Dr. Who's Police Box: The Multiple Dimensions of Conservation

Dr. Who's Police Box: The Multiple Dimensions of Conservation

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2434-2.ch001


According to the recommendations of international charters and documents—UNESCO, ICOMOS, Council of Europe, etc.—, the aim of the chapter is to present the concept of conservation and related matters. It is a general notion, a multifaceted and complex interdisciplinary process based on critical problems of knowledge, understanding, interpretation, presentation, sustainability, participation, and management. It reflects the evolution and complexification of the idea of heritage, where open-ended practices of involvement are aspects that are ever more important. In this context, the diffusion of digital technologies and methodologies, with the opportunities offered by ICT, favors the development of new advanced approaches for cultural heritage conservation.
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Background: The Concept Of Conservation

The ICOMOS International charter for the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites (aka The Venice Charter, 1964) distinguishes between “Conservation” (art. 4-8) and “Restoration” (art. 9-13): Conservation relates to the systematic maintenance and to the use, without – important – modifications of the heritage and with respect of its values. Conservation also implies an attention for the environment, because heritage cannot be separated from its context. For example, sculptures, paintings and decorations are an essential part of a building. In the same way, the notion of “monument” is extended from the building to the whole historical center and to rural sites: “The concept of a historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant development or a historic event. This applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time” (Art. 1).

On the contrary, “Restoration” concerns the actions aiming to maintain formal and historical values of the monument, respecting the manifestations of all the ages. It must remain exceptional in nature.

The Charter conceptually roots on the “Theory or Restoration” by Brandi (1963), explicitly highlighting how conservation and restoration aim to the safeguard of monuments intended in their double aspects of work of art and historical evidence.

The Nara Document on Authenticity (UNESCO, 1994) defines conservation as “all operations designed to understand a property, know its history and meaning, ensure its material safeguard, and, if required, its restoration and enhancement”. Therefore, the concept of Conservation is more general and possibly comprehensive of Restoration. In the art.9, it is underlined that “Conservation of cultural heritage in all its forms and historical periods is rooted in the values attributed to the heritage. Our ability to understand these values depends, in part, on the degree to which information sources about these values may be understood as credible or truthful”. Follows that a critical and wise knowledge is a fundamental prerequisite. Indeed, the art.9 adds “Knowledge and understanding of these sources of information, in relation to original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural heritage, and their meaning, is a requisite basis for assessing all aspects of authenticity”.

Therefore documentation is an essential prerequisite for conservation, on which to build understanding and knowledge, and – moreover – on which to root any project of conservation, preservation, maintenance, and management.

The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (aka The Burra Charter, 1999-2013), is a periodically updated document reflecting the development of the theory and practice on cultural heritage management. Its first article presents the following definitions:

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