ARCLG141 Issues in Conservation: Contexts of Conservation

Coordinator: R. Peters


Main Menu

Peters' Home
UCL Institute of Archaeology
MA in Principles of Conservation

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.


Communicating Conservation 2011


Project coordinated by R. Peters, I. Carroll & A. Sakellariadi

As part of their assessed work for this course, students are asked to design and produce a poster communicating aspects of conservation. The poster consists of two main parts: the poster itself and an accompanying paper. The topic proposed this year is:

"Deliberate damage, destruction and vandalism of cultural heritage"

Students were asked to identify, examine and discuss an aspect of deliberate damage to cultural heritage of their choice. The following broad themes were suggested but students were encouraged to explore other possibilities as well.

  • Different kinds of vandalism/deliberate damage
  • Their motivations and/or implications
  • Common misunderstandings and oversimplifications surrounding these actions
  • The gap between how heritage professionals react to deliberate damage and the perceptions of the agents of these changes(and the groups they represent)
  • Relationships between deliberate damage and art
  • Roles deliberate damage may play in the understanding of the past/present
  • Prevention and responses

    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.


K Becker

K.L.M. Becker

"The Richard Serra Skate Park": Progressive Art Vandalized by Regressive Policy

The poster uses two specific cases to illustrate instances of vandalism that have occurred in the public sphere by governing officials. The aim is to increase public awareness of the purposeful destruction of art and to encourage greater acceptance of conceptual art. The two cases presented are Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc (1981) and Crocheted Olek’s crocheted Charging Bull (2010); both art site specific, outdoor public works in New York City.

Target audience: The poster is accessible for the general public though it may be most interesting for those directly involved in art’s related decision making processes. The topic explored specifically involves contemporary artists, conservators, curators, policy makers, and the art-viewing public.

E Bocaege

E. Bocaege

The London Blitz: preventive and remedial conservation of cultural heritage

Damage to cultural heritage has received considerable attention in relation to its impact on society and potential use as a propaganda tool highlighting the “barbarity of the enemy”. In this poster, I consider preventive conservation measures taken in Britain before the Blitz, the extent of the damage caused by bombing and fire during the war and the consequent remedial conservation of museum collections in London, with a special focus on specimens from the Hunterian collection at the Royal college of Surgeons. Acknowledgments to Dr. Sam Alberti, Hunterian Museum director, for guidance and for allowing me to use images of the Museum.

Target audience: It will be particularly useful for visitors to the Hunterian Museum, but could provide an insight into the history of conservation for any museum visitor in London.


R Burke

R.K. Burke

Safeguarding your local cemetery

Raising awareness of the detrimental factors affecting cemeteries today including agents of deterioration and causes of deliberate damage. Promoting discussion and demonstrating the issues representing the concerns of the stakeholders and mourners. Recognising the significance of cemeteries as cultural heritage sites for their historic, social, architectural, and environmental values. Provide advice for local communities on developing effective management strategies for the preservation of the historic environment of cemeteries for future generations.

Target audience: Local communities, concerned stakeholders, Friends societies/charities for cemeteries, Local Authorities and interested scholars (conservators, archaeologists, local historians etc.).


C Cutulle

C. Cutulle

Rewriting History: A Look at Vandalism in 18th-Dynasty Egypt

In history as today, vandalism is an act imbued with meaning. This is certainly true of two 18th-Dynasty Egyptian examples—that of the Pharaohs Hatshepsut and Akhenaten. Hatshepsut’s rise to power as king was at the expense of her young stepson—the rightful Pharaoh. Years after her death, vandalism in the form of the removal of any references or images associated with Hatshepsut’s kingship is evident. Akhenaten’s striking religious reforms landed him the same fate. Through analysis, we are able to ascertain the desired result of this vandalism: rewriting Egyptian history to include only that which was orthodox.

Target audience: Audience specifically educated in the liberal arts such as art, history, archaeology, anthropology, etc.


T Desloge

T. Desloge

Vandalism of churches for political purposes in Spain

Vandalism of churches in Spain is not a random act. It actually has origins in the Spanish Civil War as political parties fought for or against the Church’s influence within the country. This method of political vandalism still continues to this day and more people are using churches as a bulletin board. This poster aims to educate the reader of the historical and political importance behind such vandalism as it increases.

Target audience: Visitors to a museum or church where vandalism is apparent.


D Draudt

D. Draudt

Stop Cultural Vandalism

My poster is aimed to garner international support for Moscow's threatened architectural heritage and timed to coincide with the Royal Academy exhibition, Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935.

