Knowledge of cultural heritage is one of the necessary elements for the continuous evolvement of contemporary culture. Therefore preservation of cultural property for future generations is the main goal of conservation. Art objects, identified through centuries as having artistic, historic, scientific,religious, or social significance were passed down to us through the efforts of many generations.
Very few objects survived unchanged through the course oftime. And the older the piece is, the more the chances are that it was affected in one way or another by environmental conditions, water, fire, smoke, neglectful handling and storage, and previous restorations attempts.
When an object is brought to a conservator, it usually gets examined, documented, and appropriate treatment, based on research results and specialized expertise.
Examination is investigation of structure, materials and condition of art object, including identification of the extent and causes of deterioration, damage, and/or alterations.
Documentation involves recording the research and conservation process in a permanent format for future reference. It is also used to build a database for materials and techniques applied in order to continue with scientific investigation of new and improved methods in conservation.
Treatment is primarily aimed at prolonging the life of an artifact. It usualy consists of conservation and/or restoration.
Conservation, sometimes also called stabilization, involves treatment procedures intended to maintain the integrity of the object and to stop/minimize deterioration. It is used in museums worldwide for preventative care of artifacts.
Restoration is treatment procedures intended to return an artifact to a known or assumed (previous) state and usually includes the addition of non-original material. Restoration has many levels and can range from structural reinforcement to partial reconstruction to completely "invisible" repair aimed at emphasizing object artistic and aesthetic value and its original condition. There are many guidelines and schools of thought on how far a conservator must go in trying to reconstruct losses in the artifact, and how "invisible" the restoration should be. It very much depends on each individual case, and the historic and artistic value of the object. Sometimes restorations are left visible on purpose, at other times they are not detectable except through close inspection.
But even when the most invisible restoration is chosen, conservators must select methods and materials that are least invasive and fully reversible according to the best knowledge provided by current science. They also should not adversely affect an object, its state, or its future treatments.
The conservation field, just like any other scientific field, is constantly changing and new materials, better techniques, and more advanced equipment are introduced daily. A contemporary restorer is required by the code of ethics to be aware of these changes. The application of the most reversible methods allows the continuation and improvement of subsequent restorations and eventualy, the better preservation of art obiects for future generations