Keynote address

Dr. Caitlin Southwick
Dr. Caitlin Southwick

Sustainable Futures for Conservation

Caitlin Southwick
Executive Director, Ki Culture
Amsterdam, The Netherlands


As conservators, preservation is in our nature. But heritage is only one part of a larger web; preservation of our stories, our societies, our planet, and ourselves. Sustainability encompasses all of these types of preservation and frames how they are all connected.

Various international frameworks have been created to explain what this means and looks like. The 3 pillars: social, environmental, economic; the 5 Ps: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership; the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

But what does metals conservation have to do with this? Everything. Together, we will explore this web of sustainability, and get a clearer picture of the state of metals conservation related to sustainability, what we can do, and how we can become advocates for sustainability. Because what’s at risk is not only our collections, our societies and our future, but also our jobs.

The most effective way to integrate this mindset of sustainability into our profession is during conservation training. Sustainability education for conservators is just starting to be addressed. While many universities are aware of the necessity of teaching students about sustainability, many don’t actually know how, and the topic tends to become a module or an elective. However, the only sustainable way to teach sustainability is by integrating it into every aspect of our educational programs – to ensure that conservators are taught how to see all aspects of their work through a sustainability lens.

It is our duty to protect our cultural heritage, but it is also our duty to positively contribute to all other aspects of the larger picture of sustainability. And more importantly, to understand our role in this interconnected web, to reassert our value as conservators to become not only the protectors of the past, but leaders for the future.