Conservation Principles
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Conservation Principles

Our work with the conservation of churches, their historic contents and artworks is guided by established international principles:

Conservation as responsible management of change

Our approach to conservation attempts to reconcile the needs of congregations, worship and mission with the requirements for the long-term preservation of historic buildings, their contents and artworks.

Minimum intervention

An important objective of conservation is to preserve as much of the original material as possible.

Maintenance

In order to reduce the frequency and extent of necessary repairs, it is vital to minimise the rate of decay and deterioration. This can only be achieved by implementing a regular and informed maintenance and care regime. 

Preserve as found

Heritage professionals no longer strive to restore the original appearance of buildings and artworks but instead aim to respect the current state of objects. This obviously excludes cases of serious damage and decay, when the conservator has to intervene in order to improve stability, and cases necessitating the removal of previous repairs which are damaging to the building or object, their use and interpretation.

Like for like repairs

Repairs should be carried out with materials and techniques that are compatible with the original materials. 

Reversibility

Any new additions to a building or object should be carefully considered. Some materials used today could turn out to be damaging at a future date or could be superseded by a preferable material. We can't predict what technical advances will be made in the future and, therefore, there has to be an opportunity for the easy removal of additions. 

Recording

Projects should be documented. This includes a description of the object's or building's condition before any interventions, the architect's or conservator's diagnosis and decisions, details of treatments, new findings and the state of the object after conservation. Such records will be of invaluable help to future generations responsible for these buildings and objects. We provide guidelines for conservation documentation, available for download here.

Further information

The Manifesto of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) on the SPAB website. Much of our modern approach to conservation is based on these principles.

The various international conservation charters are available on the ICOMOS website.

English Heritage's approach to conservation is set out on their website.

The Institute of Conservation (ICON) publishes useful guidance on conserving historic materials and artefacts.

You can see all of the documents listed above by clicking on the links.