Conservation science (cultural heritage)

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With respect to cultural heritage, conservation science is the interdisciplinary study of conservation of art, architecture, technical art history and other cultural works through the use of scientific inquiry. General areas of research include the technology and structure of artistic and historic works; the materials and techniques from which cultural, artist and historic objects are made.

Conservation scientists use scientific methods and principles to support work in the fields of art conservation and architectural conservation, and care of cultural objects in museums and other collections. Cultural conservation science work includes identifying the materials that make up a structure or piece of art including their chemical makeup, identifying and cataloging changes that cause deterioration and developing methods to mitigate deterioration of cultural heritage.[1]

In many countries, including the United Kingdom and Italy, conservation science is considered part of the broader field called 'Heritage Science' which also encompasses scientific aspects less directly related to cultural heritage conservation, as well its management and interpretation.

There are four broad categories of conservation science with respect to cultural heritage: 1) understanding the materials and techniques used by artists, 2) thorough examination and analysis, 3) study of the causes of deterioration, and 4) improving materials and techniques. Conservation science includes aspects of chemistry, physics and biology as well as engineering.[2]


  1. ^ "Defining the Conservator: Essential Competencies" (PDF). American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).
  2. ^ Ward, Phillip (1986). The Nature of Conservation: A Race Against Time. Marina del Rey, CA: Getty Conservation Institute. ISBN 0-941103-00-5.

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