Institute of Archaeology


ARCLG141 Issues in Conservation: Contexts of Conservation Coordinator: R. Peters

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ARCLG141 is one of the core courses of the MA in Principles of Conservation at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

This course examines the nature and history of conservation of cultural heritage objects, and discusses practical, professional and ethical issues. It focuses on the role of conservation in museums and in disciplines such as archaeology and anthropology, and on the effects of political, cultural and institutional contexts on conservation practice.

Project: Communicating Conservation 2012

As part of their assessed work for this course, students are asked to design and produce a poster communicating specific aspects of conservation. You can see the 2012 posters below.


You can see some of the posters below. Note that their contents are the sole responsibility of their authors and and may not correspond to the views of the UCL Institute of Archaeology or any of the institutions they may happen to discuss.



Preserving Freud : conservation challenges at 20 Maresfield Garden, by M Agova

Preserving Freud : Conservation challenges at 20 Maresfield Gardens, by Agova, M

Sigmund Freud is treated as a modern-day secular saint, complete with devotional texts, worshippers and relics. This poster and the paper accompanying it look at how conservation has contributed to his acquiring this status. They analyse the context of his antiquities collection during his lifetime, after his death as part of his study, which his daughter Anna kept intact, and as part of the Freud Museum today. The aim is to encourage a critical perspective of museum constructs.

Target Audience

The target audience for the poster is a public with an existing interest in Freud and The Freud Museum, comprising museum members, donors, past visitors and subscribers to its newsletter.


Not every vandal is simply crazy – Not every damage is heritage, by R A

Intentional damage to objects of cultural significance can be caused by a variety of motives, examples mentioned are political motives of a revolutionary context and personal gain in the form of collecting souvenirs. The nature of these motives and their significance is one factor in the decision-making process of how to view intentional damage and respond to it.

Target Audience

Conservation and other heritage professionals.


Participatory Conservation, by M E

In modern day conservation the idea of participatory practices is a highly esteemed theory. Though the inclusion of the public has long been an aspect of the restoration/conservation of street art, the benefits of this incorporation have never been analysed. With this poster I aim to bring these advantages to the forefront of the profession’s conscience whilst advocating the discussion and consideration of public participation in the conservation of street art.

Target Audience

Conservators/Restorers/Muralists with a Focus on Street Art Conservation.




Identity and Public Art Conservation, by L F

My poster describes 3 different ways to look at the motivations behind the decision to participate in public art conservation projects. I hope that in this way, conservators will be able to better analyse the identity-related motivations participants have, and ways in which to target desired groups.  In this way, I hope that both conservators and participants will be able to get the most from participation.

Target Audience

Attendees at a conservation conference.


Issues in conservation: reversibility, neutrality and objectivity, by V Ford

vation theory is pervaded by the notions of reversibility, neutrality and objectivity. This poster re-examines the terms, questioning their usefulness and attainability in modern conservation practice. The aim is to increase awareness and understanding about their implications and to encourage conservators to think beyond individual terms when making treatment decisions as well as in their interactions with others.
Photos taken with kind permission from Magdalen College, Oxford.

Target Audience

Primary audience: Conservation professionals. Secondary audience: Museum professionals. Context: International or national academic conference.

The subjective science, by L H Fredheim

Conservation is inherently values-based, intrinsically tied to culturally constructed, subjective heritage values in constant flux. However, conservation is not hopelessly adrift; the realization of the subjective nature of conservation allows conservators to actively engage with the development of heritage values and become managers of change. As specialists in both the arts and the sciences, conservators are entitled to opinions and would do society a service by making them heard.

Target audience

Conservators and other heritage professionals.

Don’t Wash Heritage Away, by M Gibbons

Existing professional literature does not describe if or how contemporary graffiti should be approached from a conservation standpoint, despite the fact that it is a significant method of cultural discourse.  However, the challenges of preserving contemporary graffiti in a conceptually authentic state, and of weighing competing cultural values, can be clarified by contextualizing the medium within the realm of intangible cultural heritage. 

Target Audience

The poster is primarily directed towards conservation professionals, but could also be useful to arts professionals in other disciplines.

