IIC review of conservation publications – Spain by Salvador Muñoz-Viñas

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In this issue of NiC we continue exploring the world of conservation-related publication available in different countries and languages. This review, contributed by Salvador Muñoz-Viñas, focuses on Spain, presenting an interesting and in-depth analysis of the country’s publication, their history and a commentary on their content.

Very often, professional organisations are the driving forces behind very interesting and valuable periodicals in the field of conservation, News in Conservation being a good case in point.
In Spain there do exist professional associations that are slowly gaining relevance among conservators. However, they are not as strong as some of their counterparts in other European countries. As a consequence, many of the conservation journals published in Spain come from a different environment, namely conservation-training centres.
A quick perusal of the conservation periodicals published in Spain in the last few years would include Pátina (published by the Madrid Conservation School), Unicum Journal of the College of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property in Catalonia (published by the Catalonian Conservation School), Restauración&Rehabilitación and Arché (published by the Institute for Heritage Conservation of the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia), Labris (published by the Galician Conservation School) and Kausis (published by the Aragonese Conservation School). All of these periodicals share some features.
Firstly, there is an unavoidable tendency to emphasize the institution’s own research or conservation achievements. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the content may be of varied quality –a feature which is actually not uncommon in nearly every conservation publication this author can think of. Secondly, most of these periodicals have a short history, as most of them first started being published in the 21st century. Furthermore, some of them had a very short lifespan, and are no longer being published, Kausis and Labris being two examples of this.
A paramount exception to this last rule is Pátina, whose first issue was published back in 1986. Pátina is published annually, though at the beginning there were some gap-years. It is a nicely made magazine, printed on high-quality paper, with plenty of colour illustrations and a beautiful design. The Madrid Conservation School makes a commendable effort to publish the magazine, and the quality of its content has steadily improved since its early issues. It accepts submissions from outside authors, which widens its impact and scope. The magazine deals with any aspect of conservation, including special treatment reports, material research, technical art history, and theoretical reflections.
For a conservator in his early fifties, as is the case for the author of this paper, sifting through the issues of Pátina is a pleasant endeavour, as the reader can very clearly experience first-hand the history of conservation in Spain. And an experience it is, not an academic account aspiring to objectivity: the evolution of the profession can be very intuitively felt through not only the material quality of the publication (the paper, the design, the illustrations), but also the topics and approach to its content. Interestingly enough, the fast evolution of conservation in Spain may be turning some of its not-so-old issues into pieces of heritage themselves. I am not sure all readers will consider this feature a valuable one, but in the Spanish scene, where conservation has experienced such a quick rise over the last three decades, it probably is worth mentioning as a unique value to Pátina.
Unicum is another example of a valuable journal published by a conservation-training institution, in this case the Catalonian Conservation School. It is published in Catalan and Spanish, and has a lot in common with Pátina: it deals with a wide range of topics, accepts contributions from authors outside the School itself, and is lavishly published. Unlike Pátina, however, all of its content, from its first issue (published in 2001) onwards, can be accessed online, which is indeed an important bonus (for those interested, the content is stored on Dialnet, a Spanish academic repository that can be accessed after a simple registration process: well worth it, and not just for Unicum).
The Madrid and Barcelona Conservation Schools are a part of the European Higher Education Area, but they are autonomous institutions, and not part of a university. This does have some advantages, but it also means that they lack the research infrastructure common at most universities. This includes a number of scientific tools, labs and know-how. Conservation schools such as those of Madrid or Barcelona can and do use these tools by contacting universities or research centres willing to co-operate, but for conservation departments within universities accessing these same tools, and those who know how to best use them, it is much easier. As a (not necessarily negative) consequence, research at the conservation schools, and more importantly for our purposes now, published research from the schools, more or less subtly leans towards the practical side of conservation practice. Also, their magazines do not shy away from non-material aspects of conservation practice such as legal controversies, the professional status of the discipline or even its more philosophical side. This trend can be more easily spotted when the content of these publications is compared to that of the magazines published from conservation units within universities, such as Arché.
Arché’s complete title is Arché. Publicación del Instituto Universitario de Restauración del Patrimonio de la UPV, indicating that it is published by the Heritage Conservation Institute of the Universitat Politécnica de València (IRP/UPV). Arché presents papers written, or at least co-written, by members of the UPV, which includes the faculty, as well as some researchers, PhD students and guest researchers working at the UPV. Since the IRP/UPV gathers circa 150 members from different teaching departments, the topics and approaches reflected in its papers are very diverse. Interestingly, nearly half of those members work in the field of architectural conservation, which is faithfully reflected in the journal’s content. The fact that this journal is published at a polytechnic university is also reflected in the more scientific approach to the topics and problems discussed in some articles (and please note that in this context, the term ‘scientific’ refers to material sciences only). Nevertheless, the reader should not expect a purely physic-chemical approach to conservation problems: papers on the historical, philosophical and technical aspects of conservation are also present.
Like Pátina and Unicum, Arché is a yearly publication. However, it is a comparatively young publication, as its first issue was published in 2006. And even though it was not as lavishly published as Pátina and Unicum (no colour plates, small typeface), the number of published papers per issue is much greater. More importantly for those who cannot read Spanish, many of its papers are published in English. In this same regard, it is interesting to note that its complete content is conveniently available online. In fact, the number of visits to the website has increased so dramatically in recent years that in 2013 the staff of the IRP/UPV has decided to stop producing a printed version of the magazine and concentrate their efforts on the electronic version.
Restauración&Rehabilitación, or simply R&R, is another very interesting journal. It is published by the IRP/UPV, but it is distributed in printed form only and is sold by subscription or upon request. R&R publishes papers from authors from different countries and affiliations, and the latter issues include an English translation of its contents. It has a long history, with nearly 120 issues published: it started out as a monthly publication but is now published biannually. Many papers in the beautifully-designed R&R describe recent conservation and restoration processes, both from the architectural and non-architectural fields, what makes it a good option for keeping up-to-date on current events in the conservation scene in Spain and other countries.

