What is Conservation?

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The word CONSERVATION is used to describe a broad range of practices involved in the preservation of historic and artistic works as well as the day-to-day practice of conservation which has a concentrated focus. The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) identifies the principles and practices that unite CONSERVATORS as a professional group whose members treat objects as diverse as oil paintings, steam engines, and wedding dresses.
 

Conservation encompasses actions taken toward the long-term preservation of cultural property. Unstable conditions occur in a painting such as tears, flaking paint and cracks. Conservation activities include the following explicit functions:
Examination is a procedure to determine the nature, method of manufacture or properties of objects, and the causes of their deterioration.
Documentation procedures record the condition of an object before, during, and after treatment, and outline in detail treatment methods and materials used.
Preventive Conservation is action taken to minimize further deterioration. This process includes the stabilization of the environment surrounding an artifact by methods which minimize the effects of agents of deterioration.
Treatment includes the stabilization of the condition of a work of art or artifact to retard or stop deterioration processes. Treatment may also include restoration.
Restoration is an attempt to bring cultural property closer to its original appearance or its appearance at a particular period in time.

AIC is the national membership organization of conservation professionals which coordinates and advances knowledge and improved methods of conservation needed to protect, preserve, and maintain the condition and integrity of cultural property which because of their history, significance, rarity, or workmanship have a commonly accepted value and importance for the public interest. The organization maintains a code of ethics and standards of practice which safeguard the preservation of the intrinsic character of the object.

For more information:

What Can Happen to a Painting?
Conservation...Restoration:  What is the Difference?