2021. Taking into consideration the survey results, the current situation in Victoria and the risks associated with a physical conference, the Preventive Conservation SIG has decided that it will develop an online/virtual conference for 2021.

Overall, there were 63 respondents across all states and territories of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. The majority of respondents described themselves as mid-career conservators, there were 15% who were emerging conservators and 10% each of conservators and collection managers, plus a small percentage of less than 5% who were technicians, museum managers, archivists and students.

It is important to acknowledge when the survey was conducted and how this may have influenced the results. The survey was developed during the month of June when restrictions had been eased and there were very small numbers of COVID-19 cases in Australia. The first email notification of the survey was on 6 July and a reminder was sent out on 22 July. As we are now aware the situation changed dramatically in early July with the tightening of restrictions in Victoria, followed by border closures on 8 July.

One comment summarises the situation –

Main concern is continued clustering of transmission of Covid-19 is predicted to be well into 2022. This precludes older or disabled members from attending a physical conference. Many members are also employed within freelance and private practice and the financial impact to small business has been enormous and will take several years to recover. Any form of discrimination towards current and potential future members is to be avoided and virtual conferences, seminars and workshops are to be encouraged for the next 2 years.

The survey results reflect some of this uncertainty and highlight a virtual conference as a preference, although there was still some interest in a physical conference. A comparison of the results between attending a physical conference or virtual resulted in 78% very likely or likely to attend a virtual conference and 50% a physical. However, we did indicate that this was only if the borders were open.

Seventy per cent or more prefer the lower cost, ease of access, and access to recorded presentations as the benefits of a virtual conference. Many respondents had attended some of the virtual sessions recently and commented that they enjoyed the:

  • access to quality presentations and international speakers and experts
  • recorded sessions that could be paused, muted, skipped or revised again and again
  • access to current research, ideas, projects and initiatives
  • flexibility and lower cost.

The decision to alter the delivery of the conference to a virtual series or hybrid is a new approach and the Preventive SIG would like to include aspects valued by the membership in a traditional physical conference within the new virtual format. Below is the graph of results from the survey on this topic.

graph showing survey response results

The above graph identifies networking, meeting new people and attached workshops as the most valued experiences of attending a conference. The Preventive SIG will aim to develop these points within a virtual delivery. In addition, we understand that there are many issues with a virtual conference, such as

  • technology, sound and internet connections
  • timing and length of presentations and conference as a whole
  • quality of presenter in a virtual capacity
  • lack of networking or interaction with the speaker.

The Preventive SIG will decide on the best possible pathway to deliver a quality series of presenters, papers and possibly even workshops. We have already developed a list of key presentations and speakers and will look at ways that we can deliver this in a cohesive and cost-effective manner. We are keen to look at innovative ways to incorporate networking, workshops, and opportunities for participants to meet and work with each other. This is a reflection of what is valued in a physical conference. This is an opportunity to be creative, create new connections and build our conservation community. We look forward to connecting with you soon.