I couldn’t help but take this shot when I was in Chicago the other day as I loved the architectural detail & how it stood out from the other buildings. While some work was definitely going on inside which involved a large dumpster (renovation), some work was going on outside which left the copper patina showing (top area) as they removed the associated black soot (lower area) which brings us to todays piece, is that work considered conservation or restoration? (I got to say the picture doesn’t really do this place justice & while some areas look like they maybe stone, most of it looked like copper to me – unfortunately I couldn’t get any closer to see it better)
Conservation or Restoration?
Now-a-days, many use these two words almost interchangeably so that they are seemingly almost indistinguishable. With that when doing work on historic homes (& as it relates to many other fields,) the words have some very subtle but very distinct differences. To use the ever popular “Clif Notes” version…
- Conservation – preserve against further deterioration
- Restoration – restore the original appearance and functionality
As you may guess there is generally more to it than that; a conservator is generally focused on examining an item, looks at all options to preserve it, preserving it, & documenting everything. For one interested in restoration, while they may do similar steps their primary focus is on how to restore it so it works & looks as close to the original as they can deduce. One area to be careful with is just how does one plan to restore an item as some companies will do a wholesale replacement of the piece based off molds which maybe or might not be what you are looking for. One example of this is stone lintel might be replaced from one made of concrete or an exterior wood ornament is replaced by one made of PVC or foam.
One other term that occasionally pops up is preservationist – for example my good friend John Poole @ Birmingham Point calls himself a preservationist. Instead of “preserving an item” like a conservator would do, his & many others focus is on saving older historic homes from demolition & if at all possible cataloging the details found in them.
In essence, make sure you know what you need fully and will accept & don’t just assume that because a company or individual calls themselves a conservator, or restoration specialist that is what you are looking for. As for the question above – I would lean more towards the cleaning work as conservation as they are not trying to return the item to its original shiny state but interested in keeping the look & patina that the years have bestowed upon it. If you do look closely at the picture though you can see some examples of restoration work that has happened as you have some nice new shiny copper flashings that have been added – as for when that was done I couldn’t begin to guess except for to say it was pretty recent. Agree, disagree, or do you have something to add, please feel free to let us know in the comments below…
Todays vocabulary versus…
One of the interesting facets is seeing how quickly our vocabulary is shrinking… ok or maybe I just needed a laugh – trust me it’s good