Target audience: Visitors of the Royal Academy exhibition Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915 - 1935, Royal Academy students and occasional general public.

L Henard

L. Henard-Blayac

Can you See the Writing on the Wall?

When you visit the monuments of Ancient Egypt, your attention is drawn to graffiti and inscriptions that seem very alien to the place. From Pharaohs to archaeologists, all sorts of visitors left these marks. Who were they, why and what did they write on the walls? And why should modern tourists not follow their (bad) example?

Target audience: Visitors to the monuments of Ancient Egypt




Hsin Hui Hsu


Cultural Extension or Vandalism

This poster attempts to depict and communicate a sense of conflict, which is caused by the cultural memorial heritage and modern function of Forty-four South Village. Even if the some of the villages are conserved by the reconstruction and regeneration project of the Military Dependents’ Villages in Taiwan, the new facilities present an asymmetry phenomenon against the original significance of the heritage. And the phenomenon thus triggers the theme of the open lecture for teachers on vandalism issue.

Target audience: Senior high schools’ teachers in History or Art


S Jenkins


Are they the same?

This poster is to challenge peoples’ views of the perceived view of rock art and graffiti. Many think of modern graffiti as vandalism, and rock art as a high form of expression. Rock art and graffiti share numerous characteristics and themes often overlooked, especially by the media.

Target audience: Visitors to a museum to a related exhibit of graffiti or rock art.

A Klups

A.M. Klups

Why vandals strike? Be ready to act! A practical guide for heritage professionals

Vandalism is one of the main threats to museum collections and historic buildings, and the problem cannot be undermined. Through communicating the topic and making heritage professionals aware of key ideas about how to ‘look for vandals in the crowd’, and how to understand the motivations of different types of vandals causers, many cases can be dealt with before damage occurs.

Target audience: The audience the poster is aimed at are heritage professionals and generally people employed in historic buildings and museums which admit visitors.


D Kuh jakobi

D. Kuh Jakobi

Don’t Write Me Off: Understanding Street Art

While advocates perceive street art as a method of reclaiming public space, an uncensored forum for relevant socio-political commentary, or a method in which to display one’s art, opponents regard it as an unwanted nuisance, or as vandalism requiring expensive repair of the damaged property. Rather that viewing street art as random, pointless, or destructive, I hope to provide the tools with which to better analyze and appreciate the motives and art of street art.

Target audience: Primary: art historians, urban historians, and sociologists (as well as students of these subjects) Secondary: city council members, building conservators, architects, and urban developers Additional: street art aficionados, connoisseurs, and collectors, as well as contemporary art gallery owners, curators, and street artists themselves


S Niederman


Who Owns What: Nazi-Art Looting and the Question of Restitution

Nazi-looted art continues to be a controversial topic for museums in the present day. Museum Trustees and Directors should be aware of the provenance of their collections, and if they are the owners of stolen goods from Jewish victims, they should follow the numerous different professional and ethical codes presented by international societies, governments, and organizations.

Target audience: Museum Trustees and Directors, particularly in European countries

M Orsini

M. Orsini

Reverse Graffiti: vandalism? or rather a 'clean' way to advertise outdoors without causing any damage?

The aim of the poster is to illustrate the advantages of using reverse-graffiti as substitute to posters to advertise outdoors in a more conscious way, and without damaging surfaces or defacing urban landscapes/environment. It also plays with a certain dual identity of graffiti, which, through this usage may switch from being considered vandalism to being a possible response to 'corporate advertising vandalism', as such also causing us to question our very preconceptions regarding the nature of vandalism.

Target audience: City councils and companies who practice 'street branding'



I Pongolini


Vandalism of the Written Word – Symbolic Vandalism of Ideas.

The destruction of the written word is not just an attack on physical heritage but is also an attack on intangible thoughts and ideas contained in the texts destroyed. This poster sights examples of when this occurred in history and invites discussion on the various motives of libricide and whether it can ever be justified.Thanks to Iain Forbes for the crash-course in Photoshop and Indesign, most of all for being so patient.

Target audience: Preferably undergraduate level and above from numerous humanity disciplines; history, linguistics, librarianships etc. May also interest senior members of the public such as historical groups or Continuing Adult Educational students.


S Rowe

S. Rowe

The Shakespeare Window. “What light through yonder window breaks?” “Ay, ay, a scratch. Marry, ‘tis enough”

The purpose of the poster was to use the Shakespeare Window to explore and challenge visitor ideas of what constitutes “vandalism” and to suggest why we occasionally deem some acts of vandalism as a positive addition to an object or place, as opposed to negative. In particular it questions how age, authorship and intention of the vandalism play a role in how we perceive it. Many thanks to Ann L Ethelridge for the use of her photos.

