IIC reviews of conservation publications - Germany. By Sarah Fisher

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IIC’s successful initiative to review international conservation literature in languages different from English continues in this issue with a very interesting review of conservation literature from Germany submitted by Sarah Fisher.

It is not surprising that Germany, with its long, proud history of research and writing on the materials and techniques of works of art, should have four impressive journals of interest to conservators of cultural heritage and those in related disciplines. This reviewer received much of her conservation training in German-speaking countries nearly 40 years ago but since then has been immersed in American museum conservation, with little recent exposure to the developments in the German-speaking conservation realm. It has been fascinating for me while working on this review, to be reminded of the wealth, quality and international breadth of information available to conservators through these journals.

The four publications most pertinent for this review are: Beiträge zur Erhaltung von Kunst und Kulturgut (“Contributions to the Preservation of Works of Art and the Cultural Heritage”) which is the journal of the German conservators’ association, the Verband der Restauratoren (VDR); Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung (ZKK) (“Journal for Art Technology and Conservation”) which is closely connected to the graduate conservation training programs; Restauro (“Restoration”) an independent, broadly based conservation magazine; and Rundbrief Fotografie (“Photography Circular”), in which photography conservation of both analog and digital media is one of the main topics within a broad focus on the collection and care of photographs. The majority of the articles in these four publications is written in German and focuses on subjects originating in the German-speaking conservation community. However, all may have a number of articles in English or other languages from the broader European community and are often outlets for articles from Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and occasional others. They usually have English abstracts of their main articles both in their printed volumes and on their editors’ websites.

Beiträge zur Erhaltung von Kunst-und Kulturgut is a large-format, attractive publication with extensive color reproductions, appears twice a year and averages around 120 pages per volume. It covers all conservation specialties of all periods and its editing philosophy is to maintain this broad scope in each volume to best serve the interests of all its members. Subjects may include thorough reports on practical treatments, reports on academic research projects, recent association conference proceedings, the philosophy of preservation/ restoration, the history of German conservation education, or interviews with important figures in the field. The articles are peer reviewed by specialists in the appropriate areas and a rigorous editing process takes place among the authors, the editing staff and the editorial advisors, producing highly professional articles. At the end of each volume are shorter commentaries and book reviews, covering both German-language and international publications. English abstracts of all its major articles are included. The Beiträge is automatically distributed to VDR members, as well as being available for purchase in stores and online, and its abstracts are incorporated in the AATA. In addition to these printed volumes, the VDR also produces an online newsletter which appears every two months and an ongoing series of printed publications in German which are monographs on topics which were the themes of past association conservation conferences. The journal’s website address is www.restauratoren.de.

Historically, the Beiträge evolved as a consolidation of the publications of the eight individual conservators’ alliances existing in East and West Germany before the reunification in 1990. In 2001 the eight groups merged into the “Verband der Restauratoren” and created one publication to represent the output of the new association. The strong editorial direction already present in the earlier publication of “Beiträge zur Erhaltung von Kunstwerken”, published by East German conservators’ associations from 1982 to 2000, with a last copy published under the auspices of the VDR in 2002, continued for the new group’s publication which added “Kulturgut” to the title to emphasize its all-encompassing breadth of focus on the conservation of all types of cultural heritage.

The Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung is another impressively produced, high-quality journal with numerous color images, averaging 200 pages per volume. It also appears twice a year and has a strong international component, with many articles in English. It is the most academically grounded of the four publications and has as equally rigorous an editing process as the previous journal. Although it covers all conservation specialties and related fields, it focuses mainly on the research produced by the academic institutions involved in training conservators or involved in related research projects in German-speaking areas and their European Union counterparts. It may, for example, dedicate all of one volume to the theses of graduates from the training programs, or feature the complete presentations of a specific conference or meeting. For example in Volume 1 of 2012 are the complete proceedings of the 2011 conference at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, “Let Material Talk - the Technology of Late Medieval Cologne Painting in Context”, and in Volume 2 of 2008 the proceedings of the symposium at the same museum on “The Newest Research on Painting Techniques of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists”. In these two volumes, all articles are published in their original languages but, very helpful for the English reader, there are English translations of all the foreign language presentations. The website contact is www.wernersche.com.

