The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 22, Number 1

The Document of Pavia

Last fall, there seems to have been a sudden proliferation of action among a variety of European conservators' organizations (some newly formed) from every country in Europe. Apparently there has been a pent-up need to improve the skills and establish the professional status of conservators (called conservator-restorers or C-R in the E.C.C.O. Newsletter). The resulting momentum created some confusion and competition between groups (most of which are unfamiliar to us on the other side of the Atlantic, and are referred to only by their acronyms), which makes it hard to report this historically important development.

The birth of the Document of Pavia was part of that confluence of concern, and it is reported here, despite a shortage of information sources, because it is an important recent event. Readers who were closer to the event, or to reliable reports of it, are invited to fill out the picture.

What seems to have happened is that members of the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers' Organizations (E.C.C.O.) held their first congress near an interdisciplinary meeting of 45 conservation and restoration experts in Pavia, Italy, October 18-22, 1997. Both groups were working to promote and establish the professional nature of conservation, and to persuade governmental agencies to recognize the need for this.

The 45 experts consisted of scientists, curators, art historians, cultural heritage directors, teachers, and representatives of conservation institutes and international organizations, as well as conservator-restorers. They came from 16 European countries. Names from the list that may be familiar to readers include Rene Larsen (Denmark), Françoise Flieder and Florence Herrenschmidt (France), Andrew Oddy (UK), and Gael de Guichen (Italy).

This meeting of experts was arranged by a non-governmental organization, Associazione Secco Suardo, which is heading a European Union-financed project related to the Raphael Programme. Secco Suardo's partners in this project are government agencies, institutions and organizations from all over Europe.

Although the E.C.C.O. members held their congress at about the same time and place, they apparently had no input to the Pavia conference, since it was an invitational meeting. Their E.C.C.O. Professional Guidelines were referred to frequently in the deliberations, however, and were made the core (with proper attribution) of the "Document of Pavia" that was unanimously adopted and unveiled on October 21. This use of their Guidelines may have been a surprise to the E.C.C.O. members, who might be excused if they felt someone had stolen their thunder.

The Professional Guidelines list 13 actions that should be encouraged by "the European Unions in collaboration with all the specialists in the field." They fall into four groups, plus one item on publication and one on research. The first group covers conservation/restoration's place in society, e.g., "The development of interdisciplinary exchange between Conservator-restorers and exponents of the humanities and the natural sciences both in teaching and in research."

The second group of actions has to do with first class education in good schools, including a full range of defined professional competencies and the avoidance of the proliferation of training programs which do not meet the standards of the profession.

Action # 9 is "The promotion of improved dissemination of information by means of publication of conservation-restoration projects," and # 10 is simply "The promotion of research in conservation-restoration."

The third group recommends a regulatory framework for "the quality of intervention." The last has to do with communication among professionals, e.g., the publication of a multilingual glossary.

The president of E.C.C.O., Pierre Masson, made a gracious summary of the Pavia Document and its significance (published in the January 1998 E.C.C.O. Newsletter and possibly also given orally at the meeting), saying, in part,

Regarding the Pavia Document, I would like to stress its importance.... It was the practical application of the interdisciplinary principle in our field.

The in-depth work and lively debate of this learned assembly led to recognition of the existence and irreplaceable and essential value of E.C.C.O.'s "Professional Guidelines."

The text that was unanimously adopted after the meeting, "The Pavia Document," includes the essence of the ideas defended by our organization and is explicitly based on our "Professional Guidelines."

As a result:

Finally, most professions involved with conservation have officially examined, approved and recognized our official documents.

Finally, with one single voice, they have given their support to the claims of our profession.

This document, adopted during a European Summit sponsored by the European Union and DG X [sic], can henceforth be used in our external relations. It will carry great weight in our fight for recognition of the profession....

On behalf of E.C.C.O., I would like to thank the Secco Suardo Foundation, its associates and all participants for the work that has been done and the support they gave us....

[This information is from the E.C.C.O. web site <>. The Document of Pavia, incorporating the Professional Guidelines, is printed in the first part of Newsletter #4, January 1998, at this site.]

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