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Friday, May 30 • 2:30pm - 2:50pm
(Engaging Communities in Collection Care Session) Heritage versus ‘Business of the House’: Conservation and Collection Care at the Houses of Parliament, UK

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This talk will focus on the development of conservation and collection care at Parliament through a strong and championed heritage strategy; and by identifying some of the projects and programmes that have helped to embed the care of collections message. We will focus on how we measure the preservation impact for projects; and how we manage these through good communication, high-quality standards within short time scales and limited resources. We have found that the key to success is to be clear on requirements yet adaptable where necessary.

Core activity at Parliament, the home of UK government, is described as the ‘Business of the House’ with both the House of Commons and House of Lords demanding an easily accessible yet well preserved home for our famous legacy. The iconic and listed buildings of the Houses of Parliament that include the Palace of Westminster-is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Parliamentary Estate is also home to an extensive and historic collection of art, textiles, furniture, books and archives, including the original Acts of Parliament. There is an increasing demand for Parliament to be transparent and connect with UK citizens and the world, which is where balancing access with the need to preserve is becoming ever more challenging.

What makes it unusual is that these buildings are in their original working use, and the ‘Business of the House’ takes priority. The real challenge is managing a daily intake of upwards 7000 staff and 1000 visitors who expect to flow through the ‘corridors of power’ without hindrance. The consequence of this is that for many years conservation had been reactive and become a tool to ‘get things done’. Today the approach is more strategic and preventive – knowing the need through research, developing communications internally and externally, effective planning and resource management, managing risk, acting on findings and measuring outcomes.

More recently our focus has been to advocate and embed an awareness of conservation and preservation needs at Parliament through our recently adopted Heritage Strategy and various training and events days. Effective internal and external communications has been a vital part of our success, resulting in collection care having a strong position as the intelligent client during large scale programmes, such as the more recent feasibility study for the restoration and renewal of the Parliamentary Estate; and how Parliaments’ policy on environmental sustainability that aims to achieve ‘Green’ targets for Parliament might impact on the longevity of the collections and buildings. Overall our approach has been to maximise resources, agree standards and prioritise. Our long-term goal is to ensure the preservation of this great building and its contents for present and future generations to enjoy.

Between austerity measures and preservation challenges- Parliament has a great undertaking ahead. We are finding our way, but it is a very rewarding time to be here.

Session Moderator(s)
avatar for Margaret Holben Ellis

Margaret Holben Ellis

Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation; Director, Thaw Conservation Center, NYU Institute of Fine Arts; Morgan Library & Museum
Margaret Holben Ellis received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Barnard College, Columbia University (1975) and completed her Master’s Degree in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (1979). In 1977 she joined the Paper Conservation staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she remained full-time until 1987 when she was appointed Sherman Fairchild... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens

Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens

Conservator, Preventive Team Head and University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor, Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware
Joelle Wickens is Conservator and Preventive Team Head at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate and a University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor in Art Conservation for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She gained an MA (Distinction) in textile conservation from the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton, Winchester, UK in 2003. In 2008 she was awarded at PhD from the same institution... Read More →


Lara Artemis

collection care manager, Parliament
Lara Artemis, ACR, is an accredited conservator and is responsible for managing the Collection Care team and exhibition loans registration at the Parliamentary Archives; and consults on the preservation of House of Lords and House of Commons Libraries collections at the Houses of Parliament.  Previous to this, Lara worked at the Wellcome Trust in London as a book and paper conservator, where she also managed the library’s... Read More →


Caroline Babington

Collection Care Manager, Works of Art, Houses of Parliament, UK
Caroline Babington, ACR, took a BA Hons in Art History at the University of East Anglia, and obtained the Postgraduate Diploma in Wall Painting Conservation from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She then worked for English Heritage for ten years as wall paintings conservator and then Head of Wall Painting Conservation. For the last six years she has been working in the Curator’s Office on a number of large scale preservation... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 2:30pm - 2:50pm
Grand Ballroom B-C