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Restoration Criteria


Items for discussion on the criteria for restoration of antique scientific instruments (hereafter ASS)

It was written on the walls of Constantinople after a long restoration, carefully designed and also much criticized, performed in the years 1970-1990.

"The recovery of the past as a faithful restoration is a civil alternative to all forms of counterfeiting, tampering and invention. And  it is a problem of the whole community of scholars, old and new generations. "


Before starting any type of restoration on an ASS, its owner must present to the local office of the "Soprintendenza dei Beni Storici, Artistici e Demoantropologici" responsible for the subject matter and territory, a detailed design of the restoration complete with all the historical documentation available: manufacturer, year construction, construction site and the name of the chosen entity to perform the work. So before starting any operation, it is necessary to wait until the authorization is issued.

The transport from the original place to the laboratory of restoration must be made with suitable equipment, air-conditioned and equipped with special suspension.

The staff responsible for such transportation must be adequately trained and competent in the field of special transports.

The restoration laboratory of ASS must meet all new standards of hygiene and safety in the workplace, with systems of ventilation, hoods, air-conditioned, lit by controlled artificial light, avoiding prolonged exposure to sunlight, safe, with armored doors and windows and alarms and a security service continued throughout the 24h.

The ASS at the laboratory must be neatly stored in dustproof  containers (cabinets), while waiting the completion of the preparation procedures for the restoration.

After the restoration, completed the photographic survey and written the final restoration card, the ASS can be be re-placed, carefully, in its packaging waiting to be transported and delivered to the owner institution.

1) The characteristics of the restorer

The field of scientific instrumentation is very broad, it encompasses all disciplines of science and technology. So the restorer of an ASS must have good knowledge on the principles of operation, with all the instrumentation that was used by our predecessors, in times far removed. The types of ASS range from astronomy to hydraulics, acoustics, electricity, geodesy, geology, mechanics, magnetism, medicine, meteorology, mineralogy, marine, watchmaking, optics, seismology, heat, etc. ...

The good ASS restorer basically has a particular interest in the history of science and technology but also great: passion, curiosity, dedication, patience, commitment, willingness to be constantly updated and a lot of memory.

When you embark on a restoration job, especially if it concerns an ASS, you need to know:

a - historical and cultural context of the period in which the instrument was built;

b - design methods, techniques and types of construction;

c - processes;

d - raw materials, equipment and support materials;

and - functions and capabilities of the instrument and its parts;

f - conditions of use in the past;

g - any changes, additions, losses suffered over the years.

This knowledge is the result of study, research in the archives and the Internet to find news of the object, identify its manufacturer, place and year of manufacture. And  it is necessary to understand the need to visit museums, attend congresses, perform comparisons with other similar initiatives carried out both in Italy or abroad. The conservator must have an adequate library and know the sites where there are specialized bibliographical sources. The necessary technical and cultural skills  must be accompanied by a profound work ethic. Return to live a ASS means to recover its authenticity, without alteration, without any end in itself, without any change if not declared and justified.

For these reasons, ARASS-Brera does not accept items from private clients.

2) The preparation work and study activities

To perform a restoration that meets the scientific criteria is essential to follow, in our experience, the following work plan:

Prerequisite to any operation or restoration project is the study of the instrument, the search for all historical information related to the item, especially if you do not know the origin, the manufacturer or date of construction. In these cases, the bibliographic and archival research of similar types of instrumental, structural and functional methods of the time becomes critical. Equally important are cultural exchanges with scholars in the field.

Subsequently, the ASS must be thoroughly cleaned of all accumulations of powdery materials, the scale, rust, etc. ... and carefully examined in its entirety, photographed and then disassembled. These operations require considerable expertise and professionalism, in particular to choose the most appropriate tools in order not to cause further damage. Each piece must then be identified and marked with its card. Then follows the verification of all the mechanical movements to establish the extent of wear in order to decide whether the restoration should be functional or conservative.