Mar 13, 2023
Sharing knowledge is vital and commonplace in many industries, but heritage professionals are often hesitant due to concerns about sensitive information being manipulated or applied for malicious purposes.
Cultural heritage conservation is a multifaceted and intricate subject that demands extensive knowledge, cooperation, experience, discipline, moral responsibility, and funding.
Heritage conservators spend months delving into a single object, collecting information, and conducting tests before they commence the restoration process. Even then, the conservation process can take months, if not years. Throughout this process, conservators work with chemists, physicists, biologists, and other scientists to conduct a thorough analysis of the object and share their findings. Based on the results and recommendations, conservators decide on the appropriate materials to use for treatment. The research may be critical in assessing the impact of previous restoration efforts or for many other reasons too. However, it is unfortunate that this information is seldom shared among colleagues. While some case studies are shared at conferences or in peer-reviewed journals, it is rarely accessible to the general public.
In the article, "Heritage Conservation Future: Where We Stand, Challenges Ahead, and a Paradigm Shift" Dr. Jorge Otero analyses the reasons behind this lack of knowledge sharing, its significance, and what the future holds. He underscores the value of cultural heritage for both present and future generations. According to his research, cultural tourism represented 40% of all European tourism in 2019, generating 319 million jobs and producing over 30 billion euros in revenue annually. However, inadequate environmental conditions, conflicts, climate change, mass tourism, and insufficient management and resources are currently the primary conservation threats to World Heritage Sites. That has been seen in recent events in Turkey, Syria, and Ukraine where cultural heritage was destroyed or severely damaged. Considering the quick process of deterioration in such occurrences, it is crucial to share knowledge and encourage the use of digital tools in order to document and restore objects.
Information should be shared for many other reasons too. Imagine restoring a painting that has been previously damaged using inappropriate materials. It would most likely require chemical, and physical research before its treatment. If similar case studies were shared, conservators could benefit immensely from enriched knowledge, leading to improved practices and restoration methods. Moreover, new patterns could be discovered, and mistakes could be avoided. The same need for knowledge sharing is declared by ICCROM in the article called 'Key Challenges.
Sharing knowledge is vital and commonplace in many industries, but heritage professionals are often hesitant due to concerns about sensitive information being manipulated or applied for malicious purposes. Additionally, a lack of funding and inadequate pay are also barriers to active participation in sharing knowledge. Dr Jorge Otero's article lists other reasons as well. Despite all the potential risks, knowledge sharing and collaboration should remain the main priority as it's extremely important in driving success, and protecting and preserving our cultural heritage for present and future generations. Therefore, we should at least consider different tools and ways of sharing information with other heritage professionals and the rest of society.