Elisa M. Del Bono
A Master Report Submitted to the Faculty o f the
In Partial Fulfillment o f the Requirements for the Degree of
Master o f Architecture
In the Graduate College
This master report has been submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for an
advanced degree at the University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library to
be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library.
Brief quotations from this master report are allowable without special permission,
provided that accurate acknowledgment of source is made. Requests for permission for
extended quotation from or reproduction of this manuscript in whole or in part may be
granted by the head of the major department or the Dean of the Graduate College when in
his or her judgment the proposed use of the material is in the interests of scholarship. In
all other instances, however, permission must be obtained by the author.
This Master Report has been approved on the date shown below:
Kenneth N Clark
Professor of Architecture
The author wishes to express special gratitude to the members of her master report
committee: Kenneth N. Clark and R. Brooks Jeffery for their constant support and
encouragement. Also, particular thanks to Robert C. Geibner in memory of the support he
provided me.
Also, it is desired to express appreciation to:
Juan Manual Mijares, Jorge Ocafia Sanchez, Luis Amal, Magdalena Rius de La Pola and
all the conservators and staff of Las Vizcainas;
Nancy Odegaard, conservator at Arizona State Museum;
Mike Taylor and Kaisa Barthuli, of the National Park Service, Southwest Region, Santa
Fe, New Mexico;
Antoinette Padgett and all the staff o f El Morro National Monument;
Bob Vint, Tucson Architect;
Fred Matter, Karen Young and Debra Huffinan from the College o f Architecture and the
Interdisciplinary Planning Program, University o f Arizona and;
all the persons that kindly gave their constant support and help for writing this report.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Condition Forms
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Architectural Conservation Versus Museum Conservation
1.2 Architectural Conservation Versus Archeological Conservation
1.3 Definition of Terms
1.4 Conservation Methodology
Chapter 2: Museum Conservation
2.1 The Museum and Its Development
2.2 Museums and the Conservation of Objects
2.3 Issues of Museum Conservation 25
2.4 Condition of Museum Objects
2.5 Causes of Deterioration That Affect the Condition o f the Museum Object
2.6 Case Study: The Conservation of a Mexican Mask. An Example o f Museum Object
Chapter 3: Archeology Conservation
3.1 Bases of Archaeology Conservation
3.2 Historic Preservation and the Protection of Archaeological Remains
3.3 Issues of Archaeological Conservation
3.4 Condition o f Archaeological Remains and Sites
3.5 Causes of Deterioration that Affect the Condition o f the Archaeological
3.6 Case Study: Rock Art Recording and Assessment at El Morro National Monument,
New Mexico. An Example of Rock Art Conservation 62
Chapter 4: Architectural Conservation
4.1 Historic Preservation and the Protection o f Buildings 80
4.2 Issues of Architectural Conservation
4.3 Condition o f the Building
4.4 Causes of Deterioration that Affect the Condition o f the Building
4.5 Case Study: Colegio La Paz Vicainas, Mexico City. An example o f Architectural
Chapter 5: Proposal
5.1 Importance o f Recording in Architectural Conservation
5.2 Proposal: A Comprehensive Architectural Conservation Database. A Recording
System Based on Context, Site and Building.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
List of Figures
Figure 1. Front o f the Mexican mask
Figure 2. Profile of the Mexican mask
Figure 3. The Mexican mask before treatment
Figure 4. The Mexican mask after treatment
Figure 5. The Mexican mask in exhibit at the Arizona State Museum
Figure 6. The Mexican mask in exhibit at the Arizona State Museum
Figure 7. View of El Morro (Woodpecker Rock)
Figure 8. The inscription of Jurado 1709
Figure 9. Don Juan deOfiate’s inscription, 1605
Figure 10. Stone rubbed to erase graffiti near an inscription.
Example o f an old treatment 74
Figure 11. Numerous inscriptions on the east wall attacked by biological
Figure 12. Petroglyphs on the south wall
Figure 13. Original floor plan o f Las Vizcainas
Figure 14. Main facade o f Las Vizcainas
Figure 15. Main patio with fountain
Figure 16. Replacement of original roofs and floors
Figure 17. Replacement o f original floors and roofs
Figure 18. Different parts o f the building according to proposed conservation record
List of Condition Forms
Museum Condition Report Form
Inscription Assessment Form. El Morro National Monument
In 1993,1 went to Mexico City for a summer internship with Jose Manuel Mijares, the
architect who was in charge of the preservation plan o f Las Vizcainas, a Spanish Colonial
building located in the center of the city. It was my first direct experience with the
preservation of a building. During the daily visits to the building for nearly two months, I
had the chance to interview different people involved in the project; architects, craftsmen,
contractors, art conservators, and many others. I realized how difficult it is for architects,
engineers, conservators, archaeologists, contractors, and any other professional working
in the preservation o f a building to organize and keep a vast amount of information about
the project. The reason for it is perhaps due to the interdisciplinary aspect o f most
architectural preservation projects and the fact that recording is usually not even
considered as a part o f the project, neither for future repairs or maintenance work nor as
part of the building’s history.
After more exposure to the field of archeological and museum conservation, I
realized that these two fields base their conservation work on recording, monitoring and
maintenance in order to avoid significant interventions. Therefore, recording is such a
vital part of museum and archaeological conservation projects.
Unfortunately, this does not happen very much with buildings. Changes, problems,
repairs, and maintenance o f a building are almost never recorded.
realized that museum, archaeology and architecture share many similarities in
their approaches to the conservation and preservation o f our patrimony. For this reason, I
decided to design an architectural conservation recording methodology using the museum
and archaeological conservation recording systems. Thus, the ultimate purpose o f this
study is to enhance the importance of keeping architectural conservation records.
This study is a qualitative comparison among museum, archaeological and
architectural conservation which has been reinforced by the presentation o f three case
studies, one in each o f the three fields.
The information of this study has been divided into six main chapters: one for
introduction, one for each conservation field, one for a proposal and last one for the
conclusion. The organization o f all chapters has been specifically selected to be concise
with the rest of the study and avoid misinterpretation by the reader. Both museum and
archaeological case studies are presented according to specific recording methodologies
used in the two conservation projects. On the contrary, the architectural conservation
case study is only a description o f the process itself in order to demonstrate the lack of
concern from architectural preservationists and architectural conservators toward records.
The study concludes with a proposal of an architectural conservation record which is a
model o f data collection methodology for a building.
Chapter 1: Introduction
The field o f architectural conservation has many similarities with museum and
archaeological conservation. The three fields are concerned with materials, their
characteristics, maintenance and permanence. The three o f them depend on strong
scientific support. More importantly, the three fields have the same overall goal, this is, to
contribute to the protection o f the worldwide heritage and cultural property.
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of professional practitioners
involved in the protection of buildings. This development has produced an entire
spectrum o f interventions for extending the life o f buildings. One o f these approaches is
architectural conservation. It emphasizes in conservation rather than in replacement of
existing fabric, maintaining the structure o f a building as it has evolved, and considering
changes in its fabric as part o f the building’s significance.
Architectural conservation is only one approach in the protection o f buildings. It
can take advantage o f several improvements that have been carried out in other fields such
as museum or archaeological conservation, particularly concerning conservation recording
techniques applied in the conservation o f museum objects and archaeological remains.
There has been several efforts to bring all conservation fields to work closer.
Perhaps, the most well known attempt in the United States was the meeting o f experts
practitioners and professionals involved in the protection o f cultural property held in
Williamsburg and Philadelphia in 1972. This meeting set the precedent for developing a
closer communication and cooperation between experts working in fields like architecture,
archaeology and museums.1
In addition, the architectural conservation specialty group was created within the
American Institute for Conservation o f Historic and Artistic Works, most well known as
AIC. Over the past 20 years there has been a close collaboration and growth between
museum, archaeology and architecture professionals involved in conservation.12
1.1 Architectural Conservation versus Museum Conservation
Most artifacts or objects discovered in a dig, ruin or even inside a house cannot survive
when exposed to uncontrolled conditions. The only way to conserve them is in a
protected environment. The museum, with its security and controlled environment, is the
most appropriate repository for these artifacts.
Despite the controlled museum environment, even museum objects and artifacts
deteriorate and display all the pathologies o f aging. For this reason, most conservation
expertise has developed under laboratory conditions, carried out on rather small artifacts
or objects destined for the controlled climate o f a museum.
In addition, the museum conservation field has evolved based on maintenance and
recording, both performed during the life o f the museum object in order to collect data for
further conservation and future generation o f conservationists. Thus, museum
conservation can provide the architectural conservation field with invaluable conservation
1 Buck, 1976, p. 403
2 Ibid. p. 403.
and technical expertise and recording techniques to be applied in the conservation of
buildings. However, the size and complexity of buildings and the fact that they remain
standing exposed to the uncontrolled environment may limit the application o f museum
conservation techniques to architecture.
Professionals in the architectural conservation field are usually unfamiliar with
using conservation and/or maintenance recording techniques. Hardly any conservation
record of a building is left for future reference. Thus, it is museum conservation which
can provide basic conservation principles to the field of architecture, especially concerning
recording techniques.
1.2 Architectural Conservation versus Archaeological Conservation
Archaeological remains are site oriented and like architecture, archaeological conservation
faces immense problems. The uncontrolled and open environment can cause physical
degradation and leave archaeological remains open to vandalism.
Sometimes little can be done in terms o f treatments to safeguard an archaeological
remain due to its exposure to uncontrolled environment, degradation and abandonment.
For this reason, archaeological conservation is a discipline strongly based on recording
techniques which most of the times provides the only way of safeguarding archaeological
remains and sites. Due to similarities between buildings and archaeological remains, there
is a great potential for applying many recording techniques o f archaeological conservation
in architectural conservation.
However, archaeological remains have lost their original use and they are
protected to safeguard their values as part o f our heritage. On the contrary, buildings are
often in use and there is a closer relationship between buildings and the users and people
related to them along with their activities. Thus, architectural conservation should readapt
recording conservation techniques borrowed from archeology to consider the interaction
between a building and its site, as well as the social, historical, cultural, and financial
characteristics of its context.
As we can see, there are many similarities between architectural and museum
conservation and between architectural and archaeological conservation. However, when
conservation is applied to architecture, it should cover a broader spectrum o f elements to
protect, this is the fabric o f the building, its site and context. Just as information from
monitoring and maintenance o f museum objects and physical remains is kept as vital part
of them, the information collected from a building can provide invaluable data for
architectural conservation. In addition to all the information required for architectural
conservation; such as countless architectural and engineering drawings, photographs,
graphics, specific reports and surveys; it is also important to keep an easy accessible
system of records with important information concerning the building conservation
process. In this manner, it is possible to follow up or monitor the conservation project
once it has concluded and keep record of all the conservation interventions o f the building.
This documentation can also provide valuable data with respect to the conservation o f a
building as well as contribute for future research and advances in the field o f architectural
1.3 Definition of Terms
The historic preservation field commonly uses an extensive, sometimes highly confusing
terminology, which has been translated to different languages by the field. Thus, most
countries and cultures o f the present world, in their own languages and dialects, share the
same confusion and terminology debate. This is not to disregard the importance o f
terminology. On the contrary, terms by themselves are very useful. However, the
terminology used by historic preservation, specifically when dealing with the protection o f
cultural property is too extensive and hard to understand.
The following terminology presented and explained in this section, which is used
throughout the entire study, has been selected not only to give consistency to the study
but also to clarify the author’s thought and posture in the subject.
Preservation. Restoration. Conservation
Though the present study is focused in conservation, it is necessary to define also the
terms preservation and restoration. Almost all historic preservation bibliography
consulted for the present study goes through different explanations and debates over the
definitions o f these three terms. It seems that there is not much difficulty or confusion in
the fields o f archaeology or museum studies. However, confusion arouses in architecture,
where not only the three terms seem to be used or misused more or less as synonymous.
Other terms, such as reconstruction and replication, are not discussed in this study.
Apparently, the confusion o f terminology started with the evolution o f the
philosophies and postures in historic preservation that proposed the use o f different
terminology to define an intervention in a historical building. This is another part of the
controversial nature that has always characterized the historic preservation movement,
especially when related to architecture. Lately, it seems that when dealing with buildings
the tendency o f historic preservation is the expansion o f its language in order to name the
different specialization and divisions that continuously seem to emerge in the field.
For the purpose of this study, I will use the definitions o f preservation and
restoration given by the National Advisory Council:
“preservation is the maintenance o f the structure in the same physical
condition as when it was received by the curatorial agency... Wen applied
to the preservation movement, it basically denotes halting the demolition
o f old and or [cultural property] andfinding means fo r its retention and
“restoration is the process o f accurately recovering, by the removal o f
later work and the replacement o f missing earlier work, the form and
details o f a structure, together with its setting, as it appeared at a
particular period o f time,A
When applied to architecture, the National Park Service defined preservation as:
“the application o f measures designed to sustain the form and extent o f a
structure essentially as existing when the National Park Service assumes
responsibility. Preservation aims at halting further deterioration and
providing structural safety, but does not contemplate significant
3 National Conservation Advisory Council, 1977, p. 45.
4 Ibid. p. 45.
5 Ibid. p. 45.
To define conservation, I will use Bernard Fielden’s definition because I consider it the
most applicable to museum, archaeology and architecture s well as the most suitable to the
purpose o f this study:
"conservation is the action taken to prevent decay. It embraces all acts
that prolong the life o f our cultural and natural heritage " 6
Fielden adds that minimum effective action is always the best and whenever possible it
should be reversible and not interfere with future interventions. For him, the basis of
conservation is established by legislation through listing and scheduling, through regular
inspection and documentation, and through conservative actions which delay the inevitable
decay of our heritage.7 In this chapter, conservation has been defined in a general context
that can perfectly apply to museum, archaeology and architecture. However, conservation
applied to these three fields are defined in more detailed in chapters 2 ,3 and 4.
Preservation and conservation may be considered similar terms. Richard Buck, a
museum conservator; who, when discussing conservation and preservation differences,
" r instance, la m concerned with the maintenance o f the structural
and aesthetic integrity o f museum objects, 1 call myself a conservator and
my vocation conservation. I would willingly use these same words with
reference to architecture. However, it appears that the maintenance o f the
structure and aesthetic integrity o f a building is called preservation. Is
there a defense fo r this apparently duplicating terminology?... ”8
6 Fielden, Bernard, 1982, p. 3.
7 Ibid. p. 3.
8 Buck, 1976, p. 404.
Conservation should be the term used when dealing with the protection and maintenance
o f the structural and aesthetic characteristics of all our natural and/or cultural heritage. In
this way, it is possible to be consistent with other disciplines, like archaeology, museum
and environment conservation and thus, avoid further confusion.
Immovable and Movable Cultural Property
The term immovable property is currently used to describe the many kinds of cultural
properties that possess a unique relationship to their site. This include artistic and historic
works such as buildings, engineering structures, monuments, landscapes, and
archaeological remains.9
In archaeological conservation, cultural property usually includes physical
evidence, ruins, archaeological sites. On the other hand, building or historical building is
the common term used in architecture conservation. In my study I will use to them
archaeological remain to refer to all type o f immovable cultural property in archaeological
conservation, and the term building when referring to architectural conservation. Both
terms are defined in chapter 3 and 4 respectively.
On the contrary, movable cultural property refers to that cultural property which
usually does not retain its original use and once discovered or exposed in an excavation or
purchased by an institution or museum, it is moved from its site and kept in a more
controlled environment, such as a museum. Movable cultural property applies to
prehistoric, historic and artistic objects such as furniture, paintings, archaeological
artifacts, clothes. Both archaeological and museum conservation, deals with movable
cultural property and both fields also use different terms. The terms objects or artifacts
are commonly used in conservation. To avoid confusion, in this study I will only use the
term artifact when referring to the archaeological movable cultural property and museum
objects when referring to the movable cultural property housed in museums.910
1.4 Conservation Methodology
Museum, archaeological and architectural conservation share a similar conservation
methodology when dealing with the protection o f cultural property. According to Richard
Livingston and Roberto Frassetto (1987) conservation o f the cultural property, this is
museum objects, archaeological artifacts and remains and buildings, can be compared to
the treatment o f an ill patient by a physician. Thus, it involves three major steps:
diagnosis, pathology and treatment.
Diagnosis o f cultural property is the process o f noting the set o f symptoms and performing
tests in order to establish the illness. The main steps in the diagnosis o f cultural property
are: (1) data collection and (1) inspection.
