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Subject: Conservation principles

Conservation principles

From: Frank Hassard <f.hassard>
Date: Tuesday, July 4, 2006
In 1964 the Venice Charter made public that the purpose of heritage
preservation was to pass on to future generations physical
manifestations of age-old traditions "in the full richness of their
authenticity". This has subsequently been reinforced by (among
others) the Nara Document in 1994 and the Declaration of San Antonio
in 1996.

In relation to this, the other day I visited an end-of-year degree
show at a well-known and well-respected university in the United
Kingdom. This institution runs courses entitled: BSc (Hons)
Restoration and Conservation and BTEC HND Furniture (Restoration).
The show brings together exhibits from both courses. I observed,
side-by-side, two mirror-frames of similar period, design,
construction techniques and materials--one relating to the BSc
(Hons) Restoration and Conservation course and the other to the BTEC
HND Furniture (Restoration) course. In both cases substantial losses
were replaced.

However, on the HND course the mirror-frame was restored in a
'like-with-like' way; in other words same materials and techniques.
In contrast to this the mirror-frame relating to the BSc (Hons)
conservation course was restored in a 'non-like' way; with a modern
synthetic resin known as 'Bonda Filler' which I understand is
available at conservation resource centres. In the UK this is
commonly known as car body filler and is also available at car body
repair centres.

The car body filler is easier and thus more efficient to use because
it requires less practical expertise (and therefore less practical
training) to apply. It is therefore a quick and cheap solution. Its
use was also justified on grounds of conservation ethics, such as
'minumum-intervention', 'reversibility' and 'compatibility'. The
process of justification was largely based on scientific / technical
research. Science is not taught at HND level, therefore, this
approach to 'non-like' restoration relates directly to the science
component of the course; hence the award of BSc (i.e. Batchelor of
Science). On the day the student (now a BSc) advised me that they
did not know how to work with 'like-with-like' materials--unlike the
HND student.

I am concerned as to why such contrasting approaches to restoration
should be taught at the same institution and why the easy and quick
solution which requires less practical training, and which is
(seemingly) grounded in conservation ethics, should be awarded the
higher accolade.

In light of this, I should be pleased to receive comments with
regard to the following question:

Which of these restoration projects fulfills to the greater extent
the declaration of the Venice Charter (and subsequently reinforced)
stated above?

Frank Hassard
PhD Research
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College
c/o Brunel University, United Kingdom

                  Conservation DistList Instance 20:5
                   Distributed: Sunday, July 23, 2006
                        Message Id: cdl-20-5-003
Received on Tuesday, 4 July, 2006

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