Conservation is about preventing damage and loss to our cultural heritage.
Conservators aim to minimise change to collection material, to protect items from the adverse effects of climate and chemical deterioration, and to safeguard our heritage not only for here and now but for generations to come.
Conservation activities include preservation, restoration, examination, documentation, research, advice, treatment, preventive conservation, training and education.
The term preservation refers to the protection of cultural property by minimising chemical and physical deterioration. Improved storage conditions and environmental control plays a big part in this. The primary goal of preservation is to prolong the existence of cultural material.
Restoration involves treatments that enhance the interpretation of cultural heritage—e.g. inpainting losses in an oil painting so that the original appearance of the image is maintained. Restoration may also involve the reassembly of displaced components, removal of extraneous matter or integrating new materials or components in order to stabilise and strengthen the original artefact.
Conservators choose methods of minimal intervention, focusing on stabilisation and retaining original material.
Conservators use materials with good ageing characteristics and where possible, treatment methods that are reversible.
Conservators document the condition of an object through written reports and photographs, both before and after treatment, in order to retain records of what has been changed, for future owners and caretakers.