Lesson 1 – Preservation / Conservation / Restauration

With time, it is natural for the materials to demonstrate some weaknesses and deterioration. And, either through natural factors or not, may they be internal or external, photography is not immune to the passing of time and its action. So it is important that we are aware of the importance of conservation and restoration procedures – as their purpose lies in slowing or even reversing the process of deterioration and decay.



Photograph in envelope (proper packaging of photograph)


Several thoughts and positions about conservation (some antagonistic, even) were formulated through the course of the 19th century, showing the sometimes ambiguous nature which the attitudes towards conservation and restoration processes can have. The various discussions that arose in this context had directly to do with the idea of preservation and authenticity. In other words, the debate was (and still is, for some) over whether the correct action was to rebuild according to the old plan oralter as little as possible in the work or object in question, just enough to maintain it and in order to ensure the original creation of the artist.


Laboratory of conservation of IMA (Indianapolis Museum of art, USA)


So, we will begin by making a distinction between two concepts: conservation and restoration.

Conservation points to all actions of consolidation, maintenance or preservation. While restoration concerns more direct interventions to the physical structure, including recovery and reconstruction, or even replacement of elements.

Anyhow, both actions involve the revalidating of the object as cultural heritage, and have the purpose of preserving the object for generations to come. However, before undertaking a restoration intervention, you might want to take into account that not only should it be a last resort, but also done by qualified technicians.



Conservation focuses on the necessary measures to increase the lifespan of the photographs, acting in accordance with the material from which it is composed. For this, it is important to know the physical and chemical structure of the photographs at hand and which are its weaknesses and special needs.

Based on this information, we may predict which risks, damages or possible changes may take place and line up appropriate preventive measures (according to the nature of the collection).