Peter van Mensch
Towards a methodology of museology
(PhD thesis, University of Zagreb 1992)


As has been stated before, there appears to be hardly any exchange of ideas between those involved in the theory of museology and those working on the theory of conservation. Most theoretical museological publications deal with the social role of museum, the theory of collecting or the theory of museum communication. The physical care of objects has, for example, not (yet) been discussed with the International Committee for Museology despite the growing concern in the role of the object as data carrier.

In connection with the term preservation the term conservation is considered here as the narrower term, referring to the physical care of objects. As there are different opinions concerning what and how to preserve, there are also different approaches as to the physical treatment of the object in the museological context. Generally speaking, there are four possibilities: to accept decay, to slow down decay (conservation), to reconstruct the/an original state (restoration), or to adapt to new uses (renovation). The transform from primary context to museological context usually means a retreat of the first and last option in favour of the other options. The choice between the second and third option, i.e. between conservation and restoration, has been described as a classical dilemma.

Conservation is defined by the United States National Conservation Advisory Council (they use the term preservation instead) as: 'action taken to retard or prevent deterioration or damage in cultural properties by control of their environment and/or treatment of their structure in order to maintain them as nearly as possible in an unchanging state' (quoted in I.C.Clark & M.E.Weaver 1982: 21). This definition encompasses passive conservation (prevention, control of the environment) as well as active conservation (treatment). Other terms used are preventive conservation and remedial conservation.

From the Middle Ages onwards the term restoration has been used to describe attempts to reconstruct a former state of an object (see Tschudi-Madsen 1976 for a comprehensive study). The council mentioned above defines restoration as 'action taken to return a deteriorated or damaged artefact as nearly as feasible to its original form, design, color and function with minimum further sacrifice of aesthetic and historic integrity' (loc.cit.: 21). In his definition of restoration M.Kirby Talley adds the intention of the maker as point of departure (Talley 1982: 105). In the ICOM document 'The conservator-restorer: a definition of the profession' (1984) restoration, however, is defined as 'action taken to make a deteriorated or damaged artefact understandable, with minimal sacrifice of aesthetic and historic integrity', a definition halfway between the traditional definitions of conservation and restoration. This new approach towards restoration bridges the difference between conservation and restoration, but at the same time veils the fundamental choices (and the ideologies behind them).

There is a thin line between conservation and restoration so that, for example, the terms conservator and restorer are often interchangeable. There are times when conservation also involves an element of restoration. An example would be the conservation of a rusty iron object. The choice of treatment would be between stabilising the rust and maintaining the object in a rust-inhibited environment, or removing the rust and applying a protective coating. In many cases the latter treatment would be chosen, but this involves a certain degree of reconstruction. Another example of the thin line between conservation and restoration is, simply, cleaning. Cleaning involves the removal of accumulated dirt, rust, etc. It is part of the conservation process since it helps to prevent further deterioration. But where does cleaning have to stop? Dirt is part of the object's actual identity and is, as such, of documentary value, referring to the object's biography. At the same time cleaning may result in revealing the factual identity and is as such part of the restoration process. But where is the borderline between factual identity and actual identity? Sometimes what has been considered as secondary information proves to be primary information and the removal is an irretrievable loss. Writing about cleaning of old pictures Huyghe (1950: 191) uses in this respect the expression 'nettoyeurs totalitaires' (in the English version translated as 'total cleaners'). The alternative opinion is referred to as 'nettoyeurs nuancés' ('moderate cleaners'). Later in his article Huyghe uses the terms 'nettoyage radicale' and 'restaurateur hâtif', translated as 'radical cleaning' and 'radical restorer'. Coremans (1950: 229) speaks of 'over-cleaned' as opposed to 'under-cleaned'. In a similar way the term 'over-restoration' has been used (Tschudi-Madsen 1976; Bathy in Jaro ed. 1982).

