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Saturday, June 2 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Book and Paper) Improved methods of authentication and the resulting shifts in decision-making in parchment conservation

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Shifts in decision-making in the conservation of cultural heritage can be understood by browsing the old instructions in conservation and comparing them with our current perception of the results of older conservation treatment and the current ideas of what a conservation measure should be like. Through understanding old methods and material we can estimate the objectives set by conservators in the past and get a better insight into the complex environment of conservation. Technical changes, including better analytical methods and changes in society accompanying them, lead to a different perspective of cultural heritage and to continuous emergence of innovative treatments being adopted to our new objectives and vice versa. One very recent example of technical development relevant to conservation of cultural heritage items is the decoding of proteomes and genomes that helps understand the sources of the skins and use manuscripts as a stock of information. To demonstrate the above we started out with the analysis of Otto Wächter’s ”Restaurierung und Erhaltung von Büchern, Archivalien und Graphiken,” 1982. We narrowed the topic further down to parchment conservation, as new molecular research applies to this area. The question was: which old conservation treatments altered parchment in such a way that information stored in the material was damaged, changed or overlaid and consequently made uninterpretable? If so, could we, with improvements to current methods, deconvolute the data to read the original signal through the conservation overprinting? The choice of the book was determined by two considerations: first, it was very influential in its time; second, it is difficult to interpret if you were not a pupil of Wächter, and one of the authors was his pupil. Since Wächter´s time, our knowledge of the features of material improved greatly and so did our procedure of decision-making in conservation. Our view of old methods changed in a way that allows us to understand that some of them had a significant impact on the information carried by the material, which is considered an added value in research today. The project results made scholars • understand how old methods and materials in conservation changed the historical material; • appreciate different types of biological data that can be recovered, from livestock management, through craft production to the use history of the object, • understand how we might gather and interpret this palimpsest of biological and craft information, such as kind, sex or breed of the animal, the breeding history of the flock or herd, etc. • explore the changes imposed by subsequent conservation and understand how to avoid conservation methods that either overprint with new biological signals or destroy the original ones and identify a conceptual framework for alternative methods; • examine which types of modification induce changes which can be detected and isolated, thereby recovering the original signal; • explore how new methods might fulfill the conservation task without changing the original information carried by the material, show how the new demands on the material side alter the demands in aesthetics in conservation.

avatar for Patricia Engel

Patricia Engel

Researcher, University for Continuing Education Krems, Department fuer Bauen und Umwelt, Zentrum fuer Kulturgueterschutz, European Research Centre for Book and Paper Conservation-Restoration
Patricia Engel holds magister, doctorate and habilitation degrees in conservation-restoration of cultural heritage of the universities of Fine Art in Vienna and Warsaw. She worked as assistant professor in Hildesheim HAWK, Germany and from 2010 on is heading the European Research... Read More →

avatar for Matthew Collins

Matthew Collins

Professor, University of York, BioArCh, Archaeology
Mathew Collins completed a degree in Marine Zoology, then a PhD in Geology before Fellowships in Chemistry and Biochemistry and postdoctoral research in Biogeochemistry. He first lectured in Biogeochemistry (Newcastle) before moving to York in 2003 to establish BioArCh, an interdisciplinary... Read More →

Saturday June 2, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom D Marriott Marquis Houston
  6. Specialty Session, Book and Paper