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e-Conservation Magazine • 8

e-Conservation Magazine • 8

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Published by conservators

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Published by: conservators on Apr 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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the online magazineNo. 8, February 2009
   e    d    i    t   o   r    i   a
Digging out conservation
In this issue we have included two articles concerning conservation of archaeological objects. The first reports a volunteer programme for conservation of archaeological sitesin developing countries while the second describes the study of a Neolithic terracottafigurine. These projects are fine examples of good collaboration, understanding andmutual respect between archaeologists and conservators.However, archaeology and conservation cooperation is not always easy. Although botharcheologists and conservators are committed to the safeguarding of cultural heritage,they often find themselves in opposing positions. The primary purpose of the archae-ologist is the retrieval of information from the object while the conservator’s is thep
reservation of the object itself. This slight difference has created an ongoing conflict 
 that often makes the archaeologist see the conservator’s work as of lesser importance.This may be a major potential discussion issue as these two concerns – informationretrieval and object preservation – may not be easily reconciled. In extreme cases thestudy of the object may be harmful for its physical state while in conservation proce-dures information may be lost in order to salvage the object. Although it is not mypersonal field, I have not seen this to be a prolific area of discussion so I imagine that many of these conflicts are limited to the on-site level and not often brought to anacademic level of discussion.The lack of professional recognition is also an important issue that is implicit in thecollaboration between these different professions. Evidence of this is found in themultiple short courses about conservation of objects, commonly of ceramic materials,some of which are specifically designed for archaeologists who often replace conser-vators in archaeological diggings. In fact, the practical experience of a qualified con-servator may not be acquired in a short course nor for that matter is the work limitedto post-excavation treatments but is also important during the excavation when thes
afeguarding of many objects may be at stake. Professional recognition is closely related
 to the history and maturity of each profession. Archaeology has been a recognizedprofession since the XIX century but the conservator’s role has only recently beenaccepted and it is still unfamiliar to the general public. I believe that this subjectivebut strong reason may also be the originator of many misconceptions.In my opinion, and I believe that of many other professionals, the best results may onlyb
e achieved if conservators are recognized as equal stakeholders and are fully integrated
 within the teams they are engaged in. Our profession is now reaching maturity; it hasevolved and the background of its evolution is very important. We, as conservators,must be aware of our own history, which sometimes gets forgotten or remains unknownto younger professionals or students. In relation to this subject, the present article of Hans-Christoph von Imhoff is a valuable up-to-date of the current situation at present,and helps to better understand where and why we conservators are right now on theh
istoric timeline. This is a subject of reflection that needs to grow in the public awareness.
Rui Bordalo,Executive Editor 

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