Natural history

It is interesting to note that in the field of natural history the term conservation is used in different ways. With regard to individual 'objects' conservation in a zoo or botanical garden is different from conservation in a museum. In a zoo or botanical garden attention is paid to the well-being of the animals and plants. This is maintenance, but not preservation, since the individuals grow old and eventually die. Although the successive stages op development can be described as actual identity, the term factual identity is less adequate to describe living organisms. Museums take care of dead organisms. In view of the process of preservation they might be considered as museological artefacts. As such they are preserved in a static way. Conservation in museums means the prevention of changes in the factual identity of the preserved specimen. This factual identity provides the scientific evidence. Conservation in a zoo and botanical garden does not mean the fixation of any actual identity - which is impossible in a living organism - but aims at continuity on the level of the conceptual identity. In zoo practice the term conservation is used for breeding. Breeding means the preservation of the genetic identity (i.e. the conceptual identity) of the species. This is an interesting parallel with what has been said above about the preservation of traditions in arts and crafts. Like conservation restoration is also to be considered on the level of the conceptual identity.

Fantasy restoration

The reconstruction of the factual identity does not only involve the removal of later additions, but may also include the addition of what has disappeared or has been removed. During the eighteenth century no classical sculpture, however beautiful, was considered worthy of display unless complete. Since classical antiquities were mostly found damaged, they were completed, either by adding new parts or combining fragments from different origin (see for example Jones ed. 1990). At the end of the nineteenth century Auguste Rodin induced an appreciation for the beauty of the fragment. This new attitude towards incomplete pieces of sculpture, combined with a purist approach towards restoration, lead to new concepts of authenticity. Key question became: what to do with old restorations that were intended to reconstruct the original state of the object? The interesting paradox is that these later additions result from the intention to reconstruct the factual identity, but are now part of the actual identity, providing, as such, documentary evidence of the history of art perception. Despite the growing concern for material reflection of the biography of artefacts, there is a tendency in museums to remove these later additions. This is called de-restoration. Many examples might be given of the renaissance, baroque and classicist restoration of antique sculptures and the subsequent removal of these restorations during the 1960s and 1970s (such as the Laocoon group, the Apollo Belvedere, the statues of the temple of Aphaia, etc.). The removal of 're-paint' has been common practice as long as painting restoration exists.

In view of the 'classical dilemma' concerning the physical treatment of objects in the museological context there is a need of a clear understanding of the information structure of objects. According to the model presented in Chapter 12 conservation could be seen as the safeguarding of the actual identity, while restoration, as defined above, refers to the revealing and preservation of the factual identity. Securing the factual identity means the denial of the historical process. The secondary information is removed in an attempt to reveal the primary information. This means a loss of data. The practice to restore the factual identity has nevertheless been (or sometimes still is) common practice since the aim of many conservators, or their principals, is to relate the appearance of the object as much as possible to the idea of the maker (the conceptual identity of the object). In fact this means that the desired appearance is related to the restorer's interpretation of the assumed idea of the maker. The restorer pretends to have mastered the genius of the maker and to be able to re-do the work. According to modern views this approach, called 'fantasy restoration' (Brandi 1977; 'creative historic preservation' Brachert 1983: 84), should not be called restoration, but reconstruction. 'It is an illusion that an object can be brought back to its original state by stripping it of all later additions. The original state is a mythical, unhistorical idea, apt to sacrifice works of art to an abstract concept and present them in a state that has never existed anyway' (Philippot 1976: 372).

