e d i t o r i a
The Thin Red Line
One of the first things that we are taught about Conservation is that it is interdisciplinary.From archaeology to physics, from biology to dendrochronology, virtually all fields of knowledge can have some application in the study of works of art. However, it is ironic that one of the most basic notions that define our profession – interdisciplinarity - may alsoendanger it.Indeed, sometimes our profession seems to be somehow in danger due to 'indefinition'.I do not mean to say that it is undefined – so much has been written about it by manyinternational organisations, such as E.C.C.O., ICOM-CC, etc. – but that we are still strug-gling so that others recognise us as we see ourselves.It is a fact that our field is quite new when compared with others (i.e. archaeology) and inthe eyes of the general public we are still often seen as something mysterious and full of old well-kept secrets. I should know because it was precisely that image which first attractedme to conservation when I was younger.
However public recognition should come from both the general public and other professionals.
For example, it is known that in many European countries with Latin-based languages, cura-
tors are often called conservators. This simple fact has brought about for a long time a struggle
between curators and conservators for this title and even for some of their attributionswithin the museum.In the same way, conservation science is a field that has been emerging only since a fewdecades ago. No doubt conservation scientists have been developing a very important rolein the safeguarding of our heritage. However, the massification of this new specialisation,
now also taught in universities, requires a re-definition of heritage-related professions, and
implicitly of ours, so everyone can act like the professional that he or she has been trainedto be without running over one another's competences. Indeed, as Salvador Muñoz-Viñasemphasises in his interview for our magazine (pp. 20), science "helps conservators to havemore data, to be more informed [but] it should not substitute or replace ethics".What really defines us, the conservators, is our decision-making capacity. This is not onlybased on ethical principles or material knowledge, but on a combination of many different factors. However this main defining-factor is what distinguishes a conservator from a tech-nician or from other professionals who work within the field of safeguarding or maintenanceof cultural heritage.At the moment conservation science is still a young field and understandably it is professednot only by trained conservation-scientists but also by scientists with an interest in art.Many essential research projects have been developed to ensure the advancement in thefield, but we should be careful, however, not to transform cultural heritage into a mereeconomic research factor.The fact is that if we look at the scientific literature that is being produced we may reachthe conclusion that we conservators are publishing lesser than we should and that somepapers produced by scientists are of limited interest or little use for conservators.Fortunately, this is not the case of the majority of publications but conservators might soon face the problem that most of the specialised literature in our field is written by non-conservators. Thus, it is my belief that conservators need an attitude change towards pub-lishing as sharing inside specialist knowledge is essential for our field.
Rui Bordalo,Executive Editor