Modern Conservation: Connecting Objects, Values and People


  • Kurmo Konsa



heritage, conservation, object-based conservation, value-based conservation, people-based conservation, information ecology


Heritage is a technique that we use today to create the present and the past and it depends on our current choices rather than on the past. Heritage is only a tool, but we should not forget that it is a very powerful tool for making these choices and implementing the decisions based thereon. The goal of this article is to connect the main approaches to conservation (object-, value- and people-based methods) with the corresponding information models. I propose that information content models are central to object-based conservation and naturally value-based conservation relies on typologies. And I associate people-based conservation with ideas related to information ecology. One way to preserve the objects that are part of heritage is to conserve them. Conservation as a profession as we know it today developed during the 19th century. Along with the processing methods, various theoretical approaches, which provide the reasons for and explain the circulation of the heritage objects, are very important in conservation. The conservation approaches can be defined as being object-, value- or people-based, according to their focus. These approaches are not used in a definite temporal sequence, whereby they would preclude each other. Depending on the context, a specific temporal sequence does exist, but they are all in use today. The choice of the preferred approach depends on the goals of the method. These approaches express an increasingly inclusive and complex approach to conservation. Today, the treatment of objects as phenomena related to information is at the centre of the conservation theories for object-based conservation. Value-based conservation relies on various value typologies. And it is these values that change objects or phenomena into heritage. The new approach to conservation that put people at the centre of the entire process is known as people-based conservation. How is this achieved? How can the conservation process be linked more strongly to society? This is a complicated question. And a suitable answer is still being searched for. What is clear initially is that in order to find the answer, we need to turn our gaze away from conservation and try to find approaches that can link people, values and activities. One such approach is information ecology. Information ecology is an information science that uses the concepts of ecology to analyse complicated information systems by viewing them as ecological systems.


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Author Biography

Kurmo Konsa

(b. 1965), an Associated Professor at the Department of Archival
Studies at the University of Tartu, and Professor of Conservation at
Tartu Art College.