Vicki Humphrey

Vicki Humphrey

Vicki Humphrey has worked for over twenty years as a manager in the collections sector and is now a collections protection consultant and editor of the International Institute for Conservation’s (IIC) newspaper, News in Conservation. Vicki is a trained conservator and an accredited conservation manager.

The move to conservation came after a first degree in architecture. While working as an architect’s assistant at the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority (SCRA) in Sydney’s historic Rocks Area, Vicki 'discovered' materials conservation. Some years later she commenced her training in Library and Archive Conservation at the Camberwell School of Art and Crafts in London. The training at Camberwell was at that time, full-time, intensive and over 66% hands-on and this certainly influenced Vicki’s belief that craft skills need to be nurtured and valued as much as academic qualifications.

In the final year at Camberwell, Vicki was appointed as the first materials conservator at the Herbarium and Library at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This initially involved designing and overseeing the fit-out of the conservation laboratory. While at Kew, Vicki completed her final Camberwell project during which she identified three Julia Margaret Cameron photographs of Marianne North, thought to have been lost.

Vicki with illuminated manuscript

In late 1989, Vicki moved to Adelaide to Artlab Australia, at that time called the State Conservation Centre. For over 13 years she managed the Paper Laboratory, which treated works of art on paper, archives, large maps, photographs and books. She also managed Training and Technical Services. As one of the Assistant Directors, Vicki was a member of the Executive and the Marketing Executive. Vicki was the Technical Editor of the training resource reCollections: Caring for Collections Across Australia. She also ran a small publishing company at the time. Artlab provided excellent experience and management development opportunities that Vicki was able to apply in her next role.

In 2003 Vicki took up the role of Head of Conservation at the British Library (BL). This was an exciting opportunity to lead a change program for one of the world’s largest conservation facilities. The changes, affecting all aspects of the work of the section, were based on the need for accountability and programming; strong conservation ethics and high quality conservation at an appropriate level and continuous improvement in conservation knowledge and skills. Vicki was key contributor to the fund-raising, design and development of the British Library Centre for Conservation (BLCC) and to the public programs in the BLCC, including curating the permanent exhibition Conservation Uncovered. As well as throwing up many challenges, this role also helped Vicki to mature as a manager, provided the opportunity for her to work with people from a great many professions and from all parts of the world and exposed her to high standards of project management. It also helped to consolidate her view that conservators need to engage more with the broader corporate context of their work and improve their ability to communicate the value of their work – risk management methodology is very useful for this. Early in 2011 Vicki became a Certificant (CIRM) of the Institute of Risk Management.

Since returning to Australia, Vicki has studied to become a Prince2 project management practitioner and has undertaken an international certificate in risk management. In addition, Vicki has been working as an Independent Quality Assurance Consultant for the protection of the collections in the Alexander Turnbull Library and the National Library of New Zealand during their redevelopment. Vicki is an Accredited Conservator / Restorer with the  UK Institute of Conservation (ICON) and continues to work on their Accreditation and Editorial Committees.

Vicki at British Library Exhibition

Vicki is committed to the preservation and sound management of cultural heritage and has strong interests in the historic and social context of collections. Conservation ethics and their application and conservation training and education are areas Vicki feels continue to raise questions and challenges which can only benefit from broader engagement and improved communication.