We need research to inform the conservation of places, sites, buildings, archives, collections and materials. Research includes monitoring and development of measures to mitigate against natural or man-made damage; buildings science aimed at improving energy efficiency of traditionally constructed buildings through retrofitting; understanding the causes of deterioration and performance of materials, buildings and sites; and identifying and sourcing appropriate materials and techniques for repair.
Historic buildings and designed landscapes are vulnerable to a range of destructive agencies, including long-term physical and chemical decay of materials; human activities of maintenance, repair, adaptation or modification; and environmental changes as a result of climate and weather and/or biological agents. Research will have impact if it advances good practice in technical conservation. This might include by developing, refining and evaluating interventions that will be effective, practical, and sustainable. It will provide vital information on the performance of materials; practical solutions for the continuing care and conservation of historic buildings and designed landscapes; assess the energy performance of historic buildings; and mitigate harm to heritage assets from catastrophic threats.
Collections of artefacts, documents and images present particular conservation issues. The materials may be very unstable – archaeological artefacts, or sensitive historical photographic material – and need conservation for the future. However, understanding the past function or association of a wide range of objects often depends on the close investigation of their components, composition and/or construction while retaining their overall physical state. Remedial conservation research therefore informs how we can best use active treatments to stabilise materials and preserve archaeological collections and archives for the future.
Investigative conservation research explores the use of a broad range of scientific techniques, imaging and analytical tools to reveal information on manufacture, use, and for archaeological objects, deposition and preservation, to enhance our understanding of the past. Research will have impact if it ensures that the materials and methodologies currently used in conservation are the most appropriate, helps us evaluate and adopt new practices and technological innovations, or sustains the significance of artefact collections for future researchers.
Preserving archaeological remains in the ground is often a better alternative to excavation on cost or ethical grounds. It requires an understanding of how different materials survive or decay, either rapidly or slowly. Research is important to the management of all types of sites, but is particularly relevant for those where the absence of oxygen has led to the preservation of a greater range of archaeological materials, especially organic materials. Changes to those conditions will likely cause rapid degradation of rare, vulnerable, irreplaceable and therefore highly significant archaeological evidence. Research will have impact if it can provide the evidence and the tools to help planning and decision making and to ensure prioritised and practical action is taken. It could help predict the likely presence of well-preserved archaeological remains; or provide an understanding of the level of their preservation when found; or characterise the preservation potential of the environment in which archaeological materials are buried. It may model how archaeological materials will react to changes in their burial environment over different timescales, and monitor those sites where we are less confident about what those impacts will be.