Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler-Saub Publishes New Document on Conservation Ethics

Publishing Date: 19.10.2021

Digitization has changed the work surrounding the preservation of cultural heritage. In order to ensure that scientific standards are maintained in the future, conservators, monument conservators, and curators of collections need to play an active role in shaping the digital transformation. However, in addition to specialist technical know-how, this requires general theoretical principles that the tried-and-tested documents on theory and ethics of conservation-restoration have not yet been able to formulate.

Now, under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Dipl. Rest. Ursula Schädler-Saub of the Faculty of Architecture, Engineering and Conservation, such a paper — entitled "Hildesheim Guidelines for the Use of Digital Technology in the Conservation-Restoration and Presentation of Fragments" — has been compiled for the first time at the HAWK and published online by the Hornemann Institute, doi:10.5165/hawk/485. The guidelines can be found in German and English on the Hornemann Institute's web portal and on the conference website.



The guidelines are focused on fragments because, according to the first sentence of the new document, "Nearly all surviving works of art have become fragments in the course of their history in various ways and with differing consequences." Concise formulations are intended to offer a generally binding guide for professionals in their work and an orientation for students so that the digital can be put to good use in the preservation and presentation of fragments. After an introductory paragraph on basic aspects of the topic, the possibilities and opportunities but also the limitations of digital reconstruction are summarized. Finally, desiderata are formulated for the digital in restoration, the importance of which will steadily increase in the coming years.

Possibilities for Participation in Development

The path to this concisely and clearly formulated position paper was not an easy one, as the aim was to gather as many opinions as possible from the specialist disciplines and generations involved and to unite them in a text that was suitable for practical use. "In today's world, such policy papers should be developed in a way that is as participatory and international as possible," was the conviction of Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler-Saub and Dr. Angela Weyer, director of the Hornemann Institute and a fellow supporter in this endeavor.

An important basis for the paper were the contributions to the international conference organized by both experts, "The Fragment in the Digital Age – Opportunities and Limitations of New Conservation-Restoration Techniques," which, after several Corona-related postponements, took place online in May 2021 with around 600 participants from 27 countries. The guidelines are therefore being published in the name of all three cooperation partners of the conference: the HAWK (with the Hornemann Institute), ICOMOS German National Scientific Committee on Conservation-Restoration, and Verband der Restauratoren VDR.

The discussion at the conference showed the wide range of possibilities in the use of digital techniques in the restoration of art and cultural property, but also many uncertainties, from basic considerations to practical application. Many colleagues and students emphasized their great interest in further education and training in this field.
In the course of the conference, Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler-Saub, together with Dr. Max Rahrig (then University of Bamberg, Competence Center for Monument Sciences and Technologies), the conservator Prof. Dr. Jan Raue (FH Potsdam), the media scholar Prof. Dr. Stefan Schwingeler (HAWK), and the art historian and monument conservator Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wolters (formerly TU Berlin), developed a first document that was presented to the conference participants for feedback and elicited many important comments. Subsequently, they presented it to the international expert community.

The present guidelines, formulated by Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler-Saub, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wolters and Dr. Angela Weyer, take the collected comments into account. "We very much hope that our paper will fill the existing gap, because the previous ethical principles do not sufficiently address digital techniques in dealing with the fragment," says editor Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler Saub. The comments that went beyond the basic principles, and therefore were not included in the paper, are also published on the conference website.

Correct Citation:

Hildesheim Guidelines for the Use of Digital Technology in the Conservation-Restoration and Presentation of Fragments, compiled by Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler-Saub, including contributions from colleagues in the context of the preparation and implementation of the international conference of the HAWK in Hildesheim (Faculty of Architecture, Engineering and Conservation, and the Hornemann Institute) in cooperation with the ICOMOS AG Conservation-Restoration and the Verband der Restauratoren e. V. (VDR) "The Fragment in the Digital Age – Opportunities and Limitations of New Conservation-Restoration Techniques" at the HAWK University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim, 7–8 May 2021, doi:10.5165/hawk/485


Profilbild Ursula Schädler-Saub
Grundsätze und Methoden der Restaurierung und der Denkmalpflege, Leitung des DFG-Forschungsprojektes Hyperspektrale Untersuchungsmethoden und die Entwicklung einer digitalen Toolbox für die Erforschung und Vermittlung fragmentarischer Wandmalerei


A. Weyer
Director of the Hornemann Institute
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