9 Matero, 1993, pp. 15-21.
10 Both of this terms are defined in chapter 2 and 3 respectively.
(1) Data collection
The first step in the diagnosis o f cultural property is to collect and classify the data related
to it. In general, cultural property can provide two types o f information: direct and
Direct information is all the data obtained from the examination o f the cultural
property in itself, this is material classification, manufacture, style, changes/ahemations.
This type of information may be collected using different techniques, this is visual,
chemical, analytical, according to the characteristics o f the cultural property and the
purpose o f its examination.
Indirect information is usually obtained from other sources than the cultural
property itself, this is through bibliography, owner/people/culture’s information, archival
research. Usually, indirect information involves archival research which may include
graphic documentation such as photographs and graphics.
All direct and indirect information should be carefully kept with the cultural
property as an important part of it. Usually, all the data collected and a complete record
o f the condition o f each cultural property is done following certain standard forms, such
are the cases o f museum and archaeological remains (see chapters 2 and 3 respectively),
which work as a checklist for the collection o f data. This information is extremely
important not only because it allows the establishing guidelines related to the care,
treatment, exhibition of cultural property but also because it is a communication device
among the different experts involved in the safeguard o f the cultural property itself.
(2) Inspection
The second step in the diagnosis of a cultural property is its inspection. Inspections refer
to observations which are carried out in the cultural property itself, this is museum objects,
archaeological artifacts and remains and buildings. Observation reports should be kept as
a permanent records and should be continuously updated through periodic rechecks made
at given intervals through maintenance. Thus, the accumulation of this data as well as
recommendations for special care and treatments provide a valuable body o f technical
history of the cultural property. This information helps in the estimation o f needs, special
treatments, costs, budget estimation, etc.
In the case of immovable cultural property, specifically buildings, the security o f
the resource should be a concern for conservationists. Different measures should be taken
in order to make them temporarily resistant to a sudden change in their condition. In
some cases, this action should be immediately taken to avoid further damage or
deterioration and make them accessible for examination and treatment. During this stage
control devices, such as monitoring systems and alarms could be installed to inform about
the behavior o f the building and/or the archeological remain.
After the diagnosis has been established, through pathology it is possible to understand the
nature of illness or deterioration of the cultural property. Usually, diagnosis is based on
testing and monitoring which leads to the preparation o f the condition report o f the
cultural property.
The condition report usually comes with documentation, photographs and
other data resulted from tests and analyses. Finally, the report is accompanied by a
proposal of treatment and care of the cultural property that has been prepared according
to its condition.
The treatment is "the prescription o f the remedy to be undertaken with controlled
observations" (American Heritage Dictionary). According to the National Park Service
(1990) treatment is defined as:
"the interventive, hands-on work o f repairing cultural property which
usually requires the service o f a conservator who is trained and
experienced in dealing with different deterioration problems" .11
In other words, a treatment is a step-by-step proposal o f measures to be taken to correct
the condition o f a cultural property and should logically follow the condition report.
Conservation treatments depend on several considerations and characteristics of
the cultural property. According to the National Park Service Management Policies
(1990) and in accordance with the conservation ethics o f the American Institute of
Conservation (AIC) ethics (1995), there are certain guidelines that should be used when
deciding a treatment.
The conservation methodology applied to a cultural property should not finish with
the performance o f the required treatment, then moving to another conservation project.
11 National Park Service, 1990, p. 8:1.
Maintenance and monitoring should always be also part o f a conservation plan.
Professionals involved in the protection o f the cultural property should understand that
once repaired, constant maintenance and even monitoring should be performed in the
cultural property in order to test the results obtained through the treatment process.
A conservation methodology outlines a series of steps to follow when dealing with
the protection o f cultural property, either museum objects, archaeological remains, and
buildings. Conservation methodologies, specially in archeology and architecture may vaiy
according to the characteristics o f each conservation project in particular. On the
contrary, museum conservation usually follows the format o f the Standards for Practice o f
the American Institute for Conservation.
Chapter 2: Museum Conservation
Museum conservation is a field that deals with objects and its primary goal is to safeguard
and prolong their life by retarding or stopping deterioration. According to the National
Park Service this is "... to preserve whatever still exists o f an object as nearly as possible
in an unchanging, stable state”} 2
Since projects are the primary subject of museum conservation, it is necessary to
define this term. For the purpose o f this study, I will define a museum object as both
prehistoric and historic movable cultural property with functional, aesthetic, cultural,
symbolic and/or scientific value. Museum objects may or may nor be movable by nature
or design. This means that not only pots, coins, furniture, garments, documents,
photographs, but many other movable elements are objects. Fragments or parts of
buildings and archaeological structures, all originally designed as immovable, when moved
to a museum they are also considered museum objects. This is when interior decoration,
frescoes, statuary and many other elements are safeguarded in a museum due to inevitable
demolition or deterioration of the building or archaeological remain which they used to be
part of.
Museum objects are generally grouped and catalogued accordingly to similar
attributes forming which is known as a museum collection. The National Park Service
defines a museum collection as:
"an assemblage o f objects, works o f art, historic documents, and/or
natural history specimens collected according to a rational scheme and
12 National Park Service, 1990, p. 3:15.
maintained so that it is preserved, studied, and interpretedfo r public
Today the term museum conservation is used to define a field not only related to the repair
of damaged objects but also to their protection based on a long-term care, examination,
and documentation o f the objects themselves and their treatments, to be used as records
for the next generation of conservationists.14
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works suggests
that conservation o f cultural property should be carried out according to a continuous
process of preventive conservation. Moreover, the conservation professional should
establish guidelines for everyday use and care o f objects, either in storage or exhibition,
within an appropriate environment and define procedures for their appropriate handling,
packing and transportation.1314516
In addition, accordingly to the National Park Service, museum conservation is “an
ongoing process o f preventive conservation supplemented by conservation treatment
when necessary”} 6 Preventive conservation is a strategy to slow down the deterioration
rate of an object. Thus, it includes maintenance of the object itselfj a stable environment,
proper handling, storage and exhibit techniques in order to minimize the need for
conservation treatment. Conservation treatment refers to the actual action/s or practical
proceeding/s to stabilize the condition o f an object in order to prevent further
13 National Park Service, 1990, p. 2:1.
14 National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, 1992, p. 13.
15 The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1995, p. 26.
16 National Park Service, 1990, p. 3:1.
deterioration. The National Park Service suggests that conservation treatment should be
carried out only when preventive conservation is not enough to reduce deterioration to a
tolerable level, or if the object is very fragile and in danger, or if the object is required for
exhibition or research.17
Finally, the most recent Code o f Ethics and Standards o f Practice o f the AIC
(1995) has also expressed that conservation o f museum objects should emphasize
safeguarding the original materials and minimize restoration in order to decrease the
possibility o f further damage. Thus, maintaining the archaeological, historic, scientific, or
aesthetic integrity of the object.
2.1 The Museum and its Development
Throughout history, collecting rare objects and works o f art has been a common practice
o f different human cultures. Oftentimes, valuable objects were sent to kings, lords and
rulers of countries for varying reasons, this is as presents to demonstrate the richness of
territories, as tributes, to aid arrange alliances. During Medieval times, uncountable
treasures were kept in temples, monasteries, palaces and cathedrals in order to be studied
and moreover to be safeguarded. During the Renaissance, princes and lords were
collecting different objects due to the “rediscovery” o f Classical art.
With the passing o f time, these private collections became more accessible to the
public. For example, during the 17th and 18th Centuries several important European
17 Ibid. pp. 3:2-3:3.
collections were transformed into museums for public education. Such was the case o f
Oxford University in 1659 and the University of Dresde in 1765. In addition, with the
discoveries of Pompei and Herculaneum and the development o f academies and schools o f
fine arts during the beginning of the 18th Century, museums became the principal
promoters o f historical research and as repositories for objects of art. Thus, museums
began to serve as a surrogate home for movable property that could no longer survive in
their original habitat.
Early on, museum collections reflected the tastes and idiosyncrasies o f their
owners. More recently, museums have became much more than a simple repository o f
collections. Instead, the majority of museums have become institutions o f public service
oriented toward the diffusion o f universal and national cultural heritage.18 Despite their
change in mission, the basic task o f the museum, which is to provide optimal
environmental conditions for the study and enjoyment o f rare and/or valuable objects,
remains fundamentally the same.
Two different philosophies can be identified in the history o f the formation of
museums. First, objects were moved, concentrated and grouped in special places mainly
to be displayed as rare or unusual objects o f ancient cultures. In this way, museums
collected different cultural heritage o f extensive regions, countries and even continents.
Examples of this are the great museums like the Louvre (Paris), the Metropolitan Museum
o f Art (New York), and many other national museums created worldwide. Today, there is
an aim of maintain the objects as close as possible to their site o f origin. According to this
new idea more specialized museums started to appear, therefore, site, local and regional
museums were formed. The archaeology museum (Museo Arqueologico) located in
Mexico City and the various National Park museums in the United States are only some
examples of this. This new type o f museum collects and safeguards movable property that
especially represents the cultural heritage o f a region.1819
In modem times, museum collections have been gradually enlarged to include not
only art work or artifacts but also parts of buildings and archaeological structures.
Museums became repositories when saving original pieces from demolition or
deterioration o f entire prehistoric or historic structures. Therefore, display o f decorative
arts formed part o f museum collections as well. An example o f this is the historic room of
a museum, where original interior decoration, furniture, sculptures and other elements are
displayed in authentic or at least appropriate contexts.
Nowadays, the scope of a museum collection has been extended beyond a display
case, room, or even a building. Thus, collections vary from a group o f objects to the
structure that houses them or even to an entire urban or rural environment. Two types o f
museums illustrate this trend: (1) the historic house museum, when the building itself as
well as the objects that it houses are considered as part o f the same museum collection
and; (2) the outdoor museum, when the museum collection is formed by movable (objects
and artifacts) and immovable (structures, landscape, natural features)cultural property of a
certain urban or rural setting.
18 Diaz-Berrio, 1990, p. 166.
19 Ibid. p. 164.
In addition, as a didactic organism and a diffusion center o f culture museums have
introduced the conservation o f the cultural heritage and particularly the scientific study of
objects. To achieve this new responsibility, museums now conduct conservation
workshops, laboratories and research sessions involved in conservation o f the cultural
2.2 Museums and the Conservation of Objects
The restoration and conservation of damaged works of art is an activity which can be
traced to Antiquity. During the Greek and Roman times, artists were both artisans, welltrained in their craft and also, very knowledgeable o f the properties o f the material/s they
used as well. Thus, artists themselves were the reasonable choice when repairing a broken
sculpture or a scratched painting. During the late Classical times, artists not only
produced works o f art but also restored their own work and the work o f others.20
The Industrial Revolution brought the massive production o f art media such as
tubed oil paints, ready to use canvases, brushes, etc. During the 19th Century, artists could
for the first time buy their products and avoid long years o f apprenticeship that included
learning of materials and their properties, and the preparation o f many elements needed for
their art. As a result, artists no longer treated and repaired works o f art. In addition.
Romanticism emphasized the image of the artist as an inspired genius rather than the artist
as a magnificent artisan.
20 National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, 1992, p. 12.
Museum laboratories and conservation workshops started to conduct the
conservation and care activities. In 1888 the first scientific laboratory in a museum was
established at the Staatliche Museen o f Berlin, followed in 1921 by the British Museum
In 1928, the Fogg Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge was the first American
museum to include an art conservation laboratory which was formed by art historians,
scientists and conservators.21
Early, conservators were more concerned with the aesthetic characteristics of
museum objects; often, conservation treatments were applied in order to make objects
look good for exhibits. Such an approach, which focused on visual or aesthetic needs,
was often cosmetic in nature disregarding not only the long-term preservation needs o f
objects but also their historical records.
In recent year, however, the treatment o f museum objects requires more
involvement on the part o f curators. Currently, many objects are preserved not only
because of their historical evidence and scientific information but also to document
technological achievements and provide data for historical or scientific research. For this
reason, it is essential that curators and conservators evaluate all technical, historic,
scientific and aesthetic aspects when deciding the appropriate treatment and handling o f
museum objects.22
21 Ibid. p. 12.
22 National Park Service, 1990, p. 8:4.
2.3 Issues of Museum Conservation
The conservation o f movable cultural property involves different issues for their
protection. Two are among the most important issues: (1) museum objects should be
preserved inside a more controlled environment and, (2) museum conservation should be a
cooperative relationship between the curator and the conservator.
(1) Museum objects should be preserved inside a more controlled environment
The primary responsibility of a museum is the collection, protection, study and
interpretation o f objects. This is reflected in the definition o f museum given by the
American Institute o f Museum. According to this association, a museum is:
“an organized and permanent non-profit institution, essentially
educational or aesthetic in purpose, with professional staff, which owns
and utilizes tangible objects, cares fo r them, and exhibits them to the
public on some regular schedule ”.23
However, this an other definitions only refer to a museum as an institution or organization,
this is the non-physical aspect, ignoring the fact that a museum is also a building or
structure, this is the physical aspect.
According to the National Park Service, a museum should provide a safe, stable
environment to reduce the object’s rate o f deterioration, prolong its life, and minimize the
need o f conservation treatment.24 In other words, a museum should be a microclimate for
safeguarding its collection.
23 Ibid. p. 1:1.
24 Ibid. p. 4:2.
A microclimate can be defined as “an enclosed space that is capable o f providing
an environment different from that o f the surrounding space ” .25 For a museum, this
means a secured and controlled environment provided by a building and managed by
trained and responsible personnel.
Museums exist in a variety o f sites and climates. Therefore, they are exposed to
uncontrolled environments with different conditions of natural light, humidity and
temperature, that can be very harmful for the life of an object. In addition, interior
conditions, such as relative humidity, ventilation, temperature, storage, security, when not
controlled, can seriously affect its life. Thus, a museum building not only should work as
a shell or barrier against uncontrolled conditions but also it should provide in its interior a
suitable environment for the life o f objects.
Finally, the relationship between a museum building and a collection is o f primary
importance when dealing with the protection o f objects. Sometimes, the museum building
has historic significance in itself and it may be possible that its conservation needs differ
from the ones of its collection. Other times, the museum building cannot provide the
special conditions required for a collection. In both cases, the museum building and the
collection are not compatible. Thus, the harmony between a museum building and a
collection assures both the protection o f valuable objects and architecture.
25 National Institute for the Conservation o f Cultural Property, 1992, p. 27.
(2) Museum Conservation should be a Cooperative Relationship between the Curator and
the Conservator
The cooperative work between the curator and the conservator is essential for the life of
the museum collection. For this study, I will use the definitions o f curator and conservator
given by the National Park Service. Thus, a curator is defined as:
“the person responsible fo r the day to day management o f the museum
collection, including acquisition, record keeping, preventive conservation,
interpretation and exhibits, research and publication. Often, the curator
is a specialist in a discipline (e.g. archaeology, biology, history, fine arts)
related to the collection ”.26
Then, a conservator is defined as:
“a person trained and skilled in the theoretical and practical aspects o f
preventive conservation and a performing treatments necessary to
preserve an object’s historic, scientific, and aesthetic value. Most
conservators specialize in the treatment o f a specific class o f objects (e.g.
paintings, furniture, books, paper, textiles, metals, ceramics, glass,
photographs, archaeological and ethnographic objects, natural history
specimens) ”.27
Today, appropriate management and treatment o f museum objects have become very
complex and require more o f both curatorial and conservation engagements. Museum
objects are now seen in a wider context, including consideration o f historical and scientific
factors as well as the aesthetic ones.28 For this reason, a mutual collaboration,
understanding and respect between curators and conservators is a very important key
when safeguarding museum objects.
26 National Park Service, 1990, p. 3:4.
27 Ibid. p. 3:4.
2.4 Condition o f Museum Objects
An object is normally moved to a museum to extend its life so its condition mainly
depends on factors related to the object itself, this is related to materials, design and
craftsmanship, and the environment it has been exposed during its lifetime.
The report of a museum object’s condition is perhaps one of the most important
steps in its conservation. However, to determine and describe the condition of an object is
very difficult because of the subjectivity of the term. According to Buck (1976) this
problem is mainly related to the fact that condition is an imprecise term loosely used in the
field of museum and art conservation in general. Oftentimes, it has been such a cause of
confusion, that many objects were damaged because their condition was misunderstood.