Target audience: Visitors to Shakespeare’s birthplace and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s exhibition space.



A Seadler

A. Seadler

Neglect: The Silent Vandalism

While the term vandalism conjures images of deliberate destruction of our heritage sites, this poster seeks to inform its audiences that the neglect of these sites is equally damaging. Although neglect may cause the loss of our historic treasures, it is preventable through individual and community initiatives.

Target audience: Non-specialist, general public in the United Kingdom or the United States



L Stephens

L.C. Stephens

Have you Seen This Monument?

My poster is about the dangers of politically motivated destruction of monuments. Public monuments constitute part of our cultural identity teach us about our values and ideals. They must be able to be accessed by the public if they are to serve their main function which is to educate and memorialize aspects of our history for better or for worse.

Target audience: General Public

L Stewart

L. Stewart

Ai Weiwei: Vandal?

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist whose works frequently involve ceramics. His destruction of ancient pieces raises questions about authenticity and value while engaging with Chinese history. When considering his body of work and the questions he raises, does his unique form of destruction make him a vandal? If it does, does the term necessarily hold a negative connotation?

Target audience: This poster is designed for an academic audience in a conference setting, ideally regarding modern or non-Western art.



M De Thabrew

M. De Thabrew

Norwegian Black Metal & The Fantoft Stave Church Burning

This poster explores the role of those involved in the Black metal music movement and the Fantoft church burning in Norway through an interdisciplinary approach grounded in conservation issues. The poster provides an historical context of Norway and the significance of stave churches as cultural heritage and how this created conflict in the 1990s. This poster provides a contemporary case study for conservation students to draw many ideas from and provoke debate regarding vandalism.

Target audience: Conservation Students


S Thomson

S. Thomson

Kiss of death? Understanding the Vandalism of the Berlin Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime

This display explores a string of vandalism in 2008 at the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime in Berlin’s Tiergarten park. The poster identifies the events and probes the roots of homophobia in contemporary Germany. Many thanks to the memorial’s artists, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning.

Target audience: This poster would be displayed before the memorial as a supplement to the current plaque that details the history of persecution of homosexuals from 1935 onward.

C Tully


The Clock Ticks for Islamic Heritage Sites

For centuries cultural vandalism has been taking place in Saudi Arabia under the guise of religion and urban development. Today this is no more evident than in Mecca, the holiest city for more than a billion Muslims worldwide. Historical sites surrounding the Grand Mosque have been demolished and replaced by skyscrapers housing high priced hotels, luxury apartments and shopping malls.

Target audience: Members of UNESCO

S Vasiliou

S. Vasiliou

The Nude in all its Glory… and Shame

This poster aims to highlight the physical implications that conflicting socio-cultural and socio-political views have on works of art, focusing particularly on nude works in the 19th century. It presents examples of damage and alterations carried out, on statues and paintings, as a result of evolving philosophies, and explains why such actions should be defined as vandalism.

Target audience: Students studying conservation, art history and fine art.

J Westbrook

J. Westbrook

Vandalism or Free Speech?

This poster is meant to provide a starting point for discussing how to deal with contested heritage, by using US Confederate Monuments as an example. How should heritage professionals deal graffiti and vandalism? Should we remove the monument? Should we leave the graffiti? How do we work to best represent all interests? Credit to the KFVS12 News website for providing the photos and news story about the monument in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Target audience: Heritage professionals (conservators, National Park Service officials, etc)


F. Needham

Vandalism caused through conflict – what happens next?

Vandalism, especially when caused by conflict, causes lasting consequences to cultural heritage. Two case studies, namely the Bamiyan Buddhas and the Meroë Head/Head of Augustus, provide examples inflicted in modern and ancient times respectively. They also demonstrate that the damage caused varies, as while the Bamiyan Buddhas suffered destruction, the head ironically survived.

Images of the Bamiyan Buddhas are sourced from Prof. A. Gruen ETH Zurich, and images of the Meroë head © Trustees of the British Museum.

Target audience: The poster is designed to inform undergraduate archaeology students about the topic, as they do not necessarily know what the consequences of vandalism are when it comes to conservation of cultural heritage. It also might serve to interest them in conservation as a field of study after completing their archaeology degree.


Bookmark & Share


For more information contact R. Peters