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Alumna wins Student Conservator award in UK’s coveted ICON awards

23 October 2015

Gemma McBader

In the Institute of Conservation (ICON) national awards, a Cardiff University student has once again been awarded Student Conservator of the Year at a prestigious ceremony.

MSc Conservation Practice alumna Gemma McBader has been awarded the Pilgrim Trust Student Conservator of the Year Award at the UK awards held every five years.

Winners in all five categories were announced at the 2015 Icon Conservation Awards on 22 October at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London.

Gemma was given the prestigious award for her contribution to the Investigation and Conservation of a 19th Century Ethiopian Emperor’s Shield. The project, which sought to establish the 115 year-old shield's significance and to scrutinise the use of Silver Dip on tarnished silver-gilt surfaces, was described by the judges as ‘an impressive and complex project which had a great impact on a small museum’.

The award recognises the accomplishments of a student conservator in conservation, demonstrated in the completion of their project during training. The award is presented both to the student and their training institution, with a prize fund of £5,000.

Among the first cohort to graduate with the new MSc Conservation Practice at the University, Gemma says: "The project was multifaceted, and provided a platform to combine all aspects of the MSc course, from scientific analyses, to risk management and ethical considerations.

"The most fascinating aspect of the project was the research into the shield's provenance and pin-pointing its exact origin and history, culminating in a significance-led approach to its conservation" she adds.

The judges commented: “Significant in terms of the methodology used and exceptionally well researched, the project speaks to the power of conservation not only to improve the condition and appearance of an object but also to establish its significance.” 

Cardiff University has a long-standing history of Conservation degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level, highly respected within the sector. This year its alumni also featured in the teams winning the Pilgrim Trust Awards for Community and Conservation respectively. 

Alumnus Simon Lambert took the title of Student Conservator of the Year at the last awards in 2010.

Sponsored by Beko plc, the Icon Conservation Awards recognise the highest standards of conservation, research and collections care within the UK art and heritage sectors. The ceremony, which was hosted by broadcaster and art historian Tim Marlow, celebrated the highest profile conservation projects in the country.

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