For example, the condition of an object covered by layers o f soil and accretions may be
considered poor; however, after cleaning the object the conservator may realize that it has
suffered little and its defects can be corrected. Therefore, training and experience are of
crucial importance for conservationists when assessing the condition o f a museum object.
According to Buck (1976) there are at least three different aspects o f condition
when dealing with museum objects, which suggest different treatment proposals. These
are: damage, insecurity and disfigurement.28
28 Ibid. P. 8:4.
Damage is the “permanent alteration o f any material or construction composing an
object”.2930 It can be either caused by catastrophes (fires, floods), use or inefficient care or
mistreatment. According to the definition, damage is irreversible, this is once the object
has been damaged it is impossible to apply a treatment that could invert its consequences.
Even a replacement or an addition to the object will not give back its original appearance.
Insecurity is “any inherent weakness or threat to the object’s physical integrity”
examples of insecurities are: weak adhesives, stresses caused by use or mistreatment,
exposition or vulnerability of materials to physical, chemical or physical-chemical agents o f
deterioration. Though insecurity could be very dangerous for the object’s physical
integrity is still reversible. If not corrected, insecurity could develop into damage.
Disfigurement is “the alteration o f any material or any aesthetic elements o f the
design” 21 Unlike insecurity and damage, which are tangible aspects o f the object’s
condition that can be determined through an examination, disfigurement is less clearly
detected. Disfigurement may be part o f an object since the time o f its manufacture, such
as poor quality or inappropriate materials, instability of the design. In this case, damage
29 Buck, 1976, p.412.
30 Ibid, p.412.
could be the most likely consequence. However, an object could be affected by stains,
encrustation and accretions that produce some disfigurement without damaging the object
itself; in this case disfigurement is temporary.
The relationship between disfigurement and damage is very confusing. It is
improbable that an object can be damaged without producing some disfigurement.
However, for some types o f disfigurement there is a surprising tolerance o f damage. For
example, a green gray accretion covering Chinese bronze pieces, which is caused by a
mineralization of the metal, undoubtedly a damage, is considered as an enhancement of
their value.3132
An object is also considered disfigured if there is a part/s missing or if the object is
fragmented. Usually, this is known as a lacuna which is an “interruption o f the continuity
o f the object’s artistic form and rhythm ”.33 Usually, lacuna is not considered a problem
for the condition because museum objects are not used in the same way they were
originally created so their completeness is no longer a requirement. Oftentimes, a lacuna
which provided a new fragmented condition to the object, may increase the value o f it.
Moreover, it can be part o f its significance. Perhaps, the most famous example o f this is
the statue of the Venus o f Milo. Sometimes; however, the lacuna may be a problem for
the stability or interpretation o f the object. In this case, the object’s intervention should
31 Philippot, 1976, p. 374.
32 Buck, 1976, p. 413.
33 Philippot, 1976, p. 375.
only be focused to decrease or eliminate the disturbance caused by it and conservationists
should use methods that clearly identify the intervention as such.34
2.5 Causes of Deterioration that Affect the Condition o f the Museum Object
Causes of Deterioration
Indirect 1
Historic Use
Nature-related |
(physical, chemical,
Disasters (floods, fires)
Visitor’s Use
Improper handling
(maintenance, conservation)
Different causes of deterioration can affect a museum object. In general, they can be
divided into: (1) intrinsic causes which can be either direct or indirectly related to the
museum object and, (2) extrinsic causes which are related not only to the museum
environment but also are associated with nature-related disasters and human forces.1
(1) Intrinsic Causes o f Deterioration
Material, design and manufacture are all intrinsic causes o f deterioration directly related to
34 National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, 1992, p. 13.
a museum object. The National Park Service (1990) refers to them as the inherent vice o f
the object. Inherent vice refers to “physical or chemical properties naturally found in the
materials used in the manufacture o f an object, either because o f the compatibility o f
different materials, or because the use o f poor quality or unstable materials,,.3S
Oftentimes, movable cultural property consists o f materials that react differently
when exposed tot he environment. For this reason, it is very important to have an
understanding o f the materials that constitute an object in order to take certain strategies
to slow or halt its deterioration. Moreover, the conservator must know that most objects
were not created with the purpose o f lasting forever so the manufacture process or design
did not incorporate a high regard for the object’s permanence.
The prehistoric or historic use o f an object and its exposure to the uncontrolled
environment, both intrinsic causes o f deterioration indirectly related to the museum object,
should be important concerns for the conservators. Mistreatment and constant use o f an
object could be causes o f deterioration at the moment o f arrival to the museum and could
be the cause o f future damage. Unfortunately, little can be done to correct results o f these
intrinsic causes o f deterioration; however, much can be done to extend the life o f the
object by controlling its environment.
(2) Extrinsic Causes of Deterioration
Extrinsic causes o f deterioration that affect museum objects are very similar to the ones
35 National Park Service, 1990, p. 4:7.
that affect immovable cultural property. However, due to the controlled conditions o f the
museum, their deterioration can be better handled and controlled. Some extrinsic causes
of deterioration are directly related to the object’s environment, this is the museum, and
some others are related to the natural and human environments.
From its creation, an object begins to deteriorate due to its interaction with the
environment. The processes o f deterioration are caused by different natural and humanrelated causes. Due to its immovable condition, museum objects are often separated from
their prehistoric and historic contexts to be safeguarded in a museum, thus deterioration is
stopped or delayed. However, despite the more controlled conditions o f the museum,
objects are still exposed to adverse environmental conditions which cause detrimental
chemical, physical and chemical-physical reactions. The deterioration o f museum objects
is commonly produced by forces o f deterioration such as light, relative humidity, dust,
temperature changes, air pollution, biological agents. Deterioration is hastened by
unfavorable environmental conditions. Thus, this is the principal reason that museums
spend a great amount of money and time to provide safe environmental conditions to
protect their collections. The monitoring and control o f environmental conditions o f a
museum are key factors in guaranteeing a long-term preservation o f collections.
Despite being protected inside a controlled environment, museum objects are still
vulnerable to the action of fires, floods, storms, earthquakes and other nature-related
disasters. However, unlike archaeological remains and buildings, exposure to these
disasters is usually controlled because the museum acts as a protecting shell and decrease
the threat caused by disasters. It is extremely important that the museum provide a
safeguarded and controlled space, equipped with all the necessary elements (fire and water
monitoring devices, extinguishers, alarms) in order to prevent disasters or slow their
damaging consequences.
Finally; humans, either directly or indirectly, also cause different types of
deterioration to museum objects. Deterioration o f museum objects resulted from humanrelated causes can be caused either on purpose, this is when the museum object is the
target. Such are the cases o f vandalism, graffiti, theft. When the museum object is not the
target, deterioration could also happen. Examples o f it are visitor’s use, human related
disasters or conflicts, incorrect handling, lack o f conservation treatments, improper care
from people related to the object.
2.6 Case Study: The Conservation o f a Mexican Mask. An Example o f Museum Object
This section presents an example o f a conservation process and recording method of a
wood painted, Mexican mask which is property of the ethnographic collection o f the
Arizona State Museum, University o f Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. This process was carried
out by Nancy Odegaard, the conservator at the museum. The entire conservation
procedure was recorded using an informal interview accompanied by photographs. This
information was compiled with a history o f the artifact and a copy o f the “Arizona State
Museum Object Treatment Form” used in the conservation and recording o f the mask (see
end o f this section).
History of the Object36378
In 1979 Donald Codry, a noted mask collector, donated a portion o f his collection to the
Arizona State Museum. The donation consisted o f over 500 masks representing dozens o f
rituals and traditions.
The mask, at the present in exhibit at the museum, is part o f Codry’s collection and
belongs to the Tlacololero Dance. It comes from the state o f Guerrero, southern Mexico,
and represents a male character painted in bright colors (see figures at the end o f this
In the 16th Century the Spanish mask-making custom was brought to Mexico and
combined with the already existing Pre-Columbian traditions. For centuries, the masks
have been produced for use in celebrations and as offerings or for entertainment. In
Mexico, masks have been the essence o f both, culture and tradition as well as a form of
The Tlacololero Dance is performed in the states o f Guerrero and Puebla and
forms part of a series o f agricultural dances called Danzas del Tigre.31 It is a
representation of the work of peasants and their struggle with land and nature.
The dance itself involves the Tlacololeros3*, which is a term used for formers, a
Rosterero or tracker, a dog and a tiger. The Tlacololeros usually wear large widebrimmed hats o f straw which are adorned with flowers, herbs and palms. Their masks are
36 Most of this information has been extracted from: Cordry, 1988.
37 From Spanish “tiger dances”.
38 The word Tlacololero comes from tlacolol, a nahua term that means “the preparation o f the fields on
the mountain sid e”. Directly translated it means “those who slash and b u m ”. From Brody, 1988, p. 226.
big and colorful, with the faces divided and painted in squares o f different colors depicting
fields. They carry with them whips which sometimes act as serpents and are used to hit
one another on padded arms to simulate the sounds of crackling fire. Some even carry
dried badgers or raccoons to represent fertility.
The dance is performed usually with a great deal o f horse play and vulgar humor
containing local scandals and dramas. When the tiger character is introduced it is usually
followed by a comical hunt involving most o f the characters. Near the end o f the dance a
long procession o f people follows the dog in a hunt for the tiger. The dance ends with the
capture and slaughter o f the tiger. Oftentimes, there are a few “wounded” characters that
are later fixed by a physician character.39
The Conservation and Treatment o f the Mexican Mask
At the time of the masks’ arrival to the museum, there was a lack o f conservation
intervention due to time. For this reason, they were only catalogued and stored at the
In the early 1980’s the mask collection was placed on exhibit but then quickly
returned to storage where it remained for nearly then years.
Between 1985 and 1986 most o f the masks underwent a condition survey and
some conservation interventions, which according to their state o f deterioration, involved
some dust removal and repairs.
39 Esser et al., 1988, p. 74.
In 1994, the Cordry collection was brought out to be placed on a long term
exhibition at the Arizona State Museum.40 Many of the masks were dusty despite their
protective plastic covering; some had structural problems caused by use and climatic or
environmental changes. For this reason, the Conservation Department at the museum
decided to start a gradual general conservation intervention which included the update o f
records and some treatments. This process, which started in the beginning o f 1994, has
been carried out by conservator Nancy Odegaard with the approval o f Diane Dittemore,
curator o f the museum.
Each conservation intervention was recorded in the “Object Treatment Form”,
designed by the museum to follow the standard conservation recording procedure for the
objects that belong to the museum.
The conservation treatment reports o f objects are kept by the museum as a part o f
their documentation and are an essential data for future interventions. Also, they provide
very important information for the maintenance and monitoring of the objects.
(1) Examination and Condition o f the Mexican Mask
This stage begins with the identification o f the object, this is recording general and specific
information o f the object.
In the case o f the examination and condition report o f the Mexican mask, the
conservator began taking the dimensions o f the mask. Then, she took photographs o f it
40 The exhibit is called “Mexican Masks: Faces of the Fiesta”.
(front, back and profiles) to record the condition of the mask before the conservation
process. According to a visual inspection, the conservator determined that the mask was
carved from pine wood41, covered with a gesso layer or ground and then painted.
Then, the conservator made a visual inspection o f the mask to detect any major
problem areas and using her fingers she tried to feel any movement or loose parts. Some
superficial damage was registered on the left side of the mask where an old addition was
made, presumably after the mask had been broken.42 The conservator used a magnet and
determined that the mask parts were joined using three iron nails.
Similar damage was registered on top o f the mask where another hole was opened
for a strap so the mask could be hung for storage when not secured to the face o f the
dancer. Visual inspection also revealed that the white part on the left side o f the mask was
once red and the yellow part on the right side once blue. Probably removing paint flakes
and analyzing them under the microscope could determine the different paint layers and
also the composition o f the pigments.
The Mexican mask needed some cosmetic treatment to stop the deterioration o f its
painted surface which had several cracks and blisters, some o f them showing a powdery
and unstable surface (specially in the chin area). This deterioration was probably caused
by the low quality o f the gesso used for the ground o f the painted layer which caused
41 According to the conservator, pine is widely used by Mexican craftsmen for mask carving mainly
because of its light weight and ease for carving.
42 According to the conservator, this damage was probably caused by stress applied to the mask after a
hole for a strap was opened and also by the tension created while the mask was being worn.
absorption o f moisture from the air. The cracks detected in the wood on the reverse side
o f the mask were radial, typical wood cracks that would not affect the mask.
(2) Treatment Proposal
The main purpose o f the conservation treatment of the Mexican mask was to prepare it for
an exhibition at the Arizona State Museum. According to the fairly good condition o f the
mask and the short time available, the conservation proposal consisted o f quick
stabilization to stop the damage of some areas.
(3) Treatment Description
This final stage summarizes all the conservation treatment o f the artifact as well as all the
accompanying documentation. All treatment was carefully detailed to provide data for
future interventions. For the treatment o f the Mexican mask, the following steps were
(A) Cleaning o f the mask
Once the damaged and unstable parts were identified, the conservator vacuumed the
surface of the mask using a “Deertail” vacuum and a soft bristle brush. Then, the residual
dust attached to the surface was removed using cotton q-tips soaked in water and ethanol.
(B) Stabilization o f Cracks and Blisters
This process was done using an acrylic resin, methyl metathilate, dissolved in acetone (2%
solution). The mixture was applied on the damaged areas using a brush. Because the
acetone dries very quickly it allows the acrylic resin to stay on the surface.
(C) Sealing o f Blisters with Repainting o f some Discolored Areas
The treatment of blisters was done using a synthetic wax called “microcrystalline “B2 195”
produced by Baraco. This type of wax has a low melting point o f 195° Fahrenheit which
makes it easy to melt and set on the surface. The use o f wax has two advantages: (a) it
acts as a seal on the surface and (b) it is easy to remove using heat or a solvent. The wax
was applied in two layers, the first one clear and the second one with pigments to match
the surface colors. The wax was melted using burner and applied on the surface o f the
mask using dental tools. For the second layer, the conservator mixed the wax with
Crimson Red and Venetian Red pigments to match the red color o f the area o f the mask
where one of the damages was detected. For the damage located in the black area o f the
mask, the conservator used Lamp Black and for the purple (in the chin area) she used a
mixture o f Mars Red and Prussian Blue. The conservator always worked first on the areas
that were not visible and did not require much treatment and left to the end the parts
located in the front that required a more refined technique.
After the treatment was completed, the conservator photographed the mask (front
and profiles) as a documentation for future conservation treatments as well as for museum
Figure 2: Profile of the Mexican mask
Figure 3: The Mexican mask before treatment
Tucson, Arizona
Chapter 3: Archaeological Conservation
Archaeology has been defined in many ways, both by the extended literature on the field
itself and the historic preservation field. For this study, I have selected the definition given
by the National Park Service:
“Archaeology is the scientific study, interpretation and reconstruction o f
past human cultures form an anthropological perspective based on the
investigation o f the surviving physical evidence o f human activity and the
reconstruction o f related past environments ”.43
According to this definition, archaeology is a discipline that deals with evidence from the
human past that helps to portray earlier cultures, their lives, their stages o f development.
For this reason, archaeology is considered another essential discipline in the historic
preservation field. Through an archaeological exploration it is possible to locate and
identify the size and shape o f buildings that previously existed on a site, to date and
confirm the identity of remains, to analyze the stages o f their use and development, and to
confirm or suggest the occupations and social status of their occupants.44
An archaeologist is a “specialist concerned with a broad range o f material objects
recoveredfrom both above and under the ground”*5 The broad variety o f remains can be
divided in two groups: archaeological remains and artifacts.
Archaeological remains, also called features46, refer to all the evidence left in place
that cannot be moved from its site, for example rests o f buildings, landscape elements,
43 Murtagh, 1988, p. 147.
44 Bullock, 1966, p. 18
45 Peterson, 1976, p. 5.
urban structures, cemeteries, rock art. Archaeological remains are considered immovable
cultural property.
An artifact has been defined by William Murtagh as “man-made object which is a
form o f archaeological data”.*1 This group classifies all the objects or remains o f objects
related to the occupants o f the building and their local activities, for example silverware,
pottery, bottles, coins, tools. Artifacts are considered movable cultural property because
once discovered they are usually removed from the site and taken to a museum.