The british debate

The conservation-restoration debate has a long history. The question has been taken up by many authors in Great Britain from the end of the 18th century onwards. The debate was provoked by James Wyatt's restoration of Salisbury Cathedral (1789). In 1846 Freeman published his 'Principles of church restoration'. In this book he criticised the current approach to restoration which meant a rebuilding according to the principle of preference, i.e. the reconstruction of an idealised former state. Commenting on Freeman's pamphlet, the Camden Society considered three types of restoration. The current approach, working towards 'abstract perfection' without respect for the past was called 'destructive'. This approach was confronted with another form of restoration which was called 'conservative'. According to this approach parts of the building were removed and replaced by reproductions. Freeman and the Camdenians, however, favoured a third approach, the 'eclectic', which represented a middle way where consideration was given to the distinctive quality and history of each building. Later the underlying principle of this last approach became known as the principle of equivalence as opposed to the principle of preference mentioned above. Although Freeman had some influence, it was Ruskin's work that finally convinced architects, restorers and conservationists. John Ruskin was the first to express the modern, full awareness of the consequences of the loss of the factual identity, a loss that could never be compensated: 'Restoration, so called, is the worst manner of destruction ... It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: destruction from which no remnants can be gathered, destruction accompanied by false description of a thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves on this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has been great or beautiful in architecture. .. the spirit of the dead workmen cannot be summoned up, and commanded to direct other hands and other thoughts' (in The seven lamps of architecture, 1849). Some eight years before the architect G.G.Scott had written similar words: '... the modern system of radical restoration is doing more towards the destruction of ancient art than the ravings of fanatism'. Even in 1985 it is still said that there are two sure ways of destroying a painting: to restore it or not to restore it (Walden 1985: 15).

Ruskin's ideas had a lasting impact. Respect for the historicity of buildings was for example advocated by the Royal Institute of British Architects in their 'General advice to promoters of the restoration of ancient buildings' (1864). In 1873 the idea was put forward of dividing restoring architects into two groups according to the principle they followed: the High Restorationists were those who followed the principle of preference, and the Low Restorationists were those who wished to keep the buildings in their present form. In 1877 William Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, based on the latter principle. This society became known by its nickname (given by Morris himself) 'Anti-Scrape Society'.

Although the debate focused on architectural monuments, similar criticism was expressed about the physical treatment of paintings. Brachert (1983 and 1985), Walden (1985) and Beck (in Beck & Daley 1993) quote several statements of painters about restoration, among them again John Ruskin. Despite the fact that many painters in de past were commissioned to restore paintings of their predecessors, there appears to be a general feeling of mistrust. At the beginning of the 19th century Goethe wrote: 'cleaning and restoring should be considered only as a last resort and be risked only when a painting had become totally unenjoyable and entirely black in the shadows'. Delacroix felt so strongly on the subject that he broke off his long standing friendship with the Louvre's chief restorer after a vehement and prolonged public quarrel about conservation styles. At the end of the century the painter Degas exclaimed: 'My view is that pictures should not be restored'. Nevertheless, they were and still are. The National Gallery in London has a long history of contested cleaning practices. Frustrated and angry about the museum's cleaning policy painter Pietro Annigini painted, in giant letters, MURDERERS on its doors. This took place in 1970, but already in 1846 the radical cleaning of paintings in 1846 prompted angry letters in the Times.

As to architecture it was a rather long time before the English critical attitude get hold on the European continent. According to Tschudi-Madsen the message seems to have been understood earlier in those countries where restoration activities were guided by art historians than in those where architects were responsible (Tschudi-Madsen 1976). France is perhaps the best example. The dominant personality was E.E.Viollet-le-Duc, an architect, who was a strong advocate of the principle of preference. In the Netherlands a new era was marked by a lecture of A.W.Weissman for the Nederlandsche Oudheidkundige Bond in 1910. In 1917 this organization published 'Grondbeginselen en voorschriften voor het behoud, de herstelling en de uitbreiding van oude bouwwerken' (with a preface by art historian Jan Kalf), which put an end to the type of 'fantasy restoration' as advocated by the most important restoration architect of the second half of the 19th century in the Netherlands P.J.H.Cuypers (an admirer of Viollet-le-Duc). However, in 1951 Jan Kalf had to defend the principle 'preservation above restoration' again when new guidelines were proposed.

The new approach towards restoration was gradually introduced in museums too. At a conference on conservation ('La conservation des monuments d'art et d'histoire'), organised in Athens by the International Office of Museums in 1930, the following was stated in the conclusion regarding principles for restoration: 'In the case where a restoration seems unavoidable because of degradation or destruction, the Conference recommend that the historic and artistic work of the past should be respected, without rejecting the style of any period' (report published in 1933).

