In this article the author presents and clarifies the concepts of preservation, preventive conservation, curative conservation and restoration. She then sets out her personal view as a practitioner of conservation/restorationabout the scope for and value of integrating restorers into preventive conservation projects in Frenchmuseums. Eleonore Kissel is aconservator-restorer of graphic documents and a consultant in preventive conservation. She holds a Master's degree in the sciences and techniques of conserving and restoring cultural property and a Higher Specialized Studies Diploma (DESS) in preventive conservation from the University of Paris-I PantheÂon-Sorbonne.She is a specialist in preventive conservation work which she carries out mostly in archives and museums in France and Canada.
Before examining the main subject of thisarticle, namely, the scope for integratingrestorers into preventive conservationprojects, I will first of all try to define thedifferent activities covered by thedisciplines whose common objective isto safeguard cultural property, andsecond, will briefly determine how the various responsibilities are shared by museum personnel. I should mention atthe outset that this article concernspractices in French museums only; otherkinds of heritage institutions such asarchives, libraries and historical sites andmonuments, as well as the situation inother countries are not reflected here. What do the terms `restoration', `curativeconservation' and `preventive conserva-tion' mean, and who are the individualsresponsible for carrying out each of thesetasks in the heritage institutions?French popular usage gives a meaning tothe term `restoration' which is differentfrom its technical definition, and this leadsto confusion when the subject of restoration is being discussed in public.Following the definition given by theEnglish-speaking world, `restoration' wasdescribed in 1992 as all the work carriedout on a cultural property in order toimprove understanding of it.
The work inquestion is therefore optional, andexecuted on an object whose continuedexistence is not at issue. By contrast,`curative conservation' can be defined asencompassing all the work done on adamaged object in order to rescue it fromdanger. None the less, both verbal and written shortcuts show how even today the term `restoration' and, therefore, thatof `restorer' are readily used in a broadersense which takes in all the work donedirect on an object. Bearing this in mindand to avoid any confusion, the term`conservation-restoration' will be used inthis article, but together with that of `restorer', and it is hoped that readers willaccept this refusal to submit to officialterminology.
Restoration and curative conservation work both concern individual objects which have usually suffered damage, whereas preventive conservation is adifferent discipline whose purpose is tolessen the risks of deterioration. As aresult, on the one hand, preventiveconservation work is, in general, aimedprimarily at the environment rather than atindividual objects, although it isunderstood that it is the materiality of the object which determines the nature of the actions taken. On the other hand,given that action aimed at the environ-ment often benefits several objects,justification for such action is seen interms of its expected impact on thecollection as a whole rather than onindividual objects. Adopting a broader view of materialconservation issues, which are definednot in terms of a potential improvement of the state of the object but, rather, astabilization of its present condition,requires a considerable change of per-spective on the part of the restorer. Thisnew angle of analysis leads the restorer toaccept that his or her preventiveconservation work will not bring backthe object's lost splendour, but that, atmost, it will continue to exist for theinitiation and pleasure of future genera-tions. This is what restoration work meansin both psychological and concrete terms ± restorers can, perhaps, merely lessen theeffects of deterioration agents by ensuringthe daily, although perhaps minimal,protection of the collections.This shift in role is not without realsignificance, given the scale of the effects
(UNESCO, Paris), No. 201 (Vol. 51, No. 1, 1999)
UNESCO 1999Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JF (UK) and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148 (USA)
The restorer: key player in preventiveconservation