The importance of archaeological conservation

Archaeological conservation is a specialization in the broader field of conservation and is characterized by its concern with archaeology as a discipline. The work involved in archaeological conservation is most often conducted by a conservator but certain conservation measures may be carried out by others, from the archaeologist who plans and conducts an excavation to the registrar who receives a new archaeological collection.

The Canadian Association for Conservation (CAC) gives the following definition of “conservation”:

Conservation: “All actions aimed at the safeguarding of cultural property for the future. The purpose of conservation is to study, record, retain and restore the culturally significant qualities of the cultural property as embodied in its physical and chemical nature, with the least possible intervention. Conservation includes the following: examination, documentation, preventive conservation, preservation, treatment, restoration and reconstruction.” (ACCR/CAC, 2000)

The same organization provides this definition for “restoration”:

Restoration: “All actions taken to modify the existing materials and structure of a cultural property to represent a known earlier state. The aim of restoration is to reveal the culturally significant qualities of a cultural property. Restoration is based on respect for the remaining original material and clear evidence of the earlier state.” (ACCR/CAC, 2000)

These two words, “conservation” and “restoration,” thus have distinct but related meanings. Both concepts are related to issues surrounding archaeology, in particular the study, preservation and presentation of collections resulting from archaeological projects, as well as the long-term preservation of structural remains discovered on a site.


André Bergeron, Blandine Daux, Jean Dendy, Ariane Lalande, Kateri Morin et France Rémillard, conservators, atelier archéologie et ethnologie, Centre de conservation du Québec.

For more information on the work of the conservator, view the video: 

André Bergeron : Restaurateur spécialisé en archéologie