Welcome to the first AICCM e-News for 2023, which is also the year of AICCM’s 50th anniversary.
The Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (ICCM, later AICCM) first met in Perth in 1973. Attendees came from across Australia and from as far afield as Dunedin, New Zealand, and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. There were representatives from archives, libraries, galleries and museums, as well as universities and the CSIRO.
In 1973 there was no conservation training program in Australia – or even within the southern hemisphere – let alone a recognised profession. The limited number of staff working as conservators in the cultural sector were acutely aware of the need for local conservation expertise and resourcing (the 1975 Pigott Report on the state of Australia’s museums included alarming comments such as ‘some collections are rotting in the museums, turning these institutions literally into cemeteries of dead objects’) and looked to international examples such as the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) as models for action.
Those present at the first AGM resolved to work towards establishment of an Australian conservation training centre, in-house conservation facilities for Australia’s cultural organisations, public awareness programs, and professional networks such as local divisions and regular conferences.
(As current President I was also interested to see that, even at the very first meeting, governance issues occupied a fair chunk of the agenda: membership fees, member recruitment, the ins and outs of incorporation, approval of an interim constitution, and a plan to appoint an Executive Officer to undertake much of the work required.)
Dr Colin Pearson – later the convenor of Australia’s first conservation training program – was elected as ICCM’s first President. Ian Cook was elected Secretary, Allan Byrne was Treasurer, and there were three Vice Presidents: Sue Wilson, Ann Bermingham and L Lloyd.
Thus began five extraordinary decades of advocacy and achievement. The AICCM Bulletin was first published in 1975, formal incorporation came in 1976, and the first regional divisions were established in 1977. The Conservation in Australia conference was held in 1976 and Conservation of Rock Art in 1977. In 1979, Australia’s first conservation training course opened at the Canberra College of Advanced Education (later the University of Canberra).
I hope you will join us in Canberra later this year (15–17 November) to celebrate 50 years of Australian conservation—to reflect on what we have achieved and what is yet to be done. I am exceptionally grateful to the National Conference organising committee, who are working towards what will be our first national conference since 2019.
For more information on the conference and to submit a proposal for a paper or poster, please see the conference web page.
To read more about AICCM’s origins, you can browse our annual reports.
I look forward to seeing you all at the National Gallery of Australia in November!
Reference: Museums in Australia 1975 was published by the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections, Canberra ACT. It is also known as The Pigott Report, after the Chair of the Committee PH Pigott. A copy is available at https://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/558508/Museums_in_Australia_1975_Pigott_Report.pdf