Different approaches

The discussion about restoration principles became topical again after the destructions of World War II. Contemporary views as to restoration are reflected in the report of the 1st Meeting of Experts on Historical Sites and Ancient Monuments, held in October 1949 in Paris (Pane 1950). During the conference Lorentz, Director-General of Museums and of the Protection of Historic Monuments in Poland, expressed the view that it is essential to reconstruct in order to preserve what is left. He added that reconstruction should be linked with the putting of a monument to new practical use, to which end all restoration must be preceded by a scheme for the adaptation of the old parts as well as of the parts to be reconstructed. On the other hand some experts declared that destroyed monuments should not be restored to their original form, but that new designs should be adopted, even for works which before their destruction represented an honoured tradition. A third option, in a true Ruskian tradition is to leave the destroyed monument as a ruin. A fourth option is to restore partly, as much as possible on the basis of the original fragments (anastylosis). For some authors this is already too much interpretation: 'Die "wissenschaftliche" Ruinenschöpfung romantischer Tradition als gefälschte geschichte' (Brachert 1985: 85).

Restorations, like copies, are always interpretations. These interpretations are biased by our own time and culture, and are, as such, anachronistic. The 'secret of the genuine palette' is always and everywhere vouched for by the subjective, expert predilections of a handful of specialists, and may then be immediately disputed by other authorities (Lelekov 1992: 107). Restorers are in the most difficult position of deciding about treatments which are inevitably based on subjective interpretations. That is why Murtagh speaks of the 'inescapable freedom and cultural responsibility of the restorer in making history' (in Timmons ed. 1976: 387). Andreae points at the paradox 'dass man sich, je naher man der Vollendung kommt, desto weiter vom Kunstwerk entfernt' (quoted in Brachert 1985: 15). Likewise Brachert speaks of 'Uminterpretation', i.e. the subjective vision on the original in which later generations in the end only seek confirmation of their own aesthetics.

There is an almost unbridgeable gap between the conceived object and the perceived object. Paintings and sculptures intended to be 'read' in dim candle-lit churches and chapels are restored in brightly lit conservation studios by restorers whose eyes are acclimatised to the back-lit images of television, cinema and the slides in darkened lecture rooms, and whose frame of reference is post-Impressionist colourism and the flat surfaces of Abstract and Postmodern art (Beck & Daley 1993: 149). The historically grown patina of works of art has influenced our perception of the objects to such extent that for example the cleaning of paintings often causes a shock. Old Master paintings usually had (have) a brownish yellow varnish ('Galerieton'). After the Impressionists had dramatically changed our perception of colour, restoration of older paintings was also influenced by this new aesthetics: '.. heute (wird) auch das Reinigen von Bildern mit nachexpressionistischen Eifer betrieben (...), indem wir unsere Aesthetik des farbstarken Bildes in den Alten Meistern gestätigt sehen wollen' (Brachert 1983: 86). The same opinion is hold by Walden (Walden 1985), Beck (Beck & Daley 1993) and others. Walden considers the radical cleaning practices as expression of our general scientific precocity and our Protestant ethic and of an aesthetic which is influenced by photography, emphasising starchiness of colour, flatness of plane and homogenised texture.

Brachert described the conservation-restoration debate in terms of two conflicting schools of thought (Brachert 1983 and 1985: 15-16). The first school adheres to the Platonic concept of the cosmos of a work of art and regards missing parts and the patina of age as intolerable invasions into the 'wholeness, truth, and fullness' of the object whose right to preservation is intrinsic and, therefore, demands a visionary intuitive recreation by the restorer. This school of thought emphasises the factual identity of the object. Its main orientation is the object as work of art. In this respect Sagoff speaks of 'integral restoration' (Sagoff 1978). In the field of film restoration Patalas speaks of 'restaurateur artiste'.

The other school considers reconstructions as dated products of their time, that are bound to be interpretative and, therefore, inadmissible. This school, considered by Brachert as 'the protestant-materialistic line of development', advocates the preservation of fragments and patina (i.e. the actual identity). This is, according to the author, the museum approach. It is called 'purist restoration' by Sagoff (Sagoff 1978), while Patalas speaks of 'restaurateur archéologue'.

