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Seminars preventive conservation and monitoring of the architectural heritage

Final Report Summary - SPRECOMAH (Seminars preventive conservation and monitoring of the architectural heritage)

The project SPRECOMAH aimed at organising two seminars on preventive conservation and monitoring of the architectural heritage. The seminars aimed at:
- sharing and analysing - amongst professionals, post-graduate students and researchers from all over Europe and Mediterranean countries - the good practices based on many years of professional experience with preventive conservation developed by Monumentenwacht in Belgium (Flanders) and the Netherlands;
- sharing research results that address issues of which preventive conservation strategies can benefit; including research results from EC-funded and other research projects which contribute to the development of tools (examples: damage atlas, masonry damage diagnostic system, RECORDIM initiative);
- identifying research strategies at the European level through gathering of researchers, practitioners and professionals that will promote preventive conservation and that will strengthen preventive conservation oriented organisations to improve the effectiveness of their work;
- generating and publishing (on internet and in publications) lasting reference materials for researchers, for professionals and authorities on preventive architectural conservation based on the outcome of the seminars.

Each of the 2 seminars organised brought together about 50 participants, for 20 of them a grant were available. The outcomes can be summarized as follows:
- Exchange information and disseminate results of Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) and Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) projects in cultural heritage research relevant to preventive conservation and monitoring for architectural heritage in a first seminar in June 2007 in Leuven (Belgium) and a second seminar organised in May 2008 in Fontevraud Abbey (Val de Loire, France).
- Development of common insights among researchers, professionals and students on research needs and priorities of development of understanding and instruments for monitoring, documentation, identification of changes in preservation and maintenance oriented interventions.
- Development of first draft for guidelines for further research promoting preventive conservation and monitoring.
- At worldwide level, the SPRECOMAH project has accelerated the creation of an international network on these issues in relation with the Unesco Chair that was awarded to the institute of the coordinator in collaboration with Monumentenwacht Vlaanderen and Raymond Lemaire International Centre.

The two SPRECOMAH seminars invited academics and practitioners of architecture, archaeology, structural engineering, chemical engineering, anthropology and heritage management to consider the role of preventive conservation activities in the care of immoveable cultural property.

Based on the seminar findings, development and implementation of preventive conservation can only be enhanced if the suggestions below are followed:
1. Preventive conservation must be deemed a priority and implemented in integrated policies for cultural and economic development (e.g. progressive cultural districts).
2. The preventive conservation approach must be promoted through policies and legislation that provide an economic framework for it (i.e. in Flanders grants for maintenance of heritage are assigned according to reports prepared by Monumentenwacht).
3. Heritage researchers and professionals should be supported in the development of tools for decision makers, so that preventive conservation strategies can be applied to appropriately to specific contexts.
4. Decision makers and heritage building professionals should involve stakeholders through a bottom-up process.
5. The decision makers, heritage building professionals, and stakeholders should establish a long term approach to preventive conservation that should be frequently revisited and revised to adapt to changing contexts.
6. Public-private partnership should be included in driving policy and implementation, maintenance plans should become mandatory, especially for the follow-up of restoration (e.g. in recent law in Italy on mandatory maintenance plans after restoration). Adequate courses in under- and post-graduate studies should be introduced in order to familiarise researchers and practitioners with 'preventive conservation'.