In archaeology, historic preservation is more concerned with the management and
protection o f archaeological remains, this is the immovable cultural property o f an
archaeological site or excavation. This does not mean that the field neglects artifacts. On
the contrary, important research has been done on them because they provide an
invaluable source o f data and physical evidence that help to describe the entire prehistoric
or historic context.
Archaeology describes the generic field. Nowadays, the vocabulary of the
discipline continues to expand in response to its involvement. Currently, there is a whole
spectrum o f terms used to define the different fields o f specialization related not only to
archaeological methodologies but also to the sort o f evidence which each one seeks.
Therefore, there is prehistoric archaeology, historic archaeology, industrial archaeology
and many other different terms that describe different forms o f archaeology. Among them
is archaeological conservation.
46 Bullock, 1966, p. 19.
47 Murtagh, 1988, p. 213.
According to William Murtagh, archaeological conservation is:
“the practice o f minimal excavation to preserve the archaeological site
fo r future investigation and/or interpretation by visitors ” 48
Archaeological conservation is a new discipline that has developed parallel to the new and
more scientific approaches that have recently emerged in the entire preservation field.
Thus, the archaeological conservation approach focuses on research and conservation with
only limited emphasis on intervention.
3.1 Bases of Archaeology Conservation
There are three very important bases on which archaeological conservation support its
philosophy. These are: (1) digging and removal o f material from the context in which it
was originally placed is destructive of evidence, (2) traditional excavation is costly and, (3)
archaeological conservation is based on more scientific approach.1
(1) Digging and Removal o f Material from the Context in which it was originally placed is
destructive evidence
The spectacular discovery o f Troy by Heinrich Schliemann in 1871 contributed to the
public interest in archaeology during the 19th Century. It provided new means of
exploration and interpretation o f the past which altered the entire conceptual
representation o f human history. Thus, archaeology, together with parallel activity in
anthropology, gave totally new perceptions o f cultural evolution. Unfortunately,
eagerness to expose and recover the buried remains o f a period o f time caused many
negative consequences to the site and the remains themselves. Countless artifacts, and
even pieces of archaeological remains were taken to museums while the site and the
remains were destroyed and left unprotected, exposed to deterioration and human
Partially in reaction to these early endeavors, conservation archaeologists explore
alternative methods o f extracting information without destroying or harming the site,
remains and context. They apply the “let it alone” philosophy first proposed by John
Ruskin and William Sumner Appleton which has become very important in the current
thought of the historic preservation field.50
(2)Traditional Excavation is Costly
Conservation archaeologists have realized that the systematic method o f digging not only
can destroy the site and its content but also that it cannot be easily financed due to high
costs. Excavation itself requires a great amount of qualified labor which is often difficult
to obtain and very expensive when available. In addition, digging leaves archaeological
remains exposed to new and uncontrolled forces of deterioration, which demands costly
maintenance in order to survive in place. Most often, there is not enough technology
available to consolidate and/or take care o f exposed archaeological remains; good
management o f the site is almost impossible.
48Murtagh, 1988, p. 213.
49 Fitch, 1982, p. 293.
Due to lack o f funding and technology, several recent conservation archaeology
projects have limited their interventions to recording, assessing and monitoring
archaeological remains, their sites and their conditions. This approach has been used to
record and assess the rock art at El Morro National Monument in New Mexico5051 and
many other rock art and sites located in different parts o f the world.
Other projects have used backfilling as an archaeological conservation strategy to
slow down the deterioration o f archaeological remains, one example o f this is Chaco
Culture National Park, located in northern New Mexico. Backfilling cannot halt
deterioration but can slow it down significantly and greatly reduce the costs o f
maintenance o f the site. However, the advantages and disadvantages o f this technique as
well as its possible consequences should be always considered before making a decision.
(3) Archaeological Conservation is Based on a More Scientific Approach
According to its philosophy, archaeological conservation has forced archaeologists and
conservationists to explore new harmless methods of extracting information from the site.
The advance of modem techniques has provided the discipline with an arsenal of
productive new methods o f exploration, some based on sound or light wave techniques or
with the use o f highly sensitive machinery, which are less destructive to the site and its
context than traditional methods. The most frequently used o f these techniques are:
50 Murtagh, 1988, p. 150.
51 See case study at the end of this chapter.
remote sensing, special photography (ultraviolet, X-ray, infrared), magnetic sensing and
infrared exploration.52
3.2 Historic Preservation and the Protection o f Archaeological Remains
The protection of archaeological remains has particular characteristics, which sometimes
are hard to understand. Since the end o f the 19th Century, two lines of thought and action
have been applied worldwide in the protection of this type o f immovable cultural property.
The first is characterized by big-scale reconstruction o f archaeological remains
based on the interpretation of the archaeologist/s. Most often, this line o f thought has
been applied based on two wrong tendencies: (1) to make the meaning o f archaeological
remains more understandable to the general public and, (2) to attract massive quantities o f
tourists. This can be seen in different parts of the world such as Guatemala (Structure A-3
in Sibal), Greece (Stoa de Atalo II, Athens), and the United States (Colonial
The second line o f thought which is more related to Morris and Ruskin
philosophies54, can be defined as a more respectful intervention, based on maintenance,
consolidation and treatment o f the archaeological remain according to its condition of
ruin. This approach was taken for the city o f Rome and other archaeological sites o f Italy
as well as Greece and Mexico, all countries with a rich cultural property. These
interventions had shown that ruins as such, have a strong significance and enough
52 Murtagh, 1988, p. 150.
53 Diaz-Berrio, 1990, pp. 267-268
evocative power by themselves to suggest, and excite the imagination o f the local
population and foreign visitors alike. Based on respect and conservation, this is one o f the
latest international tendencies that has been applied in the protection of archaeological
However, most o f the time protection o f archaeological remains involve some
reconstruction and the use of other informative techniques which are based on the
absolute respect o f the site. In 1952, Ignacio Bernal expressed that "the first objective
o f reconstruction is to be entirely loyal and honest..." and that “the perfect
reconstruction is the one that absolutely takes advantages o f all the valid scientific data,
including the one achieved by inference ”. Also, Bernal expressed that "the site itself
must clearly show the difference between the original (section found in situ) and the
reconstruction ”.5$
In the United States, the concern for the protection o f archaeological sites has
been accompanied by a concern for the conservation of the natural environment. In the
late 19th Century Yellowstone was set aside for protection and in 1872 became the first
national park o f the country. In 1889 the prehistoric ruins o f Casa Grande (Arizona) were
set aside by the government to protect them from looters and vandalism. Thus, Casa
Grande became the first prehistoric and cultural site to be established in the United States
54 Ibid. p. 259.
53 Ibid. p. 259.
when President Benjamin Franklin created Casa Grande Ruin Reservation on June 22,
The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the legal response o f the United States federal
government to protect the destruction of prehistoric archaeological remains in the
Southwest from theft and vandalism. The legislation prevented the unlicensed excavation,
removal or injury o f "... any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object o f
antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government o f the United
States”?1 It further provided that the President might "... declare by public proclamation
historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects o f historic or
scientific interests to be national monuments. ”5859
However, the concern for the protection of the archaeological cultural property
has been fairly recent phenomenon in almost all part o f the United States, with the
exception of the Southwest, where archaeology has always been a traditional and very
important discipline due to the abundance o f prehistoric remains. Until 1960, archaeology
was not considered part o f historic preservation. With the National Historic Preservation
Act of 1966/* which included archaeology as a fundamental subject o f historic
preservation, there is now an important concern for the protection o f prehistoric and
historic remains and sites in the entire United States.
56 Clemensen, 1992, p. 1.
57 Murtagh, 1988, p. 53.
58 Ibid.
59 Ibid.
3.3 Issues of Archaeological Conservation
Archaeological remains are traces o f previous cultures. Like buildings, they are site
oriented cultural property, this is they are considered immovable cultural property with
emotional, symbolic and cultural values. Although they have come to the end o f their
useful life, since they do not hold their original use anymore, they still have emotional,
symbolic, cultural, technological values to be protected.
In addition to issues o f context, immobility, size, scale and complexity60,
archaeological conservation deals with some other important issues when protecting
archaeological remains. Among the most important are: (1) dealing with a ruin, (2)
visitor’s use and (3) presentation o f archaeological remains.
(1) Dealing with a Ruin
The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary defines ruin as “a destroyed or wrecked
state; the remains o f a building etc. that has suffered ruin ”. About ruins, Bernard
Fielden expressed “just as a skeleton is a more acceptable presentation o f a decaying
corpse, a ruin is a more sanitary state fo r a [cultural property] when it is pronounced
Thompson (1991) gives an excellent definition o f a ruin as a “roofless sheir*2
which could stand to roof height or exist only as an underground foundation. Therefore,
60 These issues are discussed in chapter 4.
61 Fielden, 1982, p. 250.
62 Thompson, 1991, p. 9.
ruin is clearly distinguished from a roofed structure which provides shelter and is in a
sense useful.
These definitions only refer to a physical aspect o f archaeological remains. For the
purpose of this study, I also prefer to refer to a ruin as immovable cultural property that
has lost its original roof and use and whose values demand protection in order to
safeguard its integrity as well as the past o f its associated culture. Thus, one must
differentiate between: (a) a ruin as an aspect o f the archaeological remain and/or its
composite elements’ condition and (b) a ruin as an archaeological remain that has lost its
roof and original use.
Among immovable cultural property, archaeological remains and their sites as well
are probably the most vulnerable due to their condition o f a ruin. Since they exist more
exposed to an uncontrolled environment than buildings do, archaeological remains are
more vulnerable to the action of deterioration. Thus, climate, natural disasters,
abandonment, vandalism, negligence, contribute to the degradation o f remains. In
addition, after an archaeological excavation, the site has frequently been left without a plan
for the protection and care o f the newly exposed remains.63
For this reason, when uncovering or discovering archaeological remains,
archaeologists and conservationists should immediately select a conservation plan to
protect them from further damage caused by deterioration. However, a plan is not
complete if it is not based on maintenance. Thus, a good management strategy based on
63 The Getty Conservation Institute, 1992, p. 47.
maintenance is always essential when dealing with the conservation of archaeological
(2) Visitor’s Use
Sites and monuments contribute not only to the appreciation and understanding o f a
society’s past but also to its historical continuity.
The desire to visit historic places is as old as civilization. As early as 1500BC., the
first Egyptian stone pyramid of Saqqara (at that time 1000 years old) was attracting a
significant number o f visitors. For this reason, the idea o f maintaining and managing old
sites was very important for civilizations like ancient Egypt which had great respect for the
Nowadays; however, more and more countries are promoting tourism with their
cultural property as a way for producing money. Thus, uncontrolled access has destroyed
many immovable cultural property o f the world which were not prepared to receive large
quantities o f visitors. In spite o f it, oftentimes visitors contribute to save cultural property
from demolition or neglect.
Today, other than just restricting visitor’s use, archaeological conservation
as well as conservation of other movable cultural property must emphasize on the
vulnerability o f archaeological remains and their sites related to visitor’s use. The great
continues advance o f communications should be used to inform and educate on the
different protection issues related to archaeological remains.
(3) Presentation of Archaeological Remains
This is one of the most controversial issues o f the archaeological conservation discipline,
since the importance o f archaeological remains is that they are the physical representations
of man’s achievements. As William Murtagh (1988, p. 151) expresses: "rather than
relying on historical interpretation through written records or the unreliability o f human
memory, surviving [archaeological remains] speak from themselves
Thus, archaeological remains can be considered as true documents left above
and/or underground. If we destroy them, we will loose an invaluable source o f data that is
almost irreplaceable. For this reason, it is extremely important to select a presentation
technique for the archaeological remain and its site that not only contributes to an
appreciation and understanding o f the past but also safeguards its integrity.
Throughout the history o f protection of immovable cultural property, different
techniques have been used in the presentation o f archaeological physical remains.
Reconstruction and anastylosis are among the most frequently used.
Reconstruction is a process o f reproducing by new construction the exact form and
details o f a vanished immovable cultural property in order to recreate the original as much
as possible. Reconstruction can or cannot use original materials. It is a technique
commonly used in cases when the cultural property has to be moved as the only way o f
safeguarding its physical integrity, for example the temples and monuments o f Abu Simbel.
Anastylosis is the re-erection o f fallen fragments o f a ruin in order to recreate the
original. Perhaps the most well-known example of anastylosis of the world is the erection
o f large parts o f the colonnades o f the Parthenon, destroyed by a bombardment.
Anastylosis can be considered as a form of reconstruction with the difference that this
technique use original fallen fragments and place them in their original position with none
or some new material added.
Both reconstruction and anastylosis can be highly destructive causing irreparable
damage to archaeological remains. Recently, archaeologists and conservators have been
selecting less destructive and reversible presentation techniques in order to leave
archaeological remains similar to the way they were found.
3.4 Condition of Archaeological Remains and Sites
Alike museum objects, it is difficult to determine the condition o f archaeological remains.
Many questions related to it arise, for example: which is the condition o f an archaeological
remain? Are the ones existing before or after an excavation? Before or after exposure? In
addition to this, one must take in account the fact that archaeological remains are also
ruins so special consideration should be taken when determining the condition of the
archaeological remain.
Archaeological remains are immovable cultural property so condition cannot only
be limited to considering aspects related to materials, design, technology and lifetime
exposure to forces o f deterioration. There are several other aspects, such as social,
economical, legal, historical, symbolical that should also be considered as part of
condition. In addition, due to the immovable condition o f archaeological remains,
archaeologists and/or conservationists should considered the conditions o f the site as well
as the vulnerability of archaeological remains to causes o f deterioration. For the purpose
of this study, I divided the different aspects o f condition o f the archaeological remain in:
direct and indirect aspects.
(1) Direct Aspects
Direct aspects o f condition refer more to the archaeological remain itself, this is to the
physical condition and can be recognized through a visual and physical inspection.
Though there is an apparent similarity with direct aspects o f buildings’ condition,
archaeological remains are ruins so there is an entirely different criteria for them when
assessing their condition.
Damage, insecurity and disfigurement are direct aspects o f the condition of
archaeological remains and can represent both deterioration and aesthetic characteristics.
For example, a broken wooden beam, a missing part o f roof, plants and moss growing
among segments o f a wall, not only can be aesthetically valuable for the archaeological
remain itself but also can be the visual representation o f damage, insecurity and
disfigurement, therefore, the results o f deterioration.
Since archaeological remains are free from the requirements o f practical functions,
there is more tolerance of damage, insecurity, disfigurement, lacuna and/or fragmentation.
For this reason, conservation o f archaeological remains generally is focused on the delay
of deterioration due to exposure to the uncontrolled environment. However, corrective
methods such as stabilization, anastylosis, reconstruction could be applied to solve
problems o f instability, security, interpretation. These methods should be clearly identified
as such.
(2) Indirect Aspects
Legal, social, economical, historical, symbolical as well as site conditions and vulnerability
to deterioration are considered indirect aspects o f the condition of the archaeological
remain because they are more related to its site, context and the people or culture in
association to it. Differently from direct aspects, indirect aspects o f condition have a
variable influence and impact in the archeological remain. However, they should be
considered in any archaeological conservation plan.
3.5 Causes o f Deterioration that Affect the Condition o f the Archaeological Remain
Causes of
Nature Related
Human Related
Natural Forces
Natural Disasters
Previous Use/Abuse
Visitor’s Use
Paradigm Changes
Intrinsic Causes of Deterioration
Like buildings, archeological remains are immovable, this is they are site oriented. For this
reason, I divided them into two subgroups: (1) related to the archaeological remain itself
and (2) related to its site.
Materials, design, technology are all intrinsic causes o f deterioration related to the
archaeological remain itself. In spite o f the similarity with architectural conservation,
these causes of deterioration should be considered under the circumstances o f the ruined
condition of archaeological remains and their exposition to the uncontrolled environment.
Depending on how “ruined” is the archeological remain, it may accelerate the process of
deterioration, for example missing or broken elements could cause more exposure to the
uncontrolled environment, therefore, resulting in more deterioration.
All the characteristics of the site, this is climate, vegetation, soil, geology, location
are grouped as intrinsic causes o f deterioration related to the site of the archeological
remain. In spite o f being almost unchangeable, their influence can vary. For example, an
archeological remain which has been buried for years faces totally different site-related
deterioration when suddenly uncovered and exposed. For this reason, an evolution of the
exposure consequences and protective measures should be taken when excavating and
exposing an archaeological remain.
