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Conservation Theory for Enhanced Craft Practice

Chapter in book
Authors Gunnar Almevik
Karl-Magnus Melin
Published in Structural Analysis of Historical Constructions – Anamnesis, diagnosis, therapy, controls. Van Balen & Verstrynge (eds.)
ISBN 978-1-138-02951-4
Publisher Taylor & Francis Group
Place of publication London
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords Crafts, Craftsmanship, Conservation Theory, Restoration of Historic Buildings, Reconstruction, Methodology
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Technology and culture, Architectural conservation and restoration


To improve conservation practice, heritage conservation as a professional field needs to gain a better understanding of how different forms of expertise and skill coalesce in their material interventions in heritage objects (Jones & Jarrow 2014). Among the actors involved in conservation, the craftsman is the one who spends most time on site, close to the source material, and whose innumerable decisions have the greatest impact on the final result (Almevik 2016). Nevertheless, the craftsman is often reduced to a means of production, and is thus detached from the historical inquiry, the design and the structural analysis. This inconsistency is poorly explored in previous research. Taking off from a case of heritage conservation of a medieval corner-timbered tithe barn, this paper explores what an enhancement of craftsmanship in the conservation process implicates in terms of conservation theory. The questions for this paper are: How may craftsmanship be enhanced in the conservation process? What does augmented involvement of craftsmen implicates in terms of conservation theory? Furthermore, arguing that contemporary heritage conservation has to take on a community-based approach to support local heritage values: How may craftsmanship be used in participatory and community-based methods? The research questions have been investigated through the conservation of a 13th century corner-timbered tithe barn in Ingatorp, Sweden. Until recently the barn was an anonymous building used for storage of equipment. A dendrochronological analysis dated the building to 1229±10 years. This makes the tithe barn the second oldest preserved wooden building in Sweden. The research method is practice-led and experiential, using the restoration prac-tice as an arena for inquiry and the methods of practice as methods of inquiry (Almevik & Melin 2015). Concepts and perspectives are influenced by semiotic pragmatism and environmental dynamics and focused on contemporary theory of conservation (Sully 2015, Silberman 2015). The research reveals how the craftsmen’s perception contribute to the forensic building investigation to outline of a buildings history and to obtain a thorough understanding of the structural behaviour of the built cultural heritage. The conclusion underpinned by theoretical inquiry and experimentation in this case is that it is possible to enhance craft practice in all steps of the conservation process, and that doing so is productive in regard of aesthetic, historic, scientific and social heritage values.

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