A lot of people ask us questions about our work and the services we offer. Here are our answers to some of the common ones.
If you cannot find an answer to your question here, please contact us for further information.
1. What is conservation?
Conservation is the preservation, protection and care of our cultural heritage (you can read more at http://icon.org.uk/what-is-conservation). It enables enjoyment of our cultural heritage whilst it also keeps heritage objects safe for future generations.
Ethical rules govern conservation as practised by accredited conservators. We deal honestly and openly with you, give sound and fair advice, know the limitations of treatments we offer, carry out conservation work to the highest standards, maintain the utmost respect for objects regardless of their value, aim at minimal intervention and as far as possible keep our treatments reversible. Prevention of damage and deterioration in the first place is of utmost importance.
Conservation covers aspects such as investigation, documentation, preventive care, remedial treatment and, in some cases, restoration, packaging for access, storage and transport, and mounting for display.
2. What is an accredited conservator, abbreviated as ‘ACR’?
The Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers (PACR) is a professional qualification, administered by The Institute of Conservation (Icon). An accredited conservator is responsible for their continuing professional development to keep abreast with developments in their field in order to remain at the top of their profession. Our practice as accredited conservators demonstrates the high degree of competence, sound judgement and an in-depth knowledge of the principles that underpin conservation practice. A short video made by The Anna Plowden Trust about our continuing professional development can be seen here.
3. What is the difference between conservation and restoration?
Conservation is the preservation, protection and care of our cultural heritage. It aims at reducing causes of damage to objects and preserving them in their present form.
Restoration returns objects to their previous form completely or, in some cases, it can involve reconstruction. For objects that will still be actively used for their original purpose, restoration may be a better option than conservation.
4. Can you conserve an object even if it is falling apart?
Yes, in most cases we can. Whilst a badly deteriorated or damaged object can be a tricky challenge to treat, in most cases we can develop a treatment or at least a protective measure to ensure its long-term preservation. We have a positive attitude to our work and thrive on challenges! It is worthwhile asking us if we can treat objects that you may think are beyond rescue before you decide to discard them.
5. How can my objects benefit from conservation?
In the big picture, conservation of our cultural heritage, i.e. the objects we as a society want to preserve, contributes to education, the advancement of knowledge, tourism and the economy. Conservation ensures that our shared heritage is cared for and protected for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public today and for generations to come.
Although most materials are in a constant slow process of deterioration, often objects have deteriorated at an unnecessarily fast rate for reasons that the owner of the objects has been unable to appreciate. In discussion about the objects’ past with you, conservation can help you bring about many benefits to your objects.
Conservation assessment and treatment can highlight why your objects have become damaged and what has made them deteriorate. This can be due to the objects’ display and storage environment, methods and materials or handling. With advice based on our thorough training and extensive experience about how materials deteriorate and become damaged, you can avoid their future damage.
Conservation can improve your objects’ appearance in many ways. This can be of the essence when you want to display them. However, sometimes visual improvements may be barely obvious but the conservation undertaken has increased the long-term preservation of your objects, for example by providing them with display or storage materials that will not cause the objects’ further chemical deterioration.
Conservation can support your objects so that they will be able withstand display, storage and handling without further physical damage.
6. How do you decide how to treat an object?
We assess the needs of every object on its individual characteristics. We start with a discussion about the history of your object, the conditions in which it has been kept and what your plans for its future are. We may decide, for example, that the aim of a treatment is to make the object safe to handle, presentable for display, to study or interpret the object or to stabilise it for storage. We then assess its condition along with the causes for its damage and deterioration. That combined with our ethical guidelines and years of accumulated experience allows us to form a treatment proposal.
7. How much does conservation cost?
Conservation is a concept that covers a range of activities. How much it costs depends on what you ask us to do, how long it will take, how much the materials and other costs are, what the size and condition of the object/s is, how many of them there are and where they are. Quite a number of variables! Our charges are then based on either an hourly or a daily rate.
