The Role of Analysis in the Conservation Process
Architectural Conservation Technology, Volume III, Historic
Site Analysis, Heritage Conservation Program, Architectural
and Engineering Service, Public Works Canada for Environment
Canada; Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.
Listed under Canadian
Heritage; not available on the Internet.
2.0 The Role of Analysis in the Conservation Process, 2.1
In general, analysis ascertains and examines a feature's
essential components, characteristics and methods of assembly.
It may also describe the results of such investigations
by providing an overview of the subject and a summary
of important findings. More specifically, it involves
critical examination to elicit essential information or
evidence of past and present conditions as a prerequisite
for protection, site development and commemoration.
By definition, historic site analysis includes:
- identifying historic designs, materials, finishes,
assemblies and structural systems;
- discovering the condition of existing materials and
structural systems and the causes of defects;
- finding evidence in the fabric and finishes of the
original form and subsequent alterations;
- uncovering physical evidence of past function;
- noting any unusual or interesting use of design, materials
- identifying existing landscape features and plant
- uncovering evidence of original planting and landscape
- discovering conditions and causes of defects of landscape
- identifying environmental factors that affect conservation
- noting other considerations that might affect protection,
development of commemoration....
4.0 Levels of Analysis
The concept of levels of thoroughness for analysis is
introduced to help differentiate the degrees of detail
that can be provided during physical investigations. Four
levels have been established for use in the Department
when preparing physical investigations of historic buildings,
works, and lands. They are:
- Level "D" a cursory analysis
- Level "C" a preliminary or partial
- Level "B" a general analysis; and
- Level "A" an exhaustive analysis.
These four levels are meant to clarify the implied degree
of thoroughness and to facilitate project planning.
The four levels are not rigid; in practice they can overlap.
Further, although analysis is usually conducted during
the initial stages of a project, it can be carried out
through the design, implementation and maintenance stages
A description of the architectural style (or styles, for
even a building's original design may include several styles,
making it a "hybrid" or "eclectic")
of the structure, including the distinction between:
- "ideal" stylistic elements (high style; monumental;
- "variations" (vernacular) with reference to literature
that describes the style(s) and;
- where appropriate, other examples.
Assessment of the significance, with details about the:
- historical, and
- broader cultural significance
A chronicle of the physical evolution of the structure
by inspecting the visual character and noting important
features and periods and dating important elements and systems
of the structure based on an understanding of:
- architectural style(s) and
- building technology.
Includes a detailed, visual inspection of the:
- systems, features and elements and their
- condition (good, fair, poor) and the
- priority of proposed work
Graphics are carefully included to augment written narrative
- photographs of the exterior (site context, elevations
and details) and interior (rooms, elevations, details)
- drawings, including a 'sketch' of the floor plan and
other features and construction details, when time permits.
"Surveys are the best way to determine preservation
needs and thus become the basis of the preservation program.
There are two survey methodologies: quantitative and qualitative.
A quantitative survey consists of statistical and random sampling,
to determine the extent of acidic paper or deteriorated film
in a collection. These "condition surveys" generate
important data and provide evidence of patterns of deterioration
from inherent vice. Gathering data on temperature and humidity
through a monitoring program is another example of a quantitative
Broader qualitative studies are more common, and in many
cases more helpful to cultural institutions. Such surveys
generally focus on activities intended to prevent damage.
For example, a qualitative survey might evaluate:
- collections management issues (e.g., acquisition, intellectual
control, and use of the collection; staffing; policies and
- the building and environment (structure, temperature,
relative humidity, light, pollution)
- emergency management (fire, water, security, pests, the
existence of a plan and training)
- storage and handling
- exhibition practices
- general conservation treatment needs
This type of survey identifies risks to the long-term survival
of collections and provides options for improving conditions.
Such surveys are called "general preservation planning
Once identified, preservation needs must be critically considered
and presented in a clearly organized written report that prioritizes
recommended actions. This report will be a starting point
for preservation planning.
8: Preservation Planning, Preservation
101: An Internet Course on Paper Preservation, Northeast
Document Conservation Center.