The ZKK first appeared in 1987 and at that time was produced by the West German restorers’ group, the Deutsche Restauratoren Verband (DRV). When the consolidation of the German conservators’ groups and their publications occurred in 2001, however, this one publication maintained its independence, severing its connection with any conservators’ association. Interestingly, due to the different editorial goals and control of it and the Beiträge , there is apparently little competition between the two publications: many German-speaking conservators subscribe to both. A list of the contents of all the volumes of the ZKK printed since 1987 can be found on the publisher’s website and it is also included in the AATA abstracts.

Restauro has a different focus than the previous two publications, appearing eight times a year in a thinner (ca. 65 pages) format. As do the others, it has an attractive layout with color images but it has occasional advertisements scattered throughout. It appears to have a less formal editing process, less academically rigorous than the previous two publications and acts more as a news bulletin which also presents timely, focused articles. Its subtitle, “Forum for Restorers, Conservators and Historic Preservation Specialists”, indicates its emphasis on the lively, topical presentation of its material and discourse with its readers. Its contents are divided into shorter topics of current interest such as a useful editorial, recent news, an opinion section, an “around the town” section, a literature reviews section. The second part contains longer thematic reports on conservation issues of all kinds. Well written English abstracts are always included with these. The website provides an attractive combination of an up-to-date newsletter and access to ordering the available past volumes as well as lists of their contents back to 1996: www.restauro.de. Its abstracts are also included in the AATA.

Historically, Restauro is the oldest of the four publications. Its roots can be traced back to the journal “Technische Mitteilungen für Malerei” (Technical Reports for Painting) which first appeared in 1894 and provided practical and technical information on paint for painters, early restorers, paint chemists and for the building trade. By 1942 when its publication was taken over by its present publisher and, after a hiatus from 1944 to 1955 due to the consequences of WWII, its focus had shifted to technical studies of paint for artists and restorers. After 1955 it reappeared quarterly with the title “Maltechnik” as a supplement to the painters’ journal “Mappe”. In 1972 it again became an independent magazine, “Maltechnik-Restauro”, and eventually became Restauro, emphasizing its expansion to include all conservation specialties, not just paint and the painted surface.

The fourth journal on our list, Rundbrief Fotografie, “Photography Circular”, is the only specialty-specific publication of the four, being dedicated to covering all areas of the conservation, preservation, archiving and exhibition of all forms of photographic images, both digital and analog, in archives and collections, private and public, in German-speaking areas. It appears four times a year in black and white printed format, more modest in style than the previous three, and usually is 48 pages in length. The publishers work together with the museum associations of Baden-Württemberg, Saxony and a section of the German Association for Photography, as well as an editorial board of German and international experts, to produce the publication. It is tightly packed with interesting information ranging from reports on private collections of historic photographs, to new storage philosophies in museum photography collections, to an analysis of the camera lucida, to legal issues affecting photo collections, to new developments in the treatment of photos, just to mention a few topics. It has a strong current news component and regular sections on exhibitions and literature reviews, people in the field and notices of upcoming events. More than the previous publications, it has much material geared to the non-conservator, to the art historian, the archivist, the museum manager, the photographer: “Conservation and Restoration” is the title of only one of its sections. All of the longer articles have convenient English abstracts. This reviewer, being a painting conservator and knowing little about the world of photography conservation, archives and collections, found reading this journal a valuable introduction to the richness of German-area photograph collections and to the long history and complexity of the issues involved with caring for them. Separately from the journal, the publishers have also produced a series of special manuals on specific topics of interest to its public, with one of the seven so far published appearing in an English translation, “Fundamentals of Photograph Archiving”. The website offers, interestingly, full text access to articles dedicated to water damage and provides information about ordering back issues of the journal. Rundbrief Fotografie started in 1989 as an informal newsletter for the working group “Photography in Museums” of the Baden-Württemberg Museums Association. By 1994 the publication had evolved into its present quarterly format. Its website is www.rundbrief-fotografie.de.

In conclusion, when I first started work on this review, I couldn’t imagine how the German-speaking conservation audience could support four separate publications on the conservation of cultural materials, three of which seemed to cover exactly the same material. The results of a careful sifting through of recent volumes for this review has shown that there are significant differences among the three publications, some subtle, some pronounced, which are produced by their varying histories, editorial approaches and audiences. Each publication is useful and informative in its own way. Together, all four provide us with a richer and deeper insight into conservation in the German-speaking world than is available into conservation in any other country with which I am familiar, as well as providing important outlets for international articles.