Go back to article: Challenges of conservation: working objects

Conserving visually accessible objects

A conserved (materially stabilised) object may not be an understandable (accessible) object. For this reason conservators may use additional processes aimed at making the object more visually complete (often known as ‘aiding interpretation’). This may involve reconstructing a broken object so that its shape and function are apparent (as in reconstructing a ceramic vessel). However, in some cases an object may not be understandable without also reconstructing missing features, thus in easel paintings areas of loss are tactfully/minimally repainted so that the image can be ‘read’. This is generally known as restoration but a useful phrase sometimes also used is ‘compensating for loss’ which, to me, indicates more clearly that this process does not restore the substance of the original, but aims only to reinstate something of the original appearance. It indicates a cautious approach, in accordance with the idea of minimum intervention, where features that are lost are suggested or approximated, guided by the remaining evidence (Oddy, 1994; Philippot, 1996; and see Stanley Price, 1996: Parts V and VI).

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/160608/006