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What Is Conservation?

Conservation includes all actions aimed at safeguarding cultural heritage for the future. The purpose of conservation is to study, record, retain and restore the culturally significant qualities of the cultural property as embodied in its physical and chemical nature, with the least possible intervention. Conservation includes the following: examination, documentation, preventive conservation, treatment, restoration and reconstruction.

The conservation of cultural heritage is a shared responsibility among many people including conservators, conservation scientists, other heritage professionals, and volunteers.

  • Professional conservators have the necessary training and experience to understand the physical nature of cultural heritage and to effect appropriate preventive and remedial interventions.
  • Preventive conservation refers to actions taken to prevent damage and deterioration through management of risks such as light, pollutants, pests, water, fire and theft.
  • Remedial treatment can involve anything from surface cleaning to repairs to restoration of losses.
  • Through specialization, conservators care for many types of objects including fine art, decorative arts, archaeological artifacts, architecture, archival material, natural history specimens, and historic objects.
  • Conservation scientists analyze cultural heritage materials, and conduct research on degradation mechanisms and conservation processes.
  • In Canada, conservation professionals abide by the Code of Ethics and Guidance for Practice of the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property and of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators.