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New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NACCA (New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2019-05-31

The aim of the NACCA Marie Curie Innovative Training Network is to educate a new generation of professional curators, conservators and academic researchers who are properly equipped to face the challenges of preserving modern and contemporary art for future generations. Due to its conceptual and ephemeral nature, modern and contemporary art is difficult to preserve and therefore runs a great risk of getting lost for future generations. Proper care requires resolving fundamental questions concerning the identity and authenticity of such artworks, rethinking historically grown professional distinctions as those between the curator and the conservator, re-organizing the institutional ecosystem, and establishing frameworks for interdisciplinary collaboration. 15 Early Stage Researchers have investigated conservation practices through the comparative analysis of their impact on modern and contemporary artworks’ biographies. They have followed a training programme focused on the development of a reflective professional attitude and skills aimed to enhance ESRs’ employability.
Fifteen research projects have been started, clustered along four research lines:

1: Identity, Authentity and Values
2: Materials, Media and Technologies
3: Presentation, Documentation and Reception
4: Professions and Institutions.

Results scientific research:
All 15 ESRs have progressed with their research to a point that they have submitted their dissertation manuscripts or are expected to do so within a year from the project's end date; two have received their PhD degrees. All ESRs have published or submitted at least one peer-reviewed, open access publication each. Those ESRs who completed a secondment have submitted an internship report with policy recommendations to their respective secondment institutions. ESRs have given presentations about their research to a wider audience at Winterschool 1 at Tate (2017) and at two international conferences in Cologne (2018) and Maastricht (2019).

A proposal for a collected volume with the title 'Bridging the Gap. Theory and Practice in the Conservation of Contemporary Art' has been submitted to the editorial board of the prospective series Arts and Heritage, Law and the Market (Springer)The volume consists of a selection of the papers of the 2019 Maastricht conference and investigates whether and how theoretical findings and insights can be translated into the daily work practices of conservators in the field – or, vice versa, whether and how the problems and dilemmas encountered in conservation practice find their way into broader research questions and projects. The manuscript will be submitted in June 2020. In addition to the collected volume, a special issue of the journal ArtMatters is in preparation, collecting the proceedings of the international conferences of Glasgow (2017) en Cologne (2018).

Results training programme:
The main NACCA training events were the six Summer and Winter Schools, which all have been organised as planned and, with a few occasional exceptions, were attended by all ESRs and supervisors. Two of the training events were accompanied by international conferences; a third, final conference was held to conclude the project and present the results of the ESRs research to a wide public of professional experts.
1. Winter School 1: General research methods & skills; Lecture/workshop career planning. Maastricht University (25-29 January 2016)
2. Summer School 1: Specific research methods & skills. University of Amsterdam (11-15 July 2016)
3. Winter School 2: Professional skills for museums & heritage sector. Tate (16-20 January 2017)
4. Summer School 2: Work in progress seminars; International conference with external experts. University of Glasgow (26-30 June 2017)
5. Winter School 3: Work in progress seminars; Workshop entrepreneurship for museums; Workshop grant writing. University of Porto (15-19 January 2018)
6. Summer School 3: Work in progress seminars; International conference with external experts. Cologne University of Applied Sciences (25-29 June 2018)
7. Final Conference: International conference with external experts. Maastricht University (24-27 March 2019).
The NACCA research programme builds on the results of previous projects and networks on the conservation of contemporary art such as INCCA, in which most NACCA supervisors are or have been involved as well. The new dimension of the NACCA programme is that the practice-oriented and case-based approach of previous research is enriched with the theoretical framework of practice theory, allowing for a systematic exploration for conservation practices. In return, the rich case studies contribute to the development of practice theory, both methodologically and in terms of newly explored fields.

A project website ( has been set up and used to publish ongoing updates on results, new initiatives, collaborations, workshop/training experiences. The results of the research of the ESRs that can be publicly shared have been integrated in the INCCA website, so that it becomes available for the field of contemporary art conservation. A proposal for improvement of the INCCA database has been drafted and communicated to the INCCA coordinator and to INCCA database's host RCE. Due to lack of available funding, the recommendations have not yet been implemented. Based on the experience gained with the Summer and Winter Schools, the supervisors responsible for those training events have developed an integrated research and training scheme for future professionals, which has been made available on the INCCA website.

NACCA ESRs have furthermore created impact by participating in various conferences of the professional conservation world, such as: the annual meetings of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), the International Institute for Conservation (IIC), the International Council of Museums Committee for Museology (ICOFOM), Transformation Digital Art (LIMA) and a wide array of other specialised conferences and workshops. Several ESRs have contributed to the VoCA Blog (Voices of Contemporary Art) ( Important events were: the Cologne workshop Revisiting the Decision-Making Model for Contemporary Art Conservation (29 June 2018), in which all ESRs contributed to the revision of the decision-making model developed by the SBMK in 1999; and the collective presentation of the NACCA ESRs to an audience of conservation professionals at the international SBMK conference Acting in Contemporary Conservation (Amersfoort/Amsterdam 15-16 November 2018). Participation of 2 ESRs and the PC in the launch of YERUN (Young European Research Universities, 7 November 2017) at the EU Parliament presented NACCA to an auspicious external audience. ESRs have been lecturing at conservation training programs and art-history courses, they have been interviewed for art-journals and given presentations in museums and art colleges.