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Proceedings of "The Artifact, Its Context and Their Narrative: Multidisciplinary Conservation in Historic House Museums"

The Joint Conference of ICOM-DEMHIST and three ICOM-CC Working Groups, the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, November 6-9, 2012




The Artifact, its Context and their Narrative: Multidisciplinary Conservation in Historic House Museums, a collaborative endeavour in 2012, looked at the comprehensive approach to conservation within the context of historic houses. It followed two successful ICOM-CC joint interim meetings: the Upholstery+ Conference - the 2007 Joint Interim Meeting in Krakow, Poland, which focused on a single object within a collection, and  the Multidisciplinary Conservation: A Holistic View for Historic Interiors Conference - the 2010 Joint Interim Meeting in Rome that was devoted to the holistic approach to multidisciplinary conservation within historic interiors. The 2012 Symposium continued on this theme and expanded to include issues related to public, presentation and management.  It was hosted by The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, USA.  


The symposium was organized by two international committees of ICOM: ICOM-DEMHIST, the International Committee for Historic House Museums, and ICOM-Committee for Conservation with three working groups: (1) Sculpture, Polychromy, and Architectural Decoration, (2) Textiles and (3) Wood, Furniture, and Lacquer. They came together to promote the concept of multidisciplinary conservation within Historic House Museums.


The theme of the symposium focused on managing degradation processes within historic house museums related to balancing public access with standards of practice in conservation. Historic buildings and their interiors consist of multiple facets and materials often altering dramatically throughout their life spans due to change imposed by society, their environment and use. The proper care for historic interiors and their edifices draws from many conservation specializations as well as from many other fields. The artifacts in a Historic House Museum are matters of conservation as well. Therefore it is essential to look at each project in a holistic manner using a multidisciplinary collaborative approach involving all stakeholders. The visual history of a Historic House Museum depends on its state of conservation, and a conservation project tells a story as well.


The selected papers for the conference focused on key issues relevant to the topic: conservation policy, methodology, protocol, diagnosis, scientific analysis, education, preventive measures, historical and aesthetical aspects as well as practical treatments including conservation, preservation, restoration, reconstruction, sustainable management and presentation. Many speakers addressed the themes and challenges of sustainability – which houses can be maintained, which not – and of originality. The way in which the speakers emphasized how the interpretation of the narrative of each museum related to its context can be called out as “spirit of place,” “keeping it real” and “synergy”. Those phrases are as good a summary as can be made for a conference with such a wide reach.


The number of participants was limited to 120 and the program had been organized with alternating days of lectures and touring. This gave participants time to meet one another and discuss the lectures, the sites visited, and one another's work.


We would like to thank Daniela Ball, Hetty Berens, Hartmut Dorgerloh, Thomas Gaehtgens, Jonathan Gration, Carl Nold, Trudi Sandmeier and Ann Scheid and their colleagues at the University of Southern California, Jennifer Schmidt and the staff of the Getty Conservation Institute and Tim Whalen for their input and help. Without their work the conference would not have been possible. Thanks to this collaboration and to the speakers, The Artifact, its Context and their Narrative: Multidisciplinary Conservation in Historic House Museums Conference was indeed a great success.

We are sure that this on line publication of the papers will be very useful to many professionals, students, people interested in the subject and all those who were not able to participate in the Los Angeles event.

Elsje Janssen, Peter Keller, Malgorzata Sawicki and Kate Seymour


Documents for downloading:

Title page

Page 2






01. Historical and Current Perspectives on the Care, Presentation, Interpretation and Use of Collections in Historic Houses

Sarah Staniforth

02. Conservation for Access Redux: Narrative, Visitor Flow and Conservation

Katy Lithgow, Helen Lloyd*, Matthew Tyler-Jones

03. Three Historic Houses, Three Conservation Approaches: Three Decades in the National Trust for Scotland

Ian Gow, Clare Meredith*

04. Keeping it Real: The Relationship Between Curator and Conservator in Furnishing a Historic Interior

David Bayne, Michele Phillips, Deborah Lee Trupin*, Eric Jackson-Forsberg

05. In Private between Consenting Adults? Conservation, Curatorship and Creativity in Nine House Museums

Kate Clark

06. Conserving and Presenting Brodsworth Hall: New Approaches for a Sustainable Future

Martin Allfrey*, Amber Xavier-Rowe

07. Inspired by Knole

Siobhan Barratt

08. Glitter and Gunge. Preserving the Future of JW Evans

Bethan Stanley*, Amber Xavier-Rowe

09. Collaboration and Preservation: Historic New England and the Proactive Preservation Interpretation and Planning (PPIP) Process

Carl R. Nold, Benjamin Haavik, Julie A. Solz*

10. Balancing the Preservation Needs of Historic House Museums and Their Collections Through Risk Management

Irene Karsten*, Stefan Michalski, Maggie Case, John Ward

11. Environmental Management Challenges and Strategies in Historic Houses

David Thickett*, Naomi Luxford, Paul Lankester

13. Architecture as Artifact: Integrated Approach to Conservation of Finishes at the Gamble House

Edward R. Bosley, John Griswold, Peyton Hall, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod*

14. The Gamble House: Conservation, Preservation, and Interpretation of a Historic House Collection

John Griswold*, Anne Mallek

15. Peeling Away the Layers: The Huntington’s Japanese House Tells Its Story

Kelly Sutherlin McLeod*, John Griswold

16. Building an Effective Decision-making Model for Conservation of the Acton Collection, Villa La Pietra, New York University in Florence

Aimée Ducey-Gessner*, Claudia Beyer, Jean Dommermuth, Michele D. Marincola, Deborah Lee Trupin, Costanza Perrone Da Zara

17. Mrs. Gardner’s Tapestry Room: A Floor to Ceiling Conservation Project

Jessica Chloros*, Holly Salmon, Valentine Talland

18. Amerongen Castle: The House a Phoenix: The Conservation and Reviving of a Dutch Historic House

Nico van der Woude

19. The Walls Can Speak - Understanding the Narrative of the Historic Interior as an Architectural Artefact

Elsbeth Geldhof*, Roos Keppler

20. Preserving and Maintaining a Fire-damaged Eighteenth Century Chinoiserie Interior by Adapting its Appearance, Use and Function

Edwin Verweij*, Henny Brouwer

22. Lacquer in the Laundry: Behind the Scenes at ‘The Elms’

Charles J. Moore*, Melissa H. Carr, Maria João Petisca

23. Conservation of Eighteenth Century Lighting Fixtures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Karen Abend, Linda Borsch, Julia Day, Janis Mandrus*, Lisa Pilosi

24. Conservation Problems of Some Objects in Francisco de Paula Santander (Colombia), a House Museum

María Alejandra García Fernandez

25. House Museums Are Not All the Same! Understanding Motivation to Guide Conservation

Linda Young

26 Kamarajar Memorial House in Viridhunagar, India: Journey of a House to a Memorial Then to a Historic House Museum of National Significance

Roger Beeston, Anthony Hemingway*, Vinod Daniel

27 The Winterthur Museum and Gardens, from Inside to Outside: Interpretation and Conservation Challenges

Maggie Lidz, Stephanie Auffret*, Gregory Landrey




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