2012 MG




Conserving Minimalism, by A Hancock

The issues that surround the conservation of contemporary art are in some ways even less visible than
those associated with other types of objects, not least because we do not necessarily think of these works
as deteriorating. The purpose of this poster is firstly to highlight these issues and to secondly encourage
debate about them, framed around the work of one Minimalist artist, Dan Flavin.

Target Audience

General visitors to a gallery or museum.

2012 AHs


Preserving the Rain Room– Issues in the Conservation of Contemporary Art, by A Mantyniemi

Random International’s newest installation Rain Room allows for people to step into the rain and not get wet. The work is an intricate installation in which visitors have the power to control an artificial downpour through their own movements.Rain Room makes use of inherently ephemeral media and is conceptual in nature - qualities common of many contemporary artworks. Such characteristics challenge conventional conservation practice and force conservators to consider alternative preservation strategies. In this poster, the issues involved in safeguarding transient and conceptual contemporary art are explored.

Target Audience

Conservators, conservation students, curators.

2012 AM

How to Conserve a Concept, by E Murphy

Contemporary art conservation presents challenges beyond the infamous material ones. When conserving a contemporary object it is necessary to consider the impact of material failures on the meaning of the artwork. Following the recommendations of the Amsterdam based Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art, it is when the materials fail to carry the meaning that intervention is warranted. This poster presents an example of ephemeral art conservation. The importance of documentation is emphasized.

Target Audience

This poster is directed toward docents / museum educators to help them explain some of the problems that may arise with contemporary art conservation.  


Conservator: the invisible hero, by C T N

The poster gathers from four examples of public outreach and influential models in a conservation specific
theme. The goal of the poster is to promote a self-evaluation to a conservator’s own ways to promote outreach and generate ideas for the conservation profession to adopt or improve in a similar attitude.

Target audience

Museum/Institution conservators, conservation community.


Participatory Conservation: Collaborative Decision Making Process to Social Cohesion, by E Ohara Anderson

Museums are changing from places to display rarities to public contact zones. Likewise, the conservator’s role is changing from object expert to communicator. As communicators, conservators listen to the community of stakeholders, learn their perspectives, and formulate a constructive compromise. When conservators and stakeholders communicate, their understanding is shared, which creates a synergetic community that did not exist before the participatory process. When participation becomes collaboration by sharing the decision-making authority, participatory conservation is realized and becomes a social value.

Target Audience

Conservation Professionals and Students.

2012 EOA

Graffiti: decorating our streets , by A P

The wealth of graffiti that lines Hackney's streets provides a sense of vibrancy and individuality to the otherwise generic, run down environment. Graffiti culture is an important part of the artistic community here and is very much celebrated by residents and tourists alike.
Council policy however, considers all forms of graffiti - regardless of its aesthetic value - as vandalism, resulting in its obliteration. Through this poster I wish to generate public support for a change of policy by highlighting the importance of community participation in decisions affecting the  decoration of our public streets.

Target Audience

Residents of Hackney.


The Fall of the Mighty: Iconoclastic Vandalism in Post-Soviet States, by E L Peirce

This poster discusses the iconoclastic aspect of vandalism, especially pertaining to the evolution of political regimes.  What happens to symbolic objects after they fall from grace and how can we preserve them? Both the physical destruction of statues and the creation of statue parks (which destroys the context of the object) are discussed.

Target Audience

Conservators in areas of severe political change, such as the Middle East or North Africa where there are frequent changes in regime.





Uncommissioned Interventions: Unofficial Heritage Management + The Untergunther (UX), by R Price

If it is not possible to reform the fundamental authority structures and power relationships that continue to contribute to the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of cultural heritage despite ‘progressive’ efforts, maybe the ideal solution is to empower and train communities to manage their own heritage. ‘Uncommissioned Interventions’ conducted outside of the official sphere, by groups like The Untergunther, while problematic, are worth exploring as a form of true community participation.

Target Audience

Conservators and Cultural Heritage Management Professionals.

2012 RP



Conserving Momentum: The Ethical and Physical Dilemmas Posed for Conservators by Working Exhibits, by E Prideaux

I chose this topic because although working exhibits have been part of museums for over a hundred years, there are relatively few academic discussions within the field of conservation dedicated to the use, the preservation and the unique ethical dilemmas that these displays hold for a trained conservator. (Hallam, 1992, 374) This essay aims to highlight the decisions conservators take and the balance that is stuck out of necessity between the desire to use and the desire to the preserve.