In the eyes of Brachert this last approach tends to 'einem technoiden Neohistorismus naturwissenschaftliche Prägung' (Brachert 1983: 90), which started to dominate the first approach: 'längst wurde die Demontage des Allzukunstlerischen auch mit der Dominanz des Allzutechnischen bezahlt' (Brachert 1985: 7). Conservation codes of ethics serve as the legitimisation for this rationalistic approach. Like Brachert, Talley rejects this approach: 'In their frenzied obsession not to disturb anything original (...) proponents of the documentary approach to restoration have made monumental advances in creating what might almost be a new art. It might even be called "Resto Art". (...) The master's original work is the only thing that matters, and yet we should never forget the original intent behind a work of art [i.e. its conceptual identity , PvM]. (...) What is of primary importance is a picture's aesthetic value, all other considerations are secondary, including any documentary value it may have for historians or other academics. The restorer's task is to tread a fine line between what is still original and the original intent' (Talley 1983: 352). The two options, i.e. the unity of the aged work of art versus the ruined state of the original, reflect the two categories of significance of the object as museological object: the work of art as exhibit versus the object as document.

Cosmetic interventions

This discussion concerning the tension between the primary information that is left in the object's actual identity and the original intention of the maker is a discussion concerning the primacy of appearance or substance. This dilemma is also reflected in Brandi's 'first restoration principle'. According to this principle only the structure of a work of art is liable to restoration; the appearance cannot and may not be reconstructed. The aggravation of conservation and restoration practice on the external appearance of objects is closely linked with an aesthetic view and refers, as such, especially to art objects. In art the problem of actual identity versus factual identity is in the first place known as the 'patina dilemma' (Van de Wetering 1982). The inclination to remove the traces of age and wear - i.e. 'cosmetic intervention' (Fitch 1976: 315) - creates a surface that may have existed a few hours/days after manufacture, but has never actually occurred for any length of time. Fitch, however, makes clear that different categories of objects might be approached differently. Speaking of architecture, he showed that the surface of monumental upper-class buildings were usually cleaned regularly. The cosmetic criteria of restoration could thus be those of the creators. The reverse applies to most vernacular buildings. Although all buildings were at one time new and bright, it is doubtful that any attempts were made to keep them that way (Fitch 1976: 316). In the field of science and technology a similar awareness of the importance of pre-museological maintenance is met. Point of reference for the conservation/restoration of machines is usually the appearance in use, preferably the condition which was most typical of the object at some (preferably the last) stage in its working life. According to this view, the standard of finish should be as close as possible to that of the normal service finish (Ware 1980: 27; Kühn 1989: 395).

As to painting, the gradual browning of the varnish initiated radical cleaning practices resulting in a complete removal of the varnish. The criticism focuses on (a) the damage done to the original layer(s) of paint, and (b) the possibility that coloured varnishes were applied by the artist. In a reaction to Walden's The ravished image. How to ruin masterpieces by restoration (1985) National Gallery restorer Hedley tried to meet the arguments (Hedley 1986). Though admitting that there is a way of seeing in the late twentieth century to which, in some degree, collections have been made to conform, Hedley argues that the so-called over-cleaning does not interfere with the physical integrity of the painting ('Removing original paint is surely the stuff of our nightmare not of our policy'). He emphasises that removing varnish is in line with the basic principle in restoration: reversibility. Future generations may decide to apply other varnishes than we do, the important thing is that we do not cut off options for the future. From a museological point of view it seems as if Walden and Hedley start from a different notion of the factual identity of an object. To Walden varnish is an intrinsic part of the factual identity. To Hedley varnish does not have a similar importance as intentional information and can thus easily be replaced. It is, however, almost certain that artists applied coloured glazes and varnishes or at least allowed for their eventual darkening (Huyghe 1950, Brachert 1983 and 1985, Walden 1985, Beck & Daley 1993). In such cases cleaning does not reveal the factual identity. On the contrary, it takes us further away from it.

This was, for example, the discussion during the so called 'Cleaned Pictures controversy' of the 1940s at the National Gallery, London. The discussion, however, is almost as old as painting itself and it keeps on hunting the profession. The most recent case is the restoration of Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The restorers were accused of 'totalitarian cleaning' (or in Brachert's words 'Cleaning-Nihilismus') claiming to remove dirt but supposedly removing part of the primary information (Eliot 1987, Hughes 1987, Talley 1987, Doetsch 1989, Beck & Daley 1993). To some critics the result of the restoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel thus reflects our modern, post-impressionist preference of vivid colouring rather than Michelangelo's original choice of palette. There is a consistent pattern of loss: once deeply shaded and sculpturally modelled forms appear brighter and higher in colouring but flatter and thinner in modelling. Original tonal schemes are replaced by chromatic schemes. This is not reversible.

Painstaking restoration and even simple cleaning may result in a feeling of alienation. This alienation was the core of Ruskin's aversion to restoration: 'I do not at this moment recollect a single instance of any very fine building which is not improved by all its signs of age ... and I have never yet seen any restoration or cleaned portion of a building whose effect was not inferior to the weathered parts' (in 'Modern painters', 1843). Ripley speaks of 'the preservation trap': 'Everything becomes pretty and nice, and history itself becomes a story book experience' (Ripley 1968, quoted in Burcaw 1975: 162-163). The same criticism is reflected in the use of the term 'museum condition' for technical objects. This is commonly used as negative qualification. In this respect Kühn speaks of 'post-acquisition face lift'(Kühn 1989).

Material oriented approach

Following the principle of the external appearance primacy, restorers often use materials different from those in the original object. Especially in architectural monuments this is common practice. Substitution materials are used when the original material is no longer available, when public health legislation forbids the use of the original material, when the traditional material is too vulnerable under the present conditions (like air pollution) or simply when the traditional material is too expensive. Especially in architecture one has to be practical, but the substitution of the original material may lead to loss of important information. On a symbolical and metaphysical level materials may have been very carefully selected. The conceptual identity may perhaps be more reflected in the material used than in the external appearance. This holds especially true for technological objects, where the construction of the machine is more important than the outer design (Ware 1980).

A few years ago a well known Dutch art museum acquired a work of art by Joseph Beuys: 'Fettecke'. This work consisted of a cardboard box with a piece of mutton fat in one of the corners. this work of art was exhibited in a show case, where, due to the lighting, the temperature rose above the melting point of the fat. The fat melted and spread and was partly soaked into the cardboard. The curator decided to have this object restored. The restorer then reconstructed the object by removing the fat and filling the corner of the box with stearin. The external appearance is very close to the original object now, but in view of Beuys' philosophy one wonders whether the physical object still reflects its conceptual identity.

The structure-oriented approach to conservation and restoration is formulated in most of the modern conservation textbooks and codes of ethics. Key-principle is the safeguarding of the physical integrity of the object as document, i.e. the conservation of its full actual identity. To quote Brandi: 'Exact similarity of material does not authorise us to complete an unfinished or damaged monument, since its historical placing should never be altered in any way, causing an historical as well as an aesthetic falsification'.

Function oriented approach

A further analysis of the literature on the theory and practice of conservation and restoration shows that the basic problems concerning conservation and restoration go beyond the question as to which stage and which aspect of the structural identity of the object should be preserved. The emphasis on the material integrity of an object was challenged by a viewpoint in which emphasis was put on the functional identity. Especially in the field of science and technology it was felt that securing the functional identity brings us closer to the original idea of the maker, i.e. the conceptual identity of the object, than securing its structural identity. Choosing for preservation of the structural identity - whether the actual identity or the factual identity - means static preservation. Changes in the physical information is not accepted or at least kept at a minimum. Interventions should be reversible. Choosing for preservation of the functional identity means dynamic preservation. This implies gradual change in the information content due to wear and possible repairs or adaptations. Zweckbronner speaks very adequately of the dilemma of 'Substanzerhaltung bei Funktionsverlust oder Funktionserhaltung bei Substanzverlust' (Zweckbronner 1989: 147). In other words: the historical quality is allowed to 'grow'.

