Protecting Lincoln’s heritage: Lincoln Cathedral’s head of conservation receives ICON accreditation

Head of conservation at Lincoln Cathedral, Jane Cowan, has been awarded Accredited Conservator-Restorer (ACR) status by the Institute of Conservation (ICON).

With a diploma in Conservation and Restoration and a Master of Science in Stone Conservation, Jane applies her 30 years of specialist industry experience to her role - which plays a major part in protecting Lincoln’s greatest historical asset.

Jane joins a membership of over 800 accredited conservators operating globally and is proudly one of two members of the works department at Lincoln Cathedral with this accreditation, the other being director of works and property, Michael Sheppard.

As part of the highly-skilled Cathedral works department, Jane’s responsibilities include managing the day-to-day care of the Cathedral fabric; including stone, sculptures, and monuments. As head of conservation, Jane also leads a team of conservators and stone masons in line with the conservation policy.

Jane has been with the Cathedral for 13 years, and for the last four - as part of a National Lottery-funded project to conserve and protect the Cathedral - Jane has been responsible for the delivery of major conservation works to the West Front.

This involves the sensitive but highly technical cleaning and repair of globally significant sculptures and carvings, including the 14th century Gallery of Kings, 12th century Romanesque frieze panels, bishop sculptures and the Great West Doorway into the building.

According to ICON, Jane’s new accredited status demonstrates a conservator’s detailed knowledge of conservation, a high degree of competence in the specialism, sound judgement and a deep understanding of the principles which underpin the practice.

The rigorous accreditation process is made up of two parts – an extensive application based on several projects which must meet standards and ethical requirements, and a full day assessment visit made by two accredited conservators, to peer review the applicant and their work.

Jane said: “I’m very pleased to have achieved ICON Accredited Conservator-Restorer (ACR) status and have that hard work recognised by such a prestigious board.

“As a conservator, I am in a privileged position of having access to some of the most extraordinary objects and buildings, such as the conservation of the Romanesque frieze. Conservation is a marriage of science, art, and history, which often requires a combination of practical skills and mental capacity, to solve unique problems to help preserve our cultural heritage.

“There are many enjoyable aspects to the job, but one of the most important for me is not any single object or part of the building, but the wider, less tangible aspect of preserving historic crafts skills.

“I have enormous respect for the skills of many of those craftsmen who came before us and for my current colleagues in masonry, joinery and glazing, not to mention our facilities team who keep the whole place going. Understanding and continuing these skills will ensure the continuation of many aspects of preserving our heritage into the future.”

The Cathedral works department is made up of 22 highly-skilled crafts people and is one of the biggest teams of its kind in the country. Having a team this size with specialist skills in-house is one of the Cathedral’s biggest assets.

Michael Sheppard, said: “It’s fantastic news that Jane has achieved this important recognition by the conservation profession for her incredible talent and skill, and we continue our critical conservation and restoration work to the Cathedral, and close properties, assured that the very best conservation ethics are employed.

“As an accredited conservator myself, and with a wider highly-skilled and passionate works department team, Jane and I work closely to manage the treatment methodologies to the same industry lead benchmarks and standards.

“Jane has such a wealth of knowledge, experience and best-practice, which is key not just for the ongoing restoration of some of the finest medieval sculpture in the UK, but also for developing new skills and confidence in our team members, of using accredited and recognised practices. Many congratulations Jane.”