Target Audience

Interested Hobbiests and Conservation Professionals.


Controlling the past, owning the future, by S S F

The expansion of necessary developments have a direct impact on cultural recourses. Iran is an ideologically driven country currently undergoing development.  The state now called Iran is currently covering a land enriched with variety of historical and archeological values. Any kind of development projects should primarily take this into an account to avoid destruction and disturbance of these nonrenewable sites. Yet there are different kinds of motivations for the authorities, when it comes to dealing with cultural heritage site. Lets see under what conditions cultural heritage sites are carefully preserved and why in some cases they are being neglected and almost deliberately destroyed.

Target Audience

Cultural heritage managers, conservators and archaeologists.

The Great Compromise, by L Sharples

The Great Compromise poster addresses the argument within the Organological community in relation to playing historically functioning musical instruments. In no uncertain terms this issue continues to present challenges within the community and a viable solution needs to be found so as to maximize the information we can gain from these objects. The poster briefly explores both sides of the argument and suggests a way in which a “Great Compromise” could be implemented.

Target Audience

Anyone involved with Organology. Restorers, Performers, Conservators, Academics and Members of the Public.





Can you spot the Conservation? By A S

This poster’s goal is to engage and educate children about what conservators do. It aims to make conservation visible in a museum setting by pointing out examples of conservation that visitors can spot in exhibitions. The poster presents conservation visibility as a challenge, which children must solve and seek out. It strives to make children active participants and excited about learning about the field.

Target Audience

Primary School Children, particularly upper primary around the ages of 8-11.




The Conservation of Oral History and the Public, anonymous author

The conservation of oral history brings conservation into the community, allowing ‘everyday people’ the chance to conserve, control and aid how they wish history, and they, will be remembered. The necessity for the conservation of oral history is paramount because unlike physical objects that may be able to be brought back if left untouched or as an untapped resource for knowledge, oral histories are forever gone and unrecoverable after the death of their ‘owner.’

Target Audience

All members of the community and/or public with both an interest in oral history and those who might not know anything about it.

Save the Acacus. World Heritage Site in Danger, by K W

The Acacus is a World Heritage Site in South-West Libya on the Algerian border.  It is remote, wild and beautiful and it has ancient rock art – paintings and engravings – which are being lost because of vandalism, uncontrolled tourism and the effects of the oil industry. This poster is a plea to do something soon to protect this unique environment and its important cultural heritage before it is lost forever.
My thanks go to Dr Hafed Walda, who kindly supplied the photographs, and Dr Peter Howard, for granting permission to reproduce his map.

Target Audience

The target audience are UNESCO and the Libyan Government.  The reasons this audience was chosen is because they have the power to protect this heritage.  There is an urgent need to conserve the art of this area which is under threat from so many different quarters.  Without urgent help we may lose some of this unique cultural heritage.

2012 KW

Caring for sacred ruins, by W Q

This poster presents an over-intervention case—Leifeng Pagoda reconstruction in order to demonstrate the context of religious heritage conservation and comparatively lowly status of professional conservator group in devising and implementing religious heritage conservation approaches in China. Also the poster explores values of religious heritage in three groups(conservator group, religious community and local authorities) in China and highlights the importance of mutual consultation in conservation decision-making. 

Target Audience

Conservators, Religious community and the Chinese authorities for cultural heritage.


Survival through reign of two suns, by Y L Wu

This poster introduces the Taoyuan Martyrs Shrine first built as a Shinto shrine in 1938 while Taiwan was a colony of Japan, and later transformed in to a Chinese Martyrs Shrine after the second world war.(The Administrative Committee of Taoyuan County Confucius Temple & Taoyuan Shrine 2009). The different stages and events that took place on the shrine reflects how socio-political and economical factors could influence its conservation process, with some comparison to the shrine in Taichung.

Target Audience

The poster is aimed for the visitors of the shrine, with possible interest to cultural heritage, in hope of inspiring them to think about the history of this heritage, how it came to its recent state, what were the influences behind the process.




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