Extrinsic Causes of Deterioration
Archaeological remains are affected by similar extrinsic causes o f deterioration as
buildings do. However, their influence and interaction may cause much more damage due
to the vulnerability of the archaeological remain and the change o f environment due to
excavation and exposition o f the remain.
Extrinsic causes o f deterioration can be caused by nature and man as well; both are
considered the mayor agents o f deterioration. Thus, extrinsic causes of deterioration can
be classified as nature related and human related.
The natural environment is a combination of physical, chemical, biological and
micro biological forces o f deterioration that can alter, age and/or destroy an
archaeological remain. These agents’ influences are very complex since they ca act
independently or in connection to each other. According to Glenn Greathouse and Carl
Wessel (1954) physical and chemical agents are collaborative, interdependent and in some
cases interchangeable, and also they can influence the action o f biological agents. For this
reason, these causes o f deterioration should be analyzed by conservationists in order to
understand their actions and complex relationships so eventually their influences can be
Beside the natural forces o f deterioration, natural disasters are also extrinsic,
nature-related causes o f deterioration o f archaeological remains. Earthquakes, floods,
hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and fires are generally considered to be the most destructive
of this classification.
Humans can directly or indirectly affect archaeological remains. Thus, their
deterioration could either be targeted on the archaeological remain or it could be produced
by indirect causes. Among the most common direct human related causes o f deterioration
are: abuse, graffiti and any other type o f vandalism; excavations and any other
intervention; improper or lack o f maintenance.
Indirect human related causes o f deterioration are those that are not directly
targeted to the archaeological remain. Their deteriorating influences, which could have
important implications, are extremely complicated to assess. Among the most common
indirect human-related causes o f deterioration o f archeological remains are: wars, riots,
invasions and any other type of human conflicts; social, cultural, economic condition of
the people or institution in charge of protection and management o f the archaeological
remain; changes o f ideas, different conservation philosophies and regulations regarding the
protection of the archaeological remain.
3.6 Case Study: Rock Art Recording and Assessment at El Morro National Monument,
New Mexico. An Example of Rock Art Conservation
The section presents an example o f an archaeological conservation strategy. Specifically,
this case study refers to rock art conservation, which has recently became a specialized
field of archaeology conservation.
The term rock art used in this section refers to petroglyphs, slash marks, rock
painting and inscriptions that had been left on stone. Rock art can be incised, chiseled or
made using various elements, such as pigments, pencil, bullet lead.64
64 Blackburn and Atkins, 1993, p.41.
Rock art is considered as a part o f a very fragile heritage, vulnerable to natural
weathering and threatened by vandalism65 which most o f the time is worsen by difficult
conditions o f access. Recording has always been fundamental in rock art studies,
specifically in rock art conservation.
The selected rock art conservation technique has been use for El Monro National
Monument Inscription Assessment Project, in which the author took part as a volunteer
during the summer o f 1994.
El Morro National Monument and Its History66
The Zuni call it A ’ts ’ina, “a place of writings on the rock”. The Spaniards called it El
Morro, “the headland” and the Anglo-Americans called it Inscription Rock.
Located in a valley in the highlands o f western New Mexico, 125 miles west of
Albuquerque, El Morro is a long formation with a gentle slope that drops off abruptly at
one end.
The area is composed o f sandstone layers which were deposited by wind, desert
streams, and an ancient sea. Pressed between the upward movement from underground
forces and the weight o f newer rock above, the sandstone developed cracks that gradually
weathered into long vertical joints. Dispersed pine trees grow around its base. Beneath
on overhanging rock mass there is a natural basin that contains water collected from
65 Wainwright, 1990.
66 The information of this section has been extracted and condensed from Slater, 1961.
melted snow and rain. This water used to be one of the few reliable water sources o f this
semiarid region during Prehispanic, Hispanic and early American periods.
The Anasazis lived in the site perhaps because o f its defense characteristics and
water resource. The ruins o f two o f their pueblos remain on top of the mesa and
archaeological evidence has dated them from the late 1200s AD. Also, hundred o f their
petroglyphs as well as from the later Zunis were left on the rock as testimony o f their
During the 16th Century Spanish conquistadores first arrived in these northern
New Spain territories pursuing the Medieval myth about seven golden cities {las siete
ciudades) to be found at a place called Cibola. In addition, later discoveries o f silver
deposits and religious eagerness o f missionization by the Franciscan friars resulted in the
northern expansion o f the New Spain’s frontier.
The first historical record of El Monro dated from the Spanish period, on March
11, 1583. However, the first known historical inscription on the rock was done by the
Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Ohate, who inscribed his name at El Morro on April
16,1605. Later, other Spanish conquistadores, soldiers, and priests who took the El
Morro route to Zuni and other western Pueblos also left testimony o f their passage on the
rock. These inscriptions, which display beautiful and varied handwritings, are formed by
brief notes and symbols with a name and a date attached to the characteristic “paso por
aquf’ (passed by here). They account discoveries, battles, revenges, martyrdom and other
events that characterized New Mexico history during the Spanish colonial times.
After the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) the New Mexico territories
became part of United States and many other travelers ventured through El Monro region.
The first written description o f El Mono was done on September 17, 1849, by
Lieutenant James Harvey Simpson. Latter, during the period o f the Anglo-American west
expansion, several military campaigns against the hostile native groups, exploration o f new
territories, and emigration parties to California left hundreds of inscriptions on the rock at
El Mono.
In 1865, after the Civil War ended, the Pacific railroad projects started with great
enthusiasm, and in 1868 a rail route was projected through Campbell’s Pass, 25 miles
north o f El Mono. This new route was later followed by the Modem US highway 66.
Despite the railroad, traditional traffic between Acoma and Zuni persisted and Navajo
Indians and Mormon settlers continued to pass by the rock. Eventually, both the rail road
and the new highway shifted the mainline transportation toward north o f the Zuni
Mountains ending the historic function o f El Morro as a watering place and campsite on
the long trail between the Rio Grande and the western deserts.
On December 8,1906 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the land
containing the great penol as El Morro National Monument. Thus, El Morro became on
the first archaeological and historical sites designated by the Federal Government as part
of the American heritage.
3.6.1 The Conservation Technique Used at El Morro National Monument
The forces of deterioration on the soft Zuni sandstone are still active. The rock shows
many results of nature related deterioration. However, probably the greatest single act of
damage to the rock and its rock art took place in 1924. Ironically, it was caused by
human hands in an attempt to clean the rock using difterent rubbing elements to erase off
numerous worthless signatures and graffiti. Many valuable inscriptions and marks were
lost and the beautifiil stone surface disfigured.
Since 1992, the National Park Service Southwest region has been carrying out a
complete recording and assessment project of the rock art at El Morro that will provide a
data base for future monitoring and/or treatment work o f the rock art in the future. The
project has been directed by Michael Taylor and Kaisa Barthuli, both from the National
Park Service Southwest Region, and Antoinette Padgett, a rock art conservator expert,
who was contracted by the National Park Service to cany out the survey.
The project included two phases: recording and assessment o f the rock art and its
condition and, a periodic monitoring according to the conditions and major threats
affecting the rock art.
Recording and Assessment Technique o f the Rock Art and its Condition
The project started with research work to collect all the existing information o f El Morro
and its rock art, such as history, previous documentation, photographs, maps, reports.
Useful data was found during this stage, mainly related to previous survey work done at
the site which was used as the basis o f the project.
Then, a system was designed to divide the site into regions in order to create a
method for determining the location o f all the rock art. Natural features or historical
names, such as Porcupine Cove, Nine Pines Cove, Cool Cave, Box Canyon, Pool, were
used as names to identify the different locations. Each location was divided into sections
distinguished by a code formed by numbers and letters o f the alphabet (A l, B 3 ,14, G2).
All the information was entered onto maps as supplementary material to the project. In
order to avoid contusion, this system used information obtained through previous
recording interventions used at El Morro.
It was then necessary to select a strategy for collecting the data in the site itself as
well as to develop a system o f recording and assessing the rock art according to its
reference number, condition o f accessibility, and location. The project team determined
that photographs and standards forms were the most appropriate methods o f recording.
The photographic documentation was carried out in assignments according to the
locations, sections, amount of rock art to photograph, weather conditions, and time o f the
day with best sunlight exposure. This documentation was done using a 35mm single lens
reflex camera (SRL) with a50mm lens. The film used was black and white (Kodak Tri X
125 ASA) for prints to be used in the recording and assessment section and color slide
film (Kodakchrome 100 ASA) as well. All the photographs were taken trying to get the
least distortion possible. Ladder, tripods, reflecting panels, scaffoldings, and other
elements were used during the photography assignment. When possible, the photographs
included a metric scale as reference.67
After processing all the photographs, the team selected the best prints (black and
white, 8
by 11”), placed them in transparent folders and returned to the site to record
the condition o f the rock art. A key of colors and other features were pre established in
correspondence to different terms used on the form to represent the conditions affecting
the rock art and keyed directly onto the photograph. In this manner the recording and
assessment work was carried out graphically and verbally as well. The verbal records
were done with field notes and forms which were graphically complemented by the
photographs and drawings on transparent overlays. The recording and assessment work
was also programmed setting a daily schedule for working in each site according to the
time o f the day with the best sunlight exposure and weather conditions.
After the sections were recorded at the site, the records and field notes collected in
the files were loaded in a database computer program. All the information of each rock
art was placed in a folder identified by its identification name or keyword. Several folders
were grouped together in files according to their location in the site. The photographs
were placed in proper archival transparent folders and the graphics and field notes on the
overlays were re-drawn on velum using the same format as the photographs. In this
manner, its rock art or inscription had its corresponding photograph, transparent overlay
drawing and a print out o f the form. These three pieces o f information were kept together
67 All photography was done by Kaisa Barthuli.
and placed in file cabinets at the Monument. Rather than organized by site location, the
forms were grouped according to their priority rating. Thus, each file will contain rock art
with similar condition, which should be monitored at the Monument on the same
frequency basis.
Periodic Monitoring of the Rock Art
In the future, the second phase o f the project will consist of a regular monitoring of the
rock art according to their priority ratings. The monitoring will be carried out by a
person, either a staff of the National Monument or contracted by the National Park
Service with proper knowledge o f the area and its rock art and with training in
conservation recording techniques and conditions.
Basically, the assignment will consist o f taking the collected information
(photographs, forms and overlays) to the site o f the rock art and register their present
condition, this is further deterioration, new threats, etc. A new form, based on the original
recording form, will be specifically designed for the monitoring work.
In general, the monitoring work will only consist o f recording information obtained
during the new site assessment. For this reason, it is extremely important to have the
previous recording data in order to compare both the previous and present conditions o f
the rock art. Whenever possible, especially in cases o f highly deteriorated rock art or
those in great danger o f destruction, the monitoring work will be completed with
photographs an more detailed field notes.
The monitoring work will be done according to the frequency determined during
the first assessment. In cases o f extremely bad weather or other natural and human related
threats, the periodicity o f the monitoring assessments will be changed or increased. It is
very important to record the same/different priority ratings of the rock art during each
monitoring assessment. In this way, it will be possible to adjust the monitoring frequency
whenever a change occurs.
The information compiled during regular monitoring work will provide unique data
related to the evolution o f the rock according to the different threats to which it is
exposed. Perhaps in the future, this information will provide the basis o f a conservation
technique which could control and delay the rate of deterioration o f the rock art.
The Form68
The form used for recording and assessment o f the rock art at El Morro was specifically
designed for the purpose o f the project and for the site as well. In general, it can be
divided in two sections: (1) identification o f the rock art and (2) condition assessment.
(1) Identification o f the Rock Art
The first section o f the form provides general information, such as name o f photographer,
date o f assessment, name o f assessor, and data concerning the rock art itself, this is
location, section, panel number situation, compass azimuth reading and a graphic
68 The form was designed by Antoinette Padgett, the rock art specialist with the approval of the project
representations with dimensions. This section also included two other important aspects
of rock art which summarize the examination o f its condition, this is main agents of
deterioration, and priority rating. The priority rating is represented by value obtained from
condition and vulnerability (threats) o f the rock art and its immediate area; priority rating
summarizes condition. It is represented by a scale of seven degrees, zero for good and six
for not stable, extreme deterioration and severe threats. The priority rating represents a
convenient monitoring frequency o f the rock art according to the condition and
vulnerability of the rock art.
(2) Condition Assessment
The condition assessment is limited only to record the physical condition o f the rock art,
this is the nature and human related agents o f deterioration which are considered the most
threatening to the rock art. Thus, this section o f the form is used to collect data about the
rock art condition according to the main agents o f deterioration, this is nature or human
related. The whole assessment, which was carried out tactile and visually, was done with
extreme care in order to avoid more damage to the rock art. Sometimes, the
inaccessibility o f the rock art and other conditions prevented a complete assessment.
The recording and assessment project o f the rock art o f El Morro will provide very
useful information for preventive treatment and/or maintenance o f the rock art. May the
future will bring an alternative method o f conservation, one with a treatment, that will
retard the actions of erosion without disturbing the integrity o f the rock art and the natural
beauty of the stone. Meanwhile, the care and maintenance o f the rock art at El Morro
should relay on printed records and monitoring work as a form o f conservation and
permanent account of the rock art deterioration.
Figure 8: The Inscription of Jurado, 1709
Figure 9: Don Juan de Oftate’s inscription, 1605
water/clay wash:
insect/bird activity:
spalling or erosion since 1955 survey:
stable/unstable rock surface:
vegetation, soil:
other factors: efflorescence, dampness:
3. not stable/extreme deterioration
2. poor condition, major deterioration apparent, immediate action needed
1. fair condition, minor deterioration apparent
0. good condition, intact.
3. severe: resource may be significantly damaged or lost if action is not taken within 2 years
2. moderate: damage or loss may occur if action is not taken within 5 years
1. Low: continuing effect of impact unknown
0. none
Chapter 4: Architectural Conservation
Architectural conservation is a discipline within the historic preservation field and many
different definitions are applicable to identify it. However, I consider the definition given
by the National Advisory Council(1977) as the most complete and accurate. Thus,
architectural conservation is defined as:
“a process that may participate in varying degrees in the whole spectrum
ofpreservation activities from planning to craftsmanship, but is one which
requires a more scientific and research oriented approach to many
aspects o f these activities, especially those which are focused on
maintaining the integrity o f the resource. It requires a great emphasis on
non-destructive investigative techniques, and a more scientific study o f
many subjects ranging from early building technologies to the causes and
preservative treatments o f historic buildings and materials
From this definition, I consider two important elements to be the key for architectural
conservation. These are: (1) greater emphasis on non-destructive techniques and
reversible intervention and, (2) close relationship with the maintenance o f the building.
(1) Greater Emphasis on Non-destructive Investigative Techniques and Reversible
One motto of museum conservation is nothing should be done that cannot, if necessary, be
undone easily in the future. When applied to building conservation, this motto means that
any proposed building intervention should be reversible, if technically possible. However,
69 National Conservation Advisory Council, 1977, p. 47.
this cannot always happens in architectural conservation, mainly because the building often
is still in use. Any conservation technology should constantly interact with the original
materials and craftsmanship of the building in order to fight irreversibility. The impact of
the conservation intervention should always be considered in order to help save the entire
integrity of the building. Less impact to the building’s fabric is generally less impact to the
integrity o f the building, which means less impact to the entire environment since buildings
are part of it.
(2) Close Relationship with the Maintenance of the Building
Buildings are affected by the influence o f the environment which is a continuous and
inevitable phenomenon. Since it’s effects cannot be halted, it is possible to control
environmental consequences through a continual care and maintenance. James Marston
Fitch describes architectural conservation as an “on-going process”.70 Thus, it should not
end when the desired physical state o f the building has been achieved since no material is
able to last forever.
The conservation and maintenance process o f a building should be part o f the same
integral safeguarding plan. Only continues inspection and monitoring will minimize
emergency repairs, thus avoiding drastic physical interventions in the building’s fabric.
