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Cultural Encounters and Explorations: Conservation’s ‘Catch-22’ is a research cluster of the AHRC EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme. It examined the tension between conservation and access in order to develop a clearer understanding of the consequences of physical access on the condition of objects, and to shape future conservation policies and practice.

The core activities comprised three workshops (held on 30 March, 30 April and 2 June 2009) and a conference (held on 23 September 2009) involving specialists in conservation, museums, cultural heritage, materials science, engineering, anthropology, haptics and virtual technology.

Workshop and conference materials are available on this website.  For the duration of the project we ran a RSS Feed and a JISCmail mailing list and also held a blog event which discussed questions and issues raised in the project workshops. For further information contact Hazel Gardiner (


Conservation and collections care are deeply affected by pressures to provide greater access to heritage objects for people now, but at the same time to make sure that objects survive for future users. This highlights a paradox which could be called conservation’s ‘Catch-22’:

Access to heritage objects brings social benefit
Greater access brings greater social benefit
Greater access brings greater damage
Greater damage brings reduced social benefit

The cluster was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). All cluster events were hosted by UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PY. 

AHRC EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme

Page last modified on 24 oct 10 13:40