PRIOR REPAIRS: WHEN SHOULD THEY BE PRESERVED?
JEAN D. PORTELL
2 PAST PRACTICE
A limited bibliographic search for relevant publications and a query posted to colleagues via the Internet yielded no general protocol for deciding when old repairs should be retained. Owners and the conservators they consult are frequently faced with making such decisions, and some have evolved protocols for how to deal consistently with recurring situations in their own collections. An example of this situation can be found in an article (Podany 1995) concerning the conservation of ancient marble sculptures owned by the Getty Museum. But evidently no one has proposed developing broad general guidelines for how to deal with prior repairs.
Articles about the conservation of specific previously treated objects tend to stress the importance of two things: stability and aesthetics. Does the prior intervention make the object unstable? Is the appearance after repair aesthetically acceptable? If an old treatment has not caused new risk or damage to the object, and if it is pleasing to the eye, it will likely be retained. Sometimes a third factor is mentioned: economy. What is the additional cost to replace an old repair? The cost of re-treatment can be a reason not to reverse a stable repair, even when it looks less than perfect. This article explores other considerations besides those three.