According to its definition, architectural conservation emphasizes on maintaining
the physical integrity of the resource, this is, the fabric o f the building which is the physical
70 Marston Fitch, 1976, p. 322.
aspect o f it. However, a building is much more than what our eyes can perceive. Bernard
Fielden (1982) has defined an historical building as:
“one that gives us a sense o f wonder and makes us want to know more
about the people and culture that produced it. It has architectural,
aesthetic, historic, documentary, archaeological, economic, social and
even political and spiritual or symbolic values... "71
In consider that the definition given by Fielden limits a building to just a man-made object
which is a physical record of accumulative stylistic, technological, historical, political,
spiritual, symbolic and/or socioeconomic evidence. Though, a building is much more than
what the eyes can perceive. Buildings were created to have a specific function and often
are still in use, thus they are directly related to a group of people. In addition, a building is
site and context specific, meaning that its design, materials and craftsmanship respond (or
responded) to specific characteristics o f its site and context.
The building’s fabric has been always the primary concern o f architectural
conservationists. Serious studies in historical performance o f materials and traditional
craftsmanship based on modem science and technology have provided the discipline with
many new diagnostic techniques and rehabilitative measures.
However, since a building cannot be easily moved away from its site and context,
architectural conservation cannot limit its action to prevent decay or emphasize on
physical interventions. On the contrary, architectural conservation should have a
comprehensive approach toward the conservation o f the holistic nature o f the building,
this is the conservation of the building along its site and its context.
4.1 Historic Preservation and the Protection of Buildings
Historic Preservation was one a sudden and complete cultural revolution. It happened
everywhere at once without controversy or charismatic leadership, but unlike its sibling,
the environmental movement, it never got the same popularity.7172
Historic preservation responds to the modem desire to maintain living contact with
cultural works of the past. Toward the end o f the 18th Century the Industrial Revolution
ended the traditional link with the past. The past continued to live through romantic
nostalgia which, through a combination o f historicism and nationalism, brought not only a
various revivals o f past styles of art and architecture but also confusion o f preservation
and reconstruction.73
Thus, the link with the past trough tradition was broken and replaced by a new
scientific approach in the form o f historical knowledge. This can be represented in the
scientific archaeological approach to the past and nationalistic revival o f Eugene Violletle-Duc’s theory74 and in most 19th Century restoration work in France and England. The
• Cathedral of Notre Dame is among the most typical example that show this theory in
In England, two groups o f romantics came into open antagonism with Viollet-leDuc ideas during the 19th Century. One group was represented by Gothic Revival
enthusiasts (supported by Victorian wealth) who were inspired by ideas o f restoration.
71 Fielden, 1982, p. 1.
72 Brand, 1994, p. 88.
73 Philippot, 1976, p. 368
74 Viollet-le-Duc, 1967, s.v. “Retauration”.
The other group was represented by John Ruskin and William Morris who supported the
idea o f leaving the building with everything along the alter-added elements to keep the
building working.75
When Victorian Gothic Revival enthusiasts decided to restore many stone
buildings to an Early Gothic (13th Century) appearance regardless o f age and tradition,
John Ruskin rebelled. In his book “The Seven Lamps o f Architecture” (1848) he
emphasizes his opposition to restoration by expressing that restoration means:
“the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out
o f which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with
false description o f the thing destroyed”.76
Ruskin ideas inspired the artist and activist William Morris, who in 1877, founded the
Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), which fought restoration and
founded the preservation movement in England.77
Unlike Europe, the American preservation movement began based oh patriotism
rather than romanticism. In 1853, Ann Pamela Cunningham organized the Mount Vernon
Ladies Association with female fund-raisers in every state. With donations, they
purchased and saved George Washington’s Mount Vernon in 1858.
Thus, in matters o f preservation, organizations o f volunteers were the ones that
took the leadership. Preservation of several patriotic places followed Mount Vernon;
75 Brand, 1994, p. 94.
76 Ruskin, 1989, p. 194.
77 Brand, 1994, p. 94.
some examples are: President Andrew Jackson’s home, Paul Revere’s house, Colonial
Modeled on William Morris’s Society for the Protection o f Ancient Buildings, a
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities was set up in 1910. In 1931
Charlestown (South Carolina) declared most of its downtown as “Old and Historic
District” with special protections for all its beloved old buildings in order to fight their
demolition and replacement by gas stations.78
With the proliferation of preservation groups, the National Trust for Historic
Preservation was established in 1949 with an official charter from Congress. However, it
was not until 1960’s that the Federal Government joined the volunteers with its National
Trust for Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The National Park Service and the National
Trust for Historic Preservation went into partnership and the National Register o f Historic
Buildings was created. Then, a system o f state preservation organizations was entitled,
federal money for preservation started flowing and tax benefits aided rehabilitation.7980
At present, most o f the support for the National Trust still comes from private
contributions and much o f American preservation leadership comes from the wealthy.
However, as James Marston Fitch could assure in 1990, that:
“preservation is now seen as being in the forefront o f urban regeneration,
often accomplishing what the urban renewal programs o f twenty and thirty
years ago so dismally failed to do. It has grown from the activity o f a few
upper class antiquarians... to a broad mass movement engaged in battles
to preserve main streets, urban districts, and indeed whole towns”.60
78 Ibid. p. 95.
79 Ibid. p. 96.
80 Ibid. p. 89.
4.2 Issues o f Architectural Conservation
If conservators emphasize on safeguarding the structure (fabric) o f the building, they will
only protect its physical significance and integrity disregarding the significance and
integrity of its site and context.
The entire conservation process should be accomplished with total respect to the
building itself and also with respect and protection o f its site and context. For this reason,
when conservation is applied to architecture it should consider numerous particular issues.
Form the whole spectrum of issues involved in architectural conservation, the most
important are: (1) dealing with an immovable cultural property (building and context), (2)
dealing with an internal (more controlled) and external (uncontrolled) environments, (3)
dealing with large scale and complex cultural property, (4) dealing with the use o f the
building and, (5) dealing with the building as a cultural property with accumulative
(1) Dealing with an Immovable Cultural Property (Building and Context)
Like archaeological ruins and sites, a building is another immovable cultural property, this
is a building should be considered within its context. Paul Philippot has defined context o f
a building as “//ie immediate surrounding essential to its scale and significance and social
circumstances in which the [building] is used or was used... ”81
The building and its context are in total relationship and mutually influence each
81 Philippot, 1976, pp. 370-71.
other. In one way or in another, both are exposed to the forces o f deterioration. Thus,
when dealing with the conservation o f a building the conservationist deals with its entire
context. James Marston Fitch perfectly remarked on this relationship when he described
the conservation o f buildings as:
“an integral part o f the larger problem o f the protection o f the
environment as a whole. The pathologies o f the first are causally related
to the pathogens o f the latter: therapy requires the control o f both”?2
There needs to be a strong correspondence between the building and its context when
deciding a conservation methodology. For example, if the context and building have
maintained most of their original physical, historical, socioeconomic and political
characteristics it may be assumed that site influences are still almost the same as when the
building was constructed. In this case, less drastic interventions are usually the most
advisable conservation techniques, if possible, using the same materials or traditional
craftsmanship used in the construction o f the original building. On the contrary, if the
context and/or the building have drastically changed over time, it is probably wise to
suspect that their original causes o f deterioration have gone through similar changes. This
is often the case when both the building and its context maintained most o f their original
characteristics over a long period o f time, when suddenly both were transformed by
outside factors. Some very common products of our modem and industrial societies, such
as drastic increments in population, increase o f the built environment, pollution, lack of
maintenance, abandonment, inappropriate protection techniques, are examples of 82
82 Marston Fitch, 1982, p. 323.
deteriorating agents which the building and its context originally were not prepared to
face. Additional research and more advance methods o f conservation technology are
recommended for these cases in order to confront the new causes o f deterioration.
However, the conservation technique should always be compatible with the original
materials and craftsmanship o f the architectural artifact and with its context as well.
In addition, since the building cannot be separated from its context, architectural
conservation has to deal with other even more complex issues related to the life and ideas
o f its occupants and/or people associated with the building. The following, is a list o f
some o f the most important ones:
availability of technology, craftsmanship and materials at the time o f the conservation
construction codes and present planning/building regulations;
ideas, fashions and political situation;
financial situation of the owner/s;
the bias and disposition o f the owner/s (sometimes the client can be less familiar with
the need and justification o f the cost for technical studies and
conservation/maintenance costs).
Finally, socioeconomic, cultural, legal, religious, ideological, political and technological
issues may have a very strong influence in architectural conservation which can directly or
indirectly affect the whole conservation process and its results.
(2) Dealing with an Internal (More Controlled) and External (Uncontrolled) Environments
One of the main functions o f a building is to modify the external uncontrolled environment
to fit its occupants, thus creating an internal more controlled environment which allow
them to better carry on their activities.
Both internal and external environments are in a permanent relationship. The
internal environment is a complicated interactive system which modifies the external
conditions to create special internal ones.83 In this way, the building can be considered as
a shell that not only holds an internal environment but also allows a balance between it and
the external uncontrolled conditions. If the shell is well maintained, the interaction
between interior and exterior is secured and the whole system will be in equilibrium.
Thus conservation o f buildings faces two different situations: (a) the interior o f the
building which is a more controlled environment where not only the maintenance and
conservation o f the building’s fabric and other complementary elements, such as
decoration, paintings, sculptures, furniture, are important but also the care of the safety
and comfort of its occupants and, (b) the exterior o f the building whose fabric is usually
totally exposed to the elements of the uncontrolled environment.
Since the internal and external environments o f a building are in such a
delicate balance o f influences, before planning any conservation intervention it is advisable
to investigate how the exterior and exterior o f the building, and even more its whole
context, will respond to the proposed techniques.
83 Numerous microclimates exist within the internal environment of the building, for example: in dark
comers, damp basements, cold attics, behind furniture or sculptures.
(3) Dealing with Large Scale and Complex Cultural Property
Unlike the museum conservation discipline, architectural conservation deals with
immovable, complex and large scale cultural property. Usually the building itself is a
display of great variety of materials and craftsmanship, all totally exposed to the influences
o f the uncontrolled environment. Since each material decays differently under the action
o f deteriorating causes, architectural conservation approaches are usually much more
difficult to accomplish than museum treatments, which are carried on in the protection o f a
For this reason, the architectural conservationists usually discovers the problems
and causes o f deterioration during on-site inspection o f the building and/or its context
rather than inside the laboratory. However, the new technology and conservation research
methods used by museum conservationists in the laboratories are also valuable tools for
architectural conservation.
Moreover, architectural conservation usually involves numerous persons due to the
size and complexity of building and context. For this reason, the goals and priorities o f
the conservation program should be established by an interdisciplinary group of
conservators, architects, engineers and specialists genuinely interested in all the values o f
the cultural property.
(4) Dealing with the Use of the Building
All buildings and archeological remains were originally created for a specific use, which
sometimes was so important so as to influence designs, materials and craftsmanship.
However, the difference between the two is the fact that buildings still have a use, which
may or may not be the original one.
Many times the use of a building has been the cause o f its protection. On the
contrary, several architectural conservation programs which did not consider this issue,
caused even more deterioration. In the view o f this, the use o f a building should always be
regarded as a very important issue when dealing with conservation, especially when
adapting the building to a new use, generally know as “adaptive use”.84
Architectural conservation should be an environment protective discipline so
conservationists should always protect the integrity and significance of the building and its
context when considering an adaptive use.
In addition, like archaeological remains and sites, historical buildings sometimes
have to deal with the visitor’s use issue, which has been already discussed in chapter 3.
(5) Dealing with the Building as a Cultural Property with Accumulative Evidence
The fabric of a building visually represents everything that has happened to it through its
life, such as superposition of elements, periods o f time, looses, additions, mutilations,
which portray the concept of reuse, common to any culture. Some examples o f this are:
84 Defined as "the process o f converting a building to a use other than that o f which wit was designed".
Murtagh, 1982, p. 213.
Inca buildings used as base for Spanish colonial buildings in Peru, buildings adapted to
new functions like a mosque converted into a church.
Accordingly, Marston Fitch describes this phenomenon as “the present
physiognomy o f a building”?5 For this reason, architectural conservation must preserve
and if possible enhance these messages or values o f the building. According to Bernard
Fielden, the responsibility of finding the most important values, for example emotional,
cultural and use o f a building will eventually reflect its context.858687
4.3 Condition o f the Building
The first step o f any architectural conservation process is “to assess accurately the
substance o f the object to be safeguarded”*1, this is to investigate the existing
circumstances or condition o f the building along its site and context.
The success of architectural conservation should be based on a comprehensive
evaluation of direct and indirect aspects o f condition according to the building's ability to
continue to function and meet the needs of the building itselfj the persons related to it and
their activities.
Alike the conservation o f archaeological remains, social, economical, legal,
historical, technological aspects along aspects o f materials, craftsmanship, design and life
exposure to the environmental forces should be considered when assessing the condition
85 Marston Fitch, 1982, p. 83.
86 Fielden, 1982, p. 6.
87 Philippot, 1976, p. 370.
of a building. Thus, I also divided the different aspects o f condition in direct and
Direct and indirect aspects o f the building’s condition should be taken into account
considering the use of the building. Thus, damage, insecurity, disfigurement, all direct
aspects o f the building’s condition, do not have as much tolerance as they do for
archaeological remains. Buildings are still in use so they should be safe. For this reason,
unlike archaeological conservation most architectural conservation plans include
corrective methods or treatments along protective ones. In addition, legal, economical,
social, cultural, symbolical, all indirect aspects o f condition, have a strong influence when
assessing the condition o f a building.
The main objective of architecture conservation should be to preserve the cosmetic
and structural integrity o f the building from deterioration in order to provide a safe
environment for the people and activities and also give the public a link to their past.
Buildings should be considered as a physical representation of the historic
development o f a culture or group o f cultures. The author agrees with Bernard Fielden
when he defined time a the fourth dimension required when analyzing the condition o f the
building. Thus, in addition to length, width and height, conservationists should analyze
and compare a present building, how it appeared and adapted to the culture, and how it
will react the forces o f decay89 However, I think that a fifth dimension should be added to
this list of condition analysis, and this is the use o f the building, this is how the present
88 Indirect and direct aspects of condition have been discussed in chapter 3.
89 Fielden, 1982, p. 185.
building fits the needs of its occupants in terms o f security, comfort, protection o f their
identity and the identity o f its occupants/people related to it, and how it will respond to
any change.
4.4. Causes of Deterioration that Affect the Condition o f the Building
Causes of
Nature Related
Human Related
Natural Forces
Natural Disasters
Use/change in use
Physical Changes
owners/users and/or
related people
Paradigm Changes
Generally, buildings are diagnosed according to certain symptoms forgetting other causes
o f deterioration. Too often unnecessary interventions are undertaken in the name o f
conservation without understanding the building as part o f a site and context. Too often
repairs proved not to be effective because symptoms o f the problem were treated rather
than the real cause or because treatment consequences were considered on the building
disregarding its site and context.
For this reason, understanding the forces of deterioration is essential to determine
the real cause o f the problem. Numerous deteriorating factors affect the condition o f a
Like in museum and archaeological conservation, the causes o f decay that affect
the condition of a building can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. However, there are
particular issues involved in architectural conservation, such as scale, complexity,
immobility, use, which due to their complexity can highly influence the building.
Intrinsic Causes of Deterioration
Intrinsic causes of deterioration are associated with the inherent and essential nature o f the
building. However, due to immovable and site oriented characteristics o f the building,
there are other causes of deterioration that should also be considered as intrinsic causes.
They can be divided into tow subgroups: (1) related to the building itself and (2) related to
its site.
In addition to materials, design, technology and craftsmanship, all intrinsic causes
of deterioration also related to archeological remains, the internal environment o f a
building could be an intrinsic cause o f deterioration related to the building. The already
described delicate balance between the exterior and interior environment o f the building
can be interrupted by many changes. These changes could affect the building, for example
changes in the ventilation can transform its humidity level. Then, these changes could
conduct to the deterioration of the building’s fabric.
Alike archeological remains, the condition an influences o f climate, geology, soil,
vegetation, location and other characteristics of the site should be considered as intrinsic
causes of deterioration related to the site o f the building. In theory, design, materials,
technology and craftsmanship of the building are usually selected to adapt themselves to
special characteristics of the local situation; the stability o f the structure and the quality o f
materials used are prepared to resist the adverse natural condition o f the site’s
Intrinsic causes of deterioration result from the site’s condition and the inherent
characteristics o f the building. Indeed, most of the times buildings are constructed
considering these specific conditions, along with function and use. Intrinsic deterioration
cannot easily be halted but its consequences could be minimized through continuous
maintenance and care.
