Conservation-restoration of cultural heritage

Removal of adherent surface deposits by physical chemical means (by cotton swab) at Church of Sucevița Monastery, burial chamber, in Suceava, Romania
Conservation of the Horses of Saint Mark (Venice)

The conservation-restoration of cultural heritage focuses on protection and care of tangible cultural heritage, including artworks, architecture, archaeology, and museum collections.[1] Conservation activities include preventive conservation, examination, documentation, research, treatment, and education.[2] This field is closely allied with conservation science, curators and registrars.


Revision and conservation of the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc (Czech Republic) in 2006.

Conservation of cultural heritage involves protection and restoration using "any methods that prove effective in keeping that property in as close to its original condition as possible for as long as possible."[3] Conservation of cultural heritage is often associated with art collections and museums and involves collection care and management through tracking, examination, documentation, exhibition, storage, preventative conservation, and restoration.[4]

The scope has widened from art conservation, involving protection and care of artwork and architecture, to conservation of cultural heritage, also including protection and care of a broad set of other cultural and historical works. Conservation of cultural heritage can be described as a type of ethical stewardship.

Conservation of cultural heritage applies simple ethical guidelines:

  • Minimal intervention;
  • Appropriate materials and reversible methods;
  • Full documentation of all work undertaken.

Often there are compromises between preserving appearance, maintaining original design and material properties, and ability to reverse changes. Reversibility is now emphasized so as to reduce problems with future treatment, investigation, and use.

In order for conservators to decide upon an appropriate conservation strategy and apply their professional expertise accordingly, they must take into account views of the stakeholder, the values and meaning of the work, and the physical needs of the material.

Cesare Brandi in his Theory of Restoration, describes restoration as "the methodological moment in which the work of art is appreciated in its material form and in its historical and aesthetic duality, with a view to transmitting it to the future".[5]

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