CONSERVATION OF THE COLLECTIONS IN HISTORIC HOUSES
Europe has several thousand royal residences. Hundreds of them are open to the public and present their collections in their original décors in order to ensure their history to as many people as possible.
These collections on display, composed by furniture, works of art, paintings, sculptures and textiles, are subject to specific conditions of conservation and risks related to the particularity of their presentation and the specificity of the historic building that housing the collection. Indeed, the collections are displayed depending of their use, therefore they escape to any thematic ordering that would be accompanied by museum equipment designed for the good conservation of the collections. The architectural envelope is itself a work of art, it is difficult to modify it and usually it cannot be adapted to modern preventive conservation strategies.
This privileged link between collections and buildings provides us information on the particular relationship established between the alterations of the material and the surrounding conditions of conservation that would potentially cause them.
Created in 2015 as a partnership between major Royal residences open to the public, the EPICO programme gathered a team of specialists in preventive conservation, art historians, registrars and scientists to help collection managers to prioritize preventive conservation actions and quantify the resources required.
The Palace of Versailles provides the EPICO method and simple preventive conservation tools dedicated to historic houses:
- a multidisciplinary team specialized in the assessment of the conditions of conservation and the state of conservation of the collections
- tools and manuals of the EPICO method
- implementation of international training or specialized services
5 European Royal residences in France, Italy and Poland, have already benefited from EPICO’s expertise
The research activity for our 2023-2025 programme will have to tackle new energy efficiency and sustainable development challenges. Mutual interactions between collection conservation and the environment have been at the core of the research programme from the outset. The results expected of the great technical systems renewal work at the Chateau de Versailles, as well as a convergence of interest from European governments and the Network’s member institutions in the effects of climate change on cultural heritage have led us to develop concrete responses to this problem. from :
New assessments and exchanges will occur within the new programme’s palace-museum partners to disseminate the EPICO method in Europe and identify actions needed to mitigate the impact of climate change and reduce energy use and CO2 emissions in historic houses.
We will explore these topics over four study days, in 2023 and 2025, bringing together the scientific committee for the programme, so as to
- Compare major alteration causes within European palace museums which have benefited from an EPICO-method assessment since 2015,
- Assess the impact of climate among these alteration causes,
- Share new conservation strategies integrating traditional housekeeping methods and new technologies
We will also consider new digital and multi-scale multimodal instrumental tools, aiming to consolidate, ensure interoperability, and disseminate information already produced using the EPICO method for conservation in European palace museums, thus helping to establish EPICO as an authority in the field of preventive conservation. Transferring technology to a digital platform will enable increased increase access to the method and the inclusion of information from different research levels – micro and macro (climate, light, pollutants…), essential to optimised preventive conservation.
APPLICATIONS AND RESULTS
THE EPICO METHOD
The objective of the EPICO programme was to develop an assessment method adapted to the collections and specific risks of historic houses.
Sustainable management based on preventive conservation requires precise knowledge of the conditions and state of conservation of the collections. This method is designed to be applied to all historic houses, regardless of their size and the number of collections that they contain.
Using simple tools (paper or Excel depending on the size of the institution, or even integration into a database), the EPICO method aims to provide a global view of the state of conservation of the collections and also the conditions of conservation, in order to identify the different causes of alterations, prioritize actions in term of preventive conservation and limit restoration interventions, with obvious positive effects in terms of economic management of resources.
Already 12 European institutions involved : Palace of Versailles, France ; Palace of Versailles Research Centre, France ; Network of European Royal Residences ; “La Venaria Reale” Centre of Conservation and Restoration, Italy ; Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów, Poland ; University of Paris I – Sorbonne, France ; The Palace of Maintenon, France ; The Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua, Portugal ; Sanssouci Palace, The Prussian Palaces and Gardens of Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany ; The Château de Chantilly, France ; The Neues Palace, The Prussian Palaces and Gardens of Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany ; The Prince’s Palace of Monaco, France.
If you would like to apply the EPICO method to your historic house /royal residence, or if you would like some preventive conservation advices, please contact the EPICO team :
Danilo Forleo, Head of the programme