Conservation-restoration  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Conservation-restoration, also referred to as Conservation, is a profession devoted to the preservation of cultural heritage for the future. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care. All of this work is supported by research and education.

History

Key dates

This page contains a list of some of the key dates in the history of conservation in Europe and the United States, compiled by Joyce Hill Stoner. Beginning in 1565 with the restoration of the Sistine Chapel frescoes.

Brief history

The care for cultural patrimony has a long history within traditions of fixing and mending objects, and in individual restorations of artworks. During the nineteenth century, the fields of science and art became increasingly intertwined as scientists such as Michael Faraday began to study the damaging effects of the environment to works of art. Louis Pasteur carried out scientific analysis on paint during this time period as well. However, perhaps the first organised attempt to conserve cultural patrimony was the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in the UK, influenced by the writings of John Ruskin the society was founded by William Morris and Philip Webb in 1877. During the same period a movement with similar aims had also developed in France under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc a French architect and theorist, famous for his "restorations" of medieval buildings.

Conservation developed as a distinct field of thought initially in Germany, when in 1888 Friedrich Rathgen became the first Chemist to be employed by a Museum, the Koniglichen Museen, Berlin (Royal Museums of Berlin). He not only developed a scientific approach to the care of objects in the collections, but disseminated this approach publishing a "Handbook of Conservation" in 1898. The early development of conservation in any area of the world is usually linked to the creation of positions for chemists within museums. In 1924 in the UK the chemist Harold Plenderleith began to work at the British Museum with Dr. Alexander Scott in the newly created Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, thus giving birth to the conservation profession in the UK. This department had been created by the museum to address objects in the collection that had begun to rapidly deteriorate as a result of being stored in the London Underground tunnels during the First World War. The development of this department at the British Museum moved the focus for the development of conservation from Germany to Britain, and in 1956 Plenderleith wrote a significant handbook called The Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art, it was this book rather than Rathgen's that is commonly seen as the major source for the development of conservation as we know it today.

In the United States the development of conservation can be traced to the Fogg Art Museum, and Edward Waldo Forbes, the Director of the Fogg from 1909 to 1944. He encouraged technical investigation, and was Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the first technical journal, Technical Studies, in the Field of the Fine Arts, published by the Fogg from 1932 to 1942. Importantly he also brought onto the museum staff chemists. Rutherford John Gettens was the first chemist in the U. S. to be permanently employed by an art museum. He worked with George L. Stout, the founder and first editor of Technical Studies. Gettens and Stout co-authored Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopaedia, first published in 1942 and reprinted in 1966. This compendium is still cited regularly. Only a few dates and descriptions in Gettens’ and Stout’s book are now outdated.

The focus of conservation development then accelerated in Britain and America, and it was in Britain that the first International Conservation Organisations developed. The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) was incorporated under British law in 1950 as “a permanent organization to co-ordinate and improve the knowledge, methods, and working standards needed to protect and preserve precious materials of all kinds.” The rapid growth of conservation professional organizations, publications, journals, newsletters, both internationally and in localities, has spearheaded the development of the conservation profession, both practically and theoretically. Art historians and theorists such as Cesare Brandi have also played a significant role in developing conservation-restoration theory. In recent years ethical concerns have been at the forefront of developments in conservation. Most significantly has been the idea of Preventive conservation. This concept is based in part on the pioneering work by Garry Thomson CBE, and his book the Museum Environment, first published in 1978. Thomson was associated with the National Gallery (London), it was here that he established a set of guidelines or environmental controls for the best conditions in which objects could be stored and displayed within the Museum Environment. Although his exact guidelines are no longer rigidly followed they did inspire this field of conservation.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Conservation-restoration" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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