Conservation of the functional identity means preservation of the 'software', i.e. the ability to work with the machine, etc., the knowledge of its technology. In many open-air museums, where crafts and techniques are demonstrated, preservation extends to the training of museum workers in applying these crafts and techniques. In connection with the aim of preserving the 'software' rather than the 'hardware', mention should be made of a rather mundane dimension of this approach: one can make a profit out of it. In the field of museums of science and industry dynamic preservation can be made productive. The term used is 'antiquarian production'.

Antiquarian production has been advocated as the ideal combination of preserving the functional identity and providing an economic basis for the preservation. Using Gladstone Pottery Museum (Stoke-on-Trent, UK) as example Cameron Hawke-Smith, however, showed the relativity of this idea (Hawke-Smith 1991). The processes of 19th century manufacture cannot be shown in the 19th century conditions, social nor environmental. Adaptations are required to comply with the law. These modern alterations or additions interfere with the physical integrity of the object as historical document.

In general, maintenance in operational condition involves repairs and adaptation. To what extent are adaptations necessary and/or allowed? Concerning the substitution of missing parts a compromise within the sphere of science and technology is the use of authentic parts of contemporary machines, a practice that has been called 'cannibalisation' . But this is a rather exeptional case. Other categories of objects are less suitable for such compromise.

Similar problems as to 'maintenance in operational condition' arise when we deal with applied art. In this respect it is important to realise that the aims of conservation/restoration may vary depending on the actual purpose. The art market, expositions and documentation put different demands on conservation. Such is the case, for example, with musical instruments. Old musical instruments have two values: the value as an object of art (aesthetic meaning) and the value as a sound-producing instrument (practical meaning). Apart from possible repairs an instrument has to be played on regularly if the sound quality is to be preserved.

The emphasis on functional rather than structural identity involves not only possible changes in the information content of the physical object, but may also prove a risk for the object as a whole. There is always the possibility of an accident leading to the complete destruction of the object. In 1987 and 1988 two historic aircrafts crashed and were completely destroyed in demonstrations at airshows. One of the aircrafts even was the last surviving example of a certain type of bomber (Monger 1988).

Conflict of reverence

In architecture there is an additional dilemma. Sometimes adaptations are necessary to make a building suitable for a new function within the museological context, i.e. while the building is still considered a valuable monument a new function is given to the building in order to secure its 'survival' (in Feilden's terminology: 're-evaluation', being the 7th degree of intervention). 'The best way of preserving buildings as opposed to objects is to keep them in use - a practice which may involve what the French call 'mise en valeur', or modernisation with or without adaptive alteration. The original use is generally the best for conservation of the fabric, as it means fewer changes. Adaptive use of buildings (...) is often the only way that historic and aesthetic values can be saved economically and historic buildings brought up to contemporary standards' (Feilden 1982: 10-11). When a building loses its function it will no longer be maintained, so it is destined to fall into decay. The dilemma is caused by the fact that, whereas this new function interferes with both the physical integrity and the functional integrity of the building, it is doomed to disappear without this very function. The most recognisable examples are churches that are given new purposes, such as housing, shops or even dance halls and swimming pools. On the conceptual level there is a tension between the former sacral function and the present profane function. In Dutch this is indicated by a newly coined phrase: 'pieteits-spanning', conflict of reverence. Because of this conflict, for example, the Roman-Catholic bisshop of Roermond (the Netherlands) has forbidden the rehabilitation of an obsolete church building for housing purposes, he would rather see the church demolished. Similar examples can be given for former prisons, concentration camps, etc. For a monument a museum function is usually considered the best solution, as it causes the minimum conflict of reverence.

The transform from primary context to museological context is less radical for monuments than for movable artefacts. For movable artefacts this transform means a radical change of function and meaning, but this change does usually not imply a conflict of reverence except for human remains, remains of animals (and to a lesser extent plants), and religious objects. A new development in anthropology museums concerning the last category is worth mentioning. In Australia, the USA and Canada some museums with collections that are still relevant to descendants of the original native people consider their objects, especially religious ones, as loans. The traditional owners are allowed to use those objects for their religious festivals etc. Afterwards the objects are returned into the custody of the museum.


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