Extrinsic Causes of Deterioration
Extrinsic causes of deterioration occur through the action o f exterior agents associated to
the building through its context. In general, they are temporary influences that may act
under certain conditions. Sometimes, they are temporary influences that may act under
certain conditions. Sometimes, these influences, may never appear during the life o f the
building. As such, extrinsic causes o f deterioration are a blend o f deterioration agents
from the context which are either related to nature or man.
Alike archaeological remains, natural causes o f deterioration and natural disasters
are the most common nature-related extrinsic causes o f deterioration.
Extrinsic human-related causes o f deterioration o f a building are extremely
complicated to assess since they are the result o f socioeconomic, cultural, financial,
political factors. Like in archaeological remains, they can directly or indirectly affect a
The most common direct human-related causes o f deterioration are:
causes of deterioration produced either by the use or change o f use o f the building.
Increasingly, the only way to guarantee the existence o f a historic building is to find
new uses for it. However, such adaptive uses oftentimes result in not only aesthetic
and structural changes but my also create many problems from non-compatible or non
frequent use.
Abuse/vandalism of the building and any other action with the purpose o f harming the
integrity of the building, such as graffiti, improper use, damage.
Improper or lack of maintenance of the building.
Physical changes and previous conservation actions, which usually have the purpose o f
improving the condition o f the building.
In addition, the most common indirect human-related causes o f deterioration o f a building
Conflicts and disasters such as wars, riots and any other disharmony which became
part of the human context o f the building.
Causes related to the socioeconomic conditions o f the occupants/owners and/or
people related to the building. Some examples o f these are: needs, availability o f
funds, technology.
Effects of deterioration caused by changes in paradigms (patterns o f ideas) o f the
occupants/owners or/and people related to the building. Most often, the conservation
or maintenance o f a building is very dependent on change o f ideas, priorities, cultural
4.5 Case Study: Colegio de La Paz Vizcainas, Mexico City. An Example o f Architectural
The final section o f this chapter presents an example o f architectural conservation. This
case study refers to the conservation of an 18th Century building o f Mexico City.
Colegio de La Paz Vizcainas is a large stone structure which was built in the
Baroque style by the Basque brotherhood in Mexico City in the middle o f the 18th
Century. The building, which served as school and asylum for orphan girls and widows o f
Basque origin, was the first education institution totally independent from the Catholic
Church in the American continent during the Spanish colonization.
Located on the Centro Historico o f Mexico City, Las Vizcainas still functions as a
school, though currently it is a secular school for female and male students as well.
The building has been declared monumento historico nacional (national historic
monument) by the government and forms part o f the cultural heritage o f Mexico City.
The muddy characteristics of the site where the building was constructed, the
nearby channels and acequias (irrigation channels), the earthquakes, the floods and the
change o f ideas during the 19th and 20th Centuries, were factors that caused several
destruction, reconstruction and modifications at Las Vizcainas. Nevertheless, the building
has maintained most o f its original integrity.
The building and Its History90
Among the Spanish groups that came to the New World and settled in Mexico, the
Basque community was especially important and powerful during the colonial period. In
1861, they founded a brotherhood or cofradia under the name o f Cofradia de Nuestra
Sefiora de Aranzazu.91 This new entity decided to found a school to educate girls of
Basque origin and to give shelter to Basque orphan girls and widows as well
The school was founded with the name o f Real Colegio de San Ignacio de
Loyola92 but it was also known as Colegio de La Paz, or simply Colegio de Las Vizcainas.
At the time when the school was founded, its site was located on the edge o f the
city, surrounded and crossed by acequias.
90 Most of the information of this section has been condensed from Instituto de Investigaciones Est&icasUniversidad Autonoma de Mexico, 1987.
91 Brotherhood of the Virgen of Aranzazu. The Virgen of Aranzazu was the patron of the Spanish
San Ignacio of Loyola was a Spanish Basque Saint, very popular among this Spanish community.
The building, whose construction started in 1733 and ended in 1752, was designed
by the Basque architect Pedro Bueno Basori. It is a two story Baroque structure built
organized around patios. In plan, the building reflects a rigorous symmetry in the
distribution of its spaces. The building’s architecture is robust and virile with vigorous
volumes among large open patios. The decoration is austere and discreet and its Tuscany
character is shown not only in the innumerable capitels that ornament the construction but
also in the moldings that cover and enliven all the structural elements. The material used
for the construction was tezontle a native volcanic stone o f dark red color.
The building was divided into different sectors according to its educational and
asylum functions, this is around the main patio were located the residences for the girls
and the widows, the church and the sacristies. Toward the interior and around the
secondary patios were located the working spaces, the area for the servants, a chapel for
spiritual retreats, an orchard and other complementary apartments.
The church o f Las Vizcainas was a private oratory, however, it was an important
symbol for the Basques o f Mexico. Formed by a single long nave that holds three cupolas,
the church was placed toward the east side o f the principal entrance along the main facade.
It had only one entrance from the main patio and five windows all placed on the north wall
forming part o f the main facade. The interior was originally adorned with seven altar
screens, in the Baroque style with gold leaf application and abundance o f decoration. In
1771, the private character of the church was suppressed and is was transformed in a
public church. A bell tower was added and a beautiful door was added on the main facade
along with same interior changes required to adapt the structure to its new public function.
Two sectors of the building were not directly integrated to its educational
character, though they were related and formed part o f the structure. One of these was
called Casa de los Capellanes, which was the residence for the priests in charge o f the
religious education of the students and all the ceremonies related to the Catholic religion.
The priests quarters, located in the northwest comer o f the building attached to the church
and the sacristies, had a private entrance from the outside and no direct connection with
the school area.
The other sector of the building that was completely separated from the interior’s
life was called accesorias de taza y plato.93 The accesorias were formed by a series o f
houses for rent, sixty in total, that surrounded the structure. Each house was a two story
dwelling with an exterior entrance located on the ground level.
Las Vizcainas, which today occupies four city blocks, emerges like a solid stone
fortress with austere and symmetrical facades from the outside. The scarce decoration is
exclusively concentrated around the two doors and few windows on the main facade. In
contrast, the interior of the building opens to patios with fountains and vegetation, crating
spaces o f diverse character. During the Spanish Colonial times, the fortified image o f the
building was even more emphasized by the line of accesorias which acted like a barrier to
isolate the school from the life o f the city.
93 This Spanish term was used to name a sector of a building formed by residences for rent, usually located
around or toward the exterior. During the colonial times, they frequently appeared in important buildings
(mansions and churches) as a way to help the owner to pay the rent or costs of maintenance of the
building. Usually, they were rented by artisans, who established their workshop on the first floor and their
residence on the second floor.
Repairs and Modifications at Las Vizcainas
Earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters have been continually affecting Mexico
City. However, since the Spanish founded the city on top of the existing Tenochtitlan (the
capital o f the Aztecs) in the 16th Century, the problems have increased due to the
instability of the soil. Originally, the Aztec capital was built on a lake (Texcoco) whose
water went underground when the city was transformed by the Spanish urbanism.
Built on unstable soil. Las Vizcainas has undergone various repairs and
modifications. Actually, the first report o f general repair and maintenance work o f the
building dates from 1783. A major conservation project as done during the 19th Century,
when the Patronato o f the school resolved to raise the level o f the floors in the entire
building due to problems with continuous floods and the city’s drainage system.94
In addition to the influence o f the natural environment, during the 19th Century
several political events happened in Mexico which affected the school, especially during
the Liberal Period. The building deteriorated during the occupation o f Mexico City by
both American troops in 1847 and French troops in 1863. Also, the Reform Laws o f the
19th Century, which transformed the education in Mexico, produced several alterations
and changes in the building to adapt it to new needs and modem ideas in female education.
During the dictatorship o f Porfirio Diaz, these changes were more intense.
Between 1903 and 1905, the residential apartments for the girls, located around the patio,
where totally transformed in large single communal spaces for other collective uses. Also,
during this period the pantheon and the chapel for spiritual retreats were demolished to
build a dispensary and a second level, whose design contrasts with the original building.
The most important conservation work started in 1959 under the direction and
supervision of architect Ricardo Robina, who was member o f the Patronato. The most
interesting part of the whole conservation project was to lower the floors to their original
levels. The work was performed in the west corridor, the second vestibule and in the
north of the main patio. The object was to show the original proportion o f the building in
those sectors. In addition, some modifications were also carried out to adapt the building
to pedagogical changes of the 20th Century. Fortunately, these were done without
modification to the building’s original layout.
Finally, in 1989 a conservation master plan was made for Las Vizcainas. The plan,
which started in 1990 and still continues to the present, has been directed by architect Jose
M. Mijares. The main objectives o f the plan were: (1) to do some conservation work and
start maintenance work and (2) to find new uses for the vacant sectors o f the building
according to the school and Patronato needs, with an absolute respect for the building’s
The Conservation Master Plan o f Las Vizcainas. 1989
High costs of maintenance and repair have always been one o f the main problems that
plagued Las Vizcainas since its inauguration in the IS* Century. Traditionally, the only94
94 The solution of raising the level of the floors was made for all the major colonial buildings of Mexico
City, as the only way to solve the problems caused by frequent floods. However, this decision was
sources o f money were coming from donations (through the Basque Brotherhood), some
school tuition and rent of the accesorias.
However, at present the only source o f money are from students’ tuition and some
donations, which are not suflacient to support the high expenses o f the school and the
maintenance of the building. Due to lack o f resources, maintenance and conservation
work have been limited causing the deterioration and closure o f several areas o f the
building. The priests house, the accesorias, the east wing o f the building around one of
the patios {patio de los azulejos) are examples o f sectors which have been vacant and in
disrepair for years.
In 1989, worried by the critical situation o f the building the Patronato and the
board o f directors of the school entrusted architect Jose M. Mijares for a master
conservation plan for Las Vizcainas. After a study and evaluation o f all the difterent
aspects o f the building’s condition, direct and indirect aspects, as well as the building’s
context, architect Mijares designed an integral conservation master plan. The master plan
was not only based on a treatment for the deteriorated building’s fabric but also on an
integral maintenance plan according to the physical, historical, financial and functional
needs o f the building.
partially carried out in Las Vizcainas.
Physical Condition of Las Vizcainas
Due to the action o f agents of deterioration related to the structure, site, and physical and
human related causes, Las Vizcainas resulted in a building with a high percentage of
building space without a use and in great advance o f deterioration and disrepair.
The water logged sub-soil of Mexico City has been settling since the colonial
times. During the second half of the 20th Century, the problem increased due to the
extraction of the underground water to supply the city.95 Due to their enormous weight
and scale, Spanish colonial buildings are most affected by the unstable soil condition.
Las Vizcainas is a relatively heavy structure, weighing about 2 tons per square
meter. This load was increased by the material added to raise the level of the floors for
flood prevention, and by the large weight o f the roofs, especially during the rainy season
since the roofs were originally constructed without water insulation.
Since the settlement problem cannot be stopped, a study of the structural condition
of the building determined that this problem could be handled with structural joints,
replacement of the heavy roofs for lighter ones and recuperation o f the original level o f the
floor in most of the areas affected by the floods. In addition, several complementaryconservation works in different portions o f the building were suggested by the architect.
Among the most important are: partial replacement o f the damaged stone o f the building;
repair and treatment of original plaster and wall painting, along stabilization and cleaning
of mural paintings inside the priest house; cleaning and/or partial replacement o f original
tile decoration (inside chapel, sacristy, priest house); repair/cleaning o f altar screens (gold
leaf, statuary, wood carving) inside the chapel; repair and cleaning o f the accesorias and;
repairs and cleaning of other vacant areas o f the building, such as the section around the
patio de los azulejos.
Financial. Historical. Social and Functional Condition o f Las Vizcainas
Beside the repair and conservation o f the building’s fabric, architect Mijares realized that
Las Vizcainas needed two special requirements in order to survive: (1) to find a new
use/uses for the areas that were vacant and in disrepair and, (2) to find a permanent
financial source for the building conservation and maintenance. To provide these, his plan
followed the same idea originally used in the accesorias o f the building during the 18th
Century, this is create renting spaces.
According to the high percentage o f vacant spaces, some well connected to the
area of the building used by the school (such as the area around the patio de los azulejos)
and some other ones not connected with the school (priest house, accesorias) architect
Mijares decided to incorporate new uses. The new uses were thought to be: (a)
compatible and complementary to the school activities for the areas physical and spatially
connected to the school and, (b) less compatible for the areas disconnected and separated
from the school area. All uses were thought to create new income for the financial needs
o f future conservation and maintenance o f the building. Consequently according to the
exiting and new uses, the building was divided into the following sectors:95
95 In 1993,70% of the drinkirig water supply for Mexico City comes from its underground.
the school: which was going to still use the same area mostly around the main and
second patio (central sector of the building);
the accesorias: which will be repaired and their interiors adapted to be used for
workshops, exhibits, art, architecture and/or artisan studios/shops;
the priest house (casa de los capellanes): which will be repaired and be used both, as a
museum that will house all the important art collection o f Las Vizcainas ami also for
interpretation purposes;
the chapel and the sacristy96: which will be used not only as a multiple function space
for the school but also to be rented to social events unrelated to the school’s activities,
such as weddings, banquets, concerts, receptions, to be held mainly during weekends
and holidays and;
area around the patio de los azulejos: which will be completely repaired and cleaned to
be used as the place for a department or extended activities from the university or a
community college.
The Coordination of the Conservation Plan
For the author’s point of view, the master plan o f Las Vizcainas represents not only a
good example of architecture conservation but also it is an interesting example of
coordination o f people, works and uses of the building during the conservation process.
Probably, the strict rules o f the Patronato were the basis o f organization o f the work and
96 The original use of both of these sectors, this is related to the Catholic rituals, does not exist anymore.
The chapel is used for some school related and unrelated events.
relationship among the architect, engineer, conservators, the school board o f directors and
the Patronato itself. All and each of these persons played a very important role during the
entire conservation process, from the decision making stage until the conservation works
itself Obviously, I consider the presence o f the permanent resident architect, or architect
on site, played a key role in this project. The architect on site was not only in charge of
his work, this is supervising the conservation work, but also acted as a link among the
three main parties involved in the conservation process, this is the Patronato, the project
coordinators and the school board o f directors. However, the whole process turned to be
too bureaucratic due to inner rules and configuration o f the Patronato. In several
occasions, the conservation and repairs work experienced numerous delays and problems
due to these special circumstances.
Though Las Vizcainas is a good example o f architecture conservation in itself
there was not enough organization in recording the whole process. Technical studies,
reports, plans, photographs, notes from meetings, and other types o f graphic and verbal
documentation were kept without selecting a methodology o f data organization and
recording. However, there were two elements that were properly recorded and presented.
These were: (1) the conservation master plan, recorded and explained through plans,
models and verbal descriptions (on display in the choir o f the chapel) and, (2) the sequence
o f costs o f the conservation works which were methodically recorded by the resident
architect on weekly basis.
Figure 13: Original floor plan o f Las Vizcainas
Figure 14: Main facade o f Las Vizcainas
Figure 17: Replacement of original floors and roofs
Chapter 5: Proposal
Buildings are designed according to specific site characteristics, materials and technology
to fulfill the needs of people using them. Therefore we should not limit the idea o f a
building to just its fabric, which is the only physical representation o f a building.
Buildings are site oriented cultural property that still keep a useful life and as such
its site and context are two other important elements in the definition o f a building.
By its nature, architectural conservation is a field that has traditionally focused on
the conservation of the building itself, disregarding its site and context. It is also reflected
in the architectural conservation records, which, if they exist at all, emphasize on
recording data from treatments applied to the fabric o f the building. Thus, the field
ignores an entire source of useful data very important for the conservation history o f a
On the contrary, museum and archaeological conservation are fields strongly based
on keeping accurate records. Since museum, archaeological and architectural
conservation fields share many similarities, there is a great potential for the application o f
museum and archaeological conservation recording techniques in architectural
This proposal is an architectural conservation recording system which is based on
my short experience in working with museum and archeological conservation records.
This system has been specially designed to record data from the building as well as from
its site and context, thereby maintaining a holistic record o f the nature o f a building.
5.1 Importance of Recording in Architectural Conservation
The medical field provides an interesting analogy in highlighting the importance o f keeping
accurate records. Medicine is a field that has developed through centuries o f gathering
and recording information about patient history. When a doctor treats a patient, all
information about treatment and the patient’s response to it is kept as base for future
monitoring and in implementing better treatments for the patient himself/herself or for
other patients. In this way, it is possible to predict that with the passage of time the
patient’s condition can be restored to a healthy state.
