Treatments > Conservation Assessment
Conduct a complete, detailed conservation assessment of each
building, system, space, and element with reference to a Society-wide
Information and Communication Management system, allowing this
to serve as the basis for ongoing planning and collections stewardship.
"Examination: All activities carried out to determine the
structure, materials, relevant history and condition of a cultural
property, including the extent of deterioration, alteration and
loss. Examination also includes analyses and study of relevant
material, as well as the study of relevant historical and contemporary
D. Glossary, Code
of Ethics, Canadian Association
for Conservation of Cultural Property
and of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators.
A detailed architectural conservation assessment is the next
step the Society may take to better understand how the architectural
style(s), history, and evolution relate to the:
- Value (Contextual)
- Features and Ensemble
- Condition (by Systems, Space and Element)
And, next, how these together with the Society's goals
can help develop long-term treatments for planning, fundraising,
and preservation. Given the size and scope of the Society properties,
an assessment may includes several months of intermittent sites
visit conducted by many staff members to thoroughly examine the
structure. Work should be in tandem with site documentation by
recording with field measured drawings, photographs and a database-formatted
description. Later visits will help explore unanswered questions
or areas, complete missing documentation and, field check the
An assessment of this nature will include detailed physical analysis,
historical research, cost estimates, structural evaluation, code
assessment, or investigation of potential hazardous materials.
While other preservation criteria and general treatment recommendations
may be referenced, specific conservation problems will still need
to be evaluated in more depth. Detailed treatment recommendations
may await preparation depending on priorities established as work
is in progress. In-depth historical research, employing primary
and secondary resources, is also included in this assessment.
Much of this work can be coupled with information gathered for
a Historic Structure Report and Historic Furnishing Plans.
And assessment is followed by the development of Treatment Recommendations.
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
Heritage; not available on the Internet.
2.0 The Role of Analysis in the Conservation Process, 2.1 Definition.
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
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 materials;
- 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 analysis;
- 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 as well.
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; polite)
- "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 survey.
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 procedures,
- 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 surveys."
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
8: Preservation Planning, Preservation
101: An Internet Course on Paper Preservation, Northeast
Document Conservation Center.