A small object in relatively good good condition takes much less time to treat than a large one which has deteriorated or been damaged.
For small and relatively simple treatments, we aim to give you a quick ball-park estimate. We will then confirm this in a brief written treatment proposal and estimate. For larger and more complex objects or projects, we may take a little more time to present you with an estimate. In every case we will give you a written proposal that describes the proposed work and its cost. We need your written confirmation or a purchase order number before we proceed with the work.
8. Can you give me an estimate for how much it would cost to treat my objects if I e-mailed a photograph of them to you?
That may well be possible with some items where the conservation issues are clear or we have a great deal of experience with similar items. If you are a long way from the Studio, then sending us photos of your object is definitely a good first step so that we can see if we can assist. However, whilst photographs may give us an initial indication about the condition of an object, normally we need to see the object in front of us before being able to give you an estimate for the cost of treatment. We need to assess every aspect of the object and its condition, test materials and colours and discuss your plans for it. This can best be done face to face with you and the object.
9. Are your estimates free?
We may be able to provide an immediate estimate on a simple object or a small group of objects at no cost. However, to give you a conservation treatment estimate and proposal always includes a detailed assessment of the condition of the object, what has caused its damage, consideration of what you want to do with the object and what we can ethically and safely offer you. Depending on the object, its condition and other relevant circumstances, to give you an estimate can take a lot of time - usually we cannot do it quickly at the back of an envelope. If the provision of an estimate is due to be time-consuming, we will let you know what the cost is before any funds are committed.
To give you a conservation estimate and proposal we write a brief assessment report that describes the condition of your object, what we propose to do with it and what the estimated costs of treatment will be. Following from above, to diagnose the problems of complex, large, damaged, badly deteriorated objects, to plan their treatments and costs, and to put this information into a written proposal can take from several hours to several days.
Our aim as professionals is to provide an accurate report and costing at a reasonable price. Work on an object will not start until we have received from you a written confirmation of acceptance of the estimate.
10. Do I need to bring my objects to the studio or can you pick them up?
We would prefer you to bring objects to us at the Studio. That way you can see our facilities, see examples of materials etc that may be used in treating your objects, and discuss and see other projects that we are involved with. However, if it is difficult for you to get to the Studio, we can come and collect objects from where you are but usually we charge you for our time and mileage for doing so.
We can work in situ on objects that are too large or fragile or which cannot be moved for some reason. Again, we charge for our time and other related expenses for on-site work.
11. How long does it take to get my objects treated?
This depends on a number of factors such as your deadline, and our work programmes and waiting lists that at times can be several weeks or months long. Sometimes we are able to progress a small treatment faster than the more time-consuming ones. In principle, it is best if you are able to give us as much lead-in time for a project as possible but we are happy to accommodate any requests as far as we can.
12. Do you insure my objects while they are in your studio?
No, not normally. The Studio is secure, and we have never had an accident that has affected a client’s objects. We carry professional indemnity insurance to cover our actions with your objects as a matter of good practice, but we ask you to arrange, or ensure the continuation of, insurance cover through your own insurance so that your objects remain fully protected against risks such as fire or theft that may affect them while they are in our care. We can provide a copy of our insurance policy if you request it. Where objects of particularly high value are entrusted to the Studio, we can via our insurance broker arrange additional cover, but we will have to charge for this.
13. Do you work on site?
Yes, when needed. This could be for a conservation estimate or a survey of a collection, or for conservation work on items too large to bring to the Studio, or items that are fixed in place and cannot easily be removed, or items of very high value that cannot leave their premises for insurance reasons. The costs of travel and working on site are charged at the Studio's usual rates.
14. Do I need to make an appointment to come and visit you?
Yes. At times we work away from the studio, so to save yourself a possible wasted journey it is best to agree a day and time for your visit in advance.
Additionally, Hopetoun House closes to the public during the winter season, except for events, and you may need an access code for the gate on the drive up to the House.
We look forward to hearing from you by phone at 0131 331 5875 or by e-mail.