However, patients and buildings react differently to treatments because buildings
do not have the internal capability of rejuvenation as patients do. For this reason, the
understanding o f a building is generally more o f an art than a science.97
Building records hardly exist and when they do, they tend to emphasize more on
historical, aesthetic and technological aspects o f the building disregarding its site and
context. It is unusual to find records on a building’s site, it’s context and it’s performance
according to use and needs.
Inn addition, unlike the medical field, the information on a building’s deterioration
and its response to specific treatments is usually not kept as part of the building’s history.
Such a type of knowledge base could be invaluable to diagnosis and treatment
development in architectural conservation. Unfortunately, in architectural conservation.
97 Miller, 1987, p. 387.
there is no concern for keeping records o f different conservation interventions as part of
the entire history o f the building, which in medicine is called patient’s history, to be used
for future research on building response to deterioration processes and maintenance
improvement. This is probably resulted from the way building professionals and buildings
owners think about them. Materials and systems are considered as problems rather than
time-line deterioration that can be mitigated and buildings are considered isolated from
their sites and not regarded as part o f an entire social, cultural, and economical situation,
this is the building’s context.
In architectural conservation, the problem of recording perhaps lies in the data
collection process, which mostly emphasizes on the building’s physical condition. This is
reflected on the nature of architectural conservation, which according to Frank Matero
(1993) is a field that:
"has emerged today as a scientific discipline focused on the physical
context o f the present structure or site and its particular conditions o f
aging and survival. The concepts favors a through methodological
approach: studying, documenting, and diagnosing the quantitative and
qualitative processes o f deterioration”.98
The “methodological approach” referred by Matero seems to focus on the deterioration o f
the building itself. Thus, diagnosis, pathology and treatment o f a building are performed
and recorded only according to the building itself excluding its site and context.
Professionals working in the protection o f buildings face a wider range o f problems
than museum and archaeological conservators. They have a more limited base o f available
98Matero, 1993, pp. 15-21.
technical information in terms o f record keeping which creates a major obstacle for
initiating research on these problems. Moreover, architects and architectural conservators
are not familiar with keeping accurate records o f buildings for the future. Their clients too
may be less familiar with the need and justification of the cost o f recording historical and
technical information.
5.2 Proposal: A Comprehensive Architectural Conservation Database. A Recording
System Based on Context, Site and Building
As an architect interested in historic buildings, I’ve been always surprised by the amount
of historical records and information collected during different stages in the life of a
building, this is data on the site and archival data, technical aspects about the design,
materials and construction, description of every day aspects in the life o f the people related
to the building, change in uses and fashions that affected the building, social, economical,
cultural, and historical characteristics of the context, maintenance, repairs. The practice o f
keeping track of all the details related to the life o f a building as well as o f the people
related to it was very popular until the end o f the 19^ Century. These records can be
compared to a diary on the entire history o f the building along the site, context and people
related to the life o f the building.
Unfortunately, nowadays professionals involved in the construction and life o f a
building tend to avoid this type of record keeping and the data collected is only limited to
technical aspects required by the client and the construction permits.
During my summer internship at Las Vizcainas in Mexico City, I became aware o f
the amount o f information that was produced during the project. A huge number o f plans,
photographs, several studies and condition reports were kept haphazardly, exposed to
mistreatment and loss. There was practically no intention on the part of the architect or
the Patronato to organize and keep all the information recorded during the conservation
process o f the building.
The success o f architectural conservation should be based on a comprehensive
evaluation of the building’s entire condition and its ability to continue to function or to
meet the needs of a new program. Based on museum and archaeological conservation
records, the recording technique proposed in this study relies on collecting data from the
building, along with the characteristics o f its site and context in a systematic data
According to the proposal, there are three broad divisions of data for an
architectural conservation recording system. These are: the building itself^ its site and, its
The Building
The building is the primary source o f data for architectural conservation. Through these
data conservationists can predict the performance o f the building itself^ this is the
envelope, structure, its interior environment, its infrastructure.
Unlike museum objects, buildings are very complex and large scale cultural
property. Thus, the collection and organization o f data for an architectural conservation
record is very elaborate and tedious process.
The required data can be collected (a) at the building itself through field survey,
photographs, measurements, condition reports, samples, observations, on-site tests; and
(2) away from the building through laboratory tests, special studies, archival research,
For the purpose of this proposal, I divide a building in parts according to different
hierarchies in order to aid in the collection o f the data and also in its condensation and
organization. Thus, for the data collection, the building should be divided in five parts,
these are: (1) segments, (2) sectors, (3) spaces, (4) units, and (5) features.
These different parts are related to each other in a sequential way, this is the
building is divided first in segments which are divided in sectors, then in spaces, units and
features. The number o f each section o f the building and the amount o f information that it
will provide will vary according to the size and complexity o f the building’s design.
Figure 17 shows the different parts o f the building according to the proposed architectural
conservation record.
(1) Segment
According to this proposal, a segment is the largest portion in which a building should be
divided. The number of segments would be directly related to the degree o f complexity o f
the building’s design. The conservator or surveyor can obtain segments by dividing the
building according to its floor plan and vertically, this is if the building has more than one
story. In this manner, one con use the spatial axes system, this is: x, y (plane) and z
(vertical) axes to obtain different segments of a building according to its three dimensional
In a floor plan, a building can be divided in segments according to its main
coordinates or axis, for example: north, south, east and west. Thus, a variable number of
segments from two to four could be obtained. An example of a building divided in two
segments could be: segment north and segment south; and an example of a building
divided in four segments could be: northeast segment, northwest segment, southeast
segment, southwest segment. Vertically, the building can be further divided in more
segments, this is if the building is composed by more than one story. Thus both systems
combined will give the total number o f segments that form a building. Following the
example given before where four segments have been obtained in plan and if the building
is composed by two stories throughout its plan, the total number o f segments would be
eight, these are: northwest, first story, northwest second story, northeast first story,
northeast second story, southwest first story, southwest second story.
(2) Sector
A sector is a part o f a segment. Thus, each segment of a building can be divided into
sectors, whose layout system and number will depend on the complexity o f the building’s
design. In some buildings with a simple and regular layout, sectors could be not
Sectors in a building could for example help differentiate roofed, partially roofed
or non roofed areas o f a segment (such as patios, series o f arcades, a group of rooms), or
private and semiprivate areas, or areas with a certain use. For example in the case of Las
Vizcainas, the chapel, the priest house, the accesorias, the school itself could each one
refer to a sector o f a segment or segments.
The conservator or surveyor could use either numbers or letters as a nomenclature
to identify a sector.
(3) Space
A space is the part in which a sector could be divided. In case sectors are not part o f the
system, a space could also by the part in which a segment could be divided.
In general, a space refers to all various types o f rooms that form a building. Alike
with segments and sectors, the number of spaces in a building would be related to its
Spaces are defined by elements such as walls, roofs, floors. Thus, a space could be
a patio, a room, an arcade. Spaces could be identified by numbers: room 1, porch 3,
balcony 10, arcade 5; or/and according to the location in the segment or sector, for
example: south room, northwest porch, central patio. Thus, the conservator or surveyor
can decide upon the identification system o f spaces according to the characteristics o f the
(4) Units
Units refer to the elements that serve as limits o f a space, for example: walls, floor and
ceiling o f a room; arcades around a patio. Units can also be identified by numbers, for
example: wall 1, arcade 4; or, by location: south wall, north arcade.
(5) Features
Features refer to either: (a) the elements that are part o f a unit: a column/s o f an arcade,
door/s or chimney of a wall, a fountain o f a patio or, (b) the elements or parts that form
the unit itself) for example, in the case o f a wall one feature could be its masonry, another
its finish, another its decoration, and so on. If a unit has many alike features, for example
a wall with three doors, they could be identified either by numbers or letters (1 ,2 ,3 ; a, b,
c), or by location (north, central south).
The system of segments, sectors, spaces, units and features would collect the data
related to the intrinsic aspects of condition related to the building or structure itself.
The Site
The site of the building is another important source o f data which could contribute to the
wholeness o f the building. These data can predict the performance of the building in
relation to its site characteristics, this is: soil, geology, location, climate, vegetation.
Site data could be collected both, (a) on site, through observations and
descriptions o f the general characteristics o f the site and (2) away from the site, through
specific studies carried out by professionals/specialists, archival research, interviews with
Thus, the site data represents all the information o f the intrinsic aspects of
condition which are related to the site.
The Context
The third source of data is the context o f a building, which serve as a frame of reference
for the building and its site. In the case of the building, it is mostly related to the human
context, this is the extrinsic human-related aspects of condition.
Through the data from the context, the conservator could obtain information o f
both, the performance (past and future) of the building according to the needs and the
use/s of the owner/user and, its performance in relation to social, financial, historical,
cultural circumstances, which could be directly or indirectly related to the building.
Alike for the building and the she, the data from the context could be obtained by
surveys and observations o f the context (directly), or/and through the evolution o f the
human context (indirectly).
The architectural conservation data recording system collects, organizes and
summarizes all the required information o f an architectural conservation project. If the
same system is used in every conservation and/or maintenance o f the building, it is
possible to keep data and history o f the different conservation and/or maintenance
processes through the existence o f the building.
Figure 18: Different parts of the building according to proposed conservation record system
Space (B) Space(C)
Space (F) Space(G) Space(H )
The system has been designed based on architectural conservation data recording forms
which represent specific information of the different parts comprising the building as well
as data from its site and context. Using a system of folders and files, the conservator
could organize and group the data collected in the different forms. Thus, the system of
organizations of folders and files could be well represented by a tree with branches that
divide in other smaller branches until reaching the leaves. Thus, a folder identified as
“building” would contain many other folders identifying its segments. Each segment
would contain folders identifying sectors; then, each sector will contain folders identifying
spaces; each space would contain folders identifying units and finally, each unit folder
would contain files corresponding to each of its features. Additional folders will identify
the site and the context of the building.
This proposed recording system is only a conceptual base for data collection and
organization of an architectural conservation system. Thus, it should be adapted to the
special characteristics of each building.
The forms have been divided in sets, one for each part o f the building, for its site
and context. The strategy o f data collection follows a hierarchical model beginning with
the collection o f data through a highly detailed description o f individual features moving
toward the rest of the building, to the site and finally, to the overall context. Thus, the
majority o f the detailed information is collected by each feature o f the building. The rest
sets o f forms (units, spaces, sectors and segments) only collect and condense general
information related to each part of the building.
The feature form has been divided in two main parts. The first is represented by
the general information on the feature: location, dimensions, materials, fabrication
technology, etc. The second part is represented by more specific information on the
condition, use, needs, deterioration, treatment o f the feature, complemented by graphic
information and additional studies/reports.
The form that corresponds to the site collects and condenses information
concerning the general characteristics o f it, this is soil, geology, natural disasters and
environment with the related deteriorating actions that can affect the building. This form
is also completed by graphic and additional studies/reports.
The form corresponding to the context collects and condense general information
on changes in use, social, cultural, historical, economic/financial and any other
characteristics o f the building’s context that may be necessary for the architectural
conservation record.
Each conservators should develop his/her own style in report writing. Whether in
a narrative or cultural outlined format, the conservation record must always present the
information in a straight forward, informative manner so that it transmit the necessary
information for future recommendations and conservation/maintenance projects.
Finally, conservators must know that the success o f an architectural conservation
record, or any conservation record, relies on the conservator’s ability to present a large
body o f information in a form that describes a plan of action.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
Keeping conservation records is fundamental for the building itself as well as for the
development of the architectural conservation field. However, architectural conservation
is a relatively new discipline with short experience in recording techniques.
This study has proven that there are several similarities among architectural,
archaeological and museum conservation fields and, there are several possibilities for
adapting museum an archaeological conservation techniques into architectural
conservation. However, architectural conservation should approach the building
according to its holistic nature, this is the building itself, its site and context and stop
focusing on just the fabric of the building.
The proposal o f this study is a model o f an architectural conservation record
system which has been adapted firom museum and archaeological recording experience.
The objective of this new recording methodology is not only to document the
conservation and/or maintenance o f the building itself but also to record all the changes
that may occur through the life of the building according to its site and context
characteristics and influences. However, this is an hypothetical model o f a conservation
recording methodology which should be tested in the field. Hence, this model should be
adapted to an specific building in order to make the necessary adjustment and changes.
Since architectural conservation records are related to communication standards,
perhaps the next challenge is to insert the architectural recording conservation model
proposed in this study into a computerized system. Such an idea can lead to further
advances in data collecting standards for conservation records.
People may ask if architectural conservation records are practical or economically
possible, yet these questions are not valid. Conservation recording systems have been
used for many years in the museum and archaeology fields. Moreover, conservation
records are an important part o f the conservation process itself as they contribute
invaluable information for the future o f the resource and the development o f the
conservation field as well.
John Ruskin said “take o f your monuments, and you will need not to restore them”99
Following this idea, today one can also recommend to record all intervention actions
(conservation, maintenance) in monuments as part of their protection and so to leave an
invaluable document for future generations. This, should be the goal o f every architectural
conservation record.
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A-l. Architectural Conservation Recording Form. Feature/Unit/Space/Sector/Segment
Data Form
A-2. Architectural Conservation Recording Form. Building Data Form
A-3. Architectural Conservation Recording Form. Building Site Data Form
A-4. Architectural Conservation Recording Form. Building Context Data Form
Recorded by:
Location (segment, sector, space, unit):
Dimensions (length, width, height, diameter):
Fabrication Technology:
Previous Conservation/Maintenance:
Direct Aspects:
Damage/s, insecurity/ies, disfigurement/s:
Indirect Aspects (if applicable):
Type of deterioration/s:
General Location of Deterioration/s:
Causes of Deterioration/s:
Agent/s of Deterioration/s:
Proposed treatment/maintenance description:
Abstract of materials used:
Estimate costs of conservation/treatment/maintenance:
Historical Photographs:
Before intervention:
During intervention:
After intervention:
Special photography (UV, IR, Xray, other):
Graphic/ plans/illustrations:
Condition surveys:
Additional accompanying information
/special reports/studies:
Conservator/surveyor’s Name:
Recorded by:
Location of the building (general/specific):
Dimensions (length, width, height, diameter, thickness of walls, etc.):
Fabrication Technology:
Previous Conservation/Maintenance:
Direct Aspects:
Damage/s, insecurity/ies, disfigurement/s:
Indirect Aspects (if applicable):
Uses (historical, present, future):
Needs (related to activities, people, other):
Type of deterioration/s:
General Location of Deterioration/s:
Causes of Deterioration/s:
Agent/s of Deterioration/s:
Proposed treatment/maintenance description:
Abstract of materials used:
Source/s of financial support:
Other financial information:
Estimate costs of conservation/treatment/maintenance:
Historical Photographs:
Before intervention:
During intervention:
Graphic/ plans/illustrations:
Condition surveys:
Additional accompanying information
/special reports/studies/archival:
Conservator/surveyor’s Name:
After intervention:
Climate: general climatic characteristics of the site, immediate/mediate (temperature, humidity, rainfall,
winds, other):
Geology/soil (composition, slope, subsoil characteristics, other):
Hydrology (water table depth, nearby sources of water, other):
Vegetation (general characteristics of the site/nearby vegetation, other):
Geographic location (urban/rural, adjacent/remote construction, other):
Other (pollution, industries, traffic, etc.):
Special studies/reports:
Natural Disasters
General Information on Natural Disasters of the Site
Site-related Deterioration
Cause/s of deterioration:
Agent/s of deterioration:
Natural disaster-related deterioration:
Special studies/reports:
Historical photographs:
Conservator/Surveyor’s Name:
Recorded by:
General description of the social characteristics of the building’s context:
Characteristics of the Users/owners/people related to the building:
Changes (social, other):
Characteristics of the needs of the users/owners/people related to the building:
Characteristics of the uses of the building (historical, present, future) according to users/owners/people
related to the building:
Special studies/reports:
General description of the cultural characteristics of the building’s context:
Special studies/reports:
General description of the historical characteristics of the building’s context:
Special studies/reports:
General description of the economical/financial characteristics of the building’s context:
Financial information/sources of money (private, grants, donations, other):
Historical source/s of money:
Present source/s of money:
Future source/s of money:
Special studies/reports:
Historical photographs:
Other illustration/reports:
Conservator/surveyor’s Name:
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