Medellin, Colombia: Building Bridges Among Latin America's Heritage Preservation Professionals

Building Bridges Among Latin America’s Heritage Preservation Professionals

More than 70 heritage preservation professionals from 15 countries, from Central, South, and North America, met during fours intensive days last August in one of Latin America’s cultural hubs: Medellin, Colombia. The city’s major cultural institutions, Banco de la República, and the Biblioteca Pública Piloto, among other museums and archives, opened their doors to the 1st APOYOnline Heritage Preservation Regional Conference, and a Photographic Conservation Workshop. Founded in 1989, APOYOnline is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote communication, exchange and professional development in the field of heritage preservation in the Americas and in Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries,

Addressing the theme of the conference: “Heritage Preservation in the Americas: Practical Exchanges & Upcoming Projects”, speakers, poster presenters, and participants, shared their experiences in conservation practice, education, collections care, and heritage management. The majority of the participants were professionals currently working in public and private institutions − museums, archives, and libraries − in Latin America. The second largest group was university professors and researchers, followed by independent professionals working in private practice and, students currently enrolled in heritage preservation programs across the continent. Altogether, participants represented Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Spain.

The APOYOnline Conference program included 14 papers, 24 posters, technical visits to museums and archives in Medellin, a public lecture about ‘Preserving Family Photographs”, special guests lectures on ‘Fundamentals of Leadership’ and ‘International Alliances in Latin America for Heritage Preservation Professionals’, exhibits of preservation materials , and a “Vision 2020” session addressing future collaborative opportunities to strengthen and advance APOYOnline.

In addition, participants attended a four half-day workshop on ‘Photograph Conservation, Fundraising, and Advocacy’ led by Debra Hess Norris, Chairperson, Art Conservation Program at the University of Delaware. Originally planned for 25 pre-selected participants, the workshop was opened to all in attendance owing to overwhelming interest. Teaching material were translated in three languages (English-Spanish-Portuguese). The workshop included lectures with simultaneous translation, open discussions, and hands-on work. Technical visits to the photographic archive of the Biblioteca Pública Piloto, inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, enabled participants to study a remarkable collection of 19th -and 20th- century print and negative materials, equipped with low-temperature storage for acetate and nitrate film and a robust digitization program. Additional visits to the Medellin Historical Archives and Museum of Antioquia provided exceptional learning opportunities.

Presentations covered a broad range of subjects in cultural heritage preservation. Topics included the study of conservation and restoration terminology, microbiological prevention, emergency response following natural disasters, procedures for the stabilization of archives and manuscripts, cleaning of rare materials, and, the analysis and conservation treatment of 20th-century ceramic murals. Additionally, a number of presentations addressed photographic conservation practices, challenges, policies, and professional training. Poster presentations documented a variety of topics, from glass plate negatives and audio-visual preservation to training programs in Latin America.

This Conference – the first APOYOnline Conference held in Latin America – inspired many and reinforced the interdisciplinary nature of heritage preservation across the Americas. Participants shared their commitment to further develop the networking and learning opportunities resulting from the conference, and to foster new collaborations. Maribel Chamorro from Peru remarked: “the Conference helped us exchange experiences and to be more in touch with each other, to reach out and consult with each other and organize inter-institutional exchanges.” Another participant, David Cohen from Colombia described his experience as an “invaluable opportunity to connect with professionals from Latin America, to appreciate the work being done elsewhere and to share experiences and challenges.”

The APOYOnline Conference provided a welcoming environment to exchange professional expertise, learning, and extended dialogue among participants. A comprehensive research project between Argentina, Curaçao and the Dominican Republic on the development and testing of gel cleaning systems to clean inorganic supports was launched as a result of this conference.

The commitment of Latin American professionals to preservation is heartfelt and compelling; they are not deterred by limited resources. Many are looking for internship opportunities abroad while seeking to participate in future professional development initiatives in the region. Led by Beatriz Haspo and Amparo Rueda, APOYOnline will continue to embrace the challenges ahead in leading such initiatives to integrate and support professional development and professional exchanges in the region. The second APOYOnline regional Conference is scheduled for 2018!

Tru Vue Inc. was the leading donor to this initiative, providing partial stipends to 30 participants from across Latin America for lodging and registration, and other logistical costs. Additional sponsors supported this conference including from the United States: University of Delaware, RLA Conservation of Art and Architecture, American Institute for Conservation Photographic Materials Group, Image Permanence Institute, Getty Publications, University Products, Hollinger Metal Edge, Gaylord Archival, Peck Stacpoole Foundation, Preservation Technologies, and private donors. From Colombia: Banco de la República, Biblioteca Pública Piloto, Avianca Airlines, Archivo Histórico de Medellin, and Museo de Antioquia. We are grateful to all donors for their strong and sustained commitment to support the field of heritage preservation in Latin America and Caribbean regions.

Conference Program

Workshop Program

List of Posters 


Ingrid Frederick, Head of Communications at APOYOnline. Bachelors in Conservation and Restoration of Movable Cultural Heritage, Universidad Externado de Colombia.

Currently, Candidate to Master’s in World Heritage Studies at BTU-Cottbus, Germany, in World Heritage Studies.

Beatriz Haspo, Executive Manager of APOYOnline.

Collections Officer, Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A.




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