chapter  1
11 Pages

Perception, judgement and learning

The implementation of conservation comprises 'the technical investigation, preservation and conservation/restoration of cultural property' (ICOM-CC 1984). To be successful it depends on the conservator knowing: what the object is, where it comes from and what it relates to (context), the materials of which the object is composed, the decay mechanisms of those materials and a variety of measures which could be implemented to clean, stabilize and preserve the object. It also crucially depends on the ability of the conservator to judge which investigation and remedial measures are most appropriate to implement. Inexperienced conservators do not find the acquisition of knowledge, such as learning different conservation techniques, as difficult as judging which one to apply. Judgement can be denned as 'the weighting of knowledge leading to a decision' and includes: ethical considerations, the best way of achieving the aims of conservation, the extent of cleaning, the extent of restoration, the extent to which limited time or funding should influence the conservation, the wishes of the object owner, risks of damage to an object, the health and safety of the conservator, aesthetic considerations and many other factors. Whilst senior conservators have the benefit of many years of experience in order to help them make this judgement, inexperienced conservators need some assistance. They need to be aware of all the issues but cannot possess this experience until they have gained it through practice. Neither this book, nor any other, can teach you how to make good judgements; however, this textbook does seek to acquaint the inexperienced conservator with many of the considerations which should be raised when approaching the conservation of an object and which lead to good judgement. It uses a number of detailed case studies drawn primarily from the conservation of archaeological and historic objects, to exemplify the judgement exercised by experienced conservators. The underlying principles of conservation are applicable to a wide range of 'cultural property' (Berducou 1996) from fine art to buildings.