All of the periodicals mentioned are published by academic institutions, though public conservation centres also publish some interesting periodicals. One of the most important and valuable efforts in this regards is that of the Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio (the Andalusian Heritage Institute, or IAP), which started publishing its PH Boletín in 1992. While PH Boletín touches on a wide range of topics, including conservation treatments and reports, its forte is heritage management, and specifically the social and legal aspects of heritage conservation. PH Boletín was beautifully published in printed form every three months, its content as appealing as its design; however, in 2012, twenty years after the publication of its first issue, the IAP decided to publish it in electronic form only; its title now is Revista PH. The papers in Revista PH, like the many interesting papers that graced the pages of PH Boletín, are freely available online. (For those interested in the more scientific and technical aspects of conservation, it might be
worth mentioning that in 2013 the IAP started publishing PH Investigación, a freely-downloadable electronic periodical in which these topics are duly highlighted).
The Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España (the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute, or IPCE), also deserves a mention here, as it has gone to great lengths to publish its findings. Over the course of its history, it has published a number of books, and in the last decade it has published no less than three journals. The yearly Bienes Culturales was published between 2002 and 2008, while Informes y trabajos (mostly an account and discussion of the most interesting works done by the IPCE) was published between 2007 and 2011. Though they are no longer published, their electronic versions are still freely available online, which is why they may be worth mentioning here. Currently, the IPCE publishes Patrimonio Cultural de España, which is indeed a very interesting publication. Its first issue was published in 2009, and seven more issues have been published since then. This journal deals with conservation in a broad sense, though each issue of this magazine includes a theme-based section that brings together papers with a shared topic (intangible heritage, legal aspects of conservation, earthquakes and heritage, etc.). As is the case with the IPCE’s other publications, each issue of Patrimonio Cultural de España is freely downloadable for any interested reader.
Last, but not least (and very appropriately for a paper published in an IIC publication like News in Conservation), we should mention GE-conservación, an electronic periodical published yearly by the Grupo Español del IIC. GE-conservación is another valuable publication dealing with all aspects of conservation from technical analysis to heritage management to case studies. Most texts are in Spanish, though some are in English or Portuguese. The papers tend to be somewhat more geared towards, or based on, real-life problem-solving than those in other journals. Another equally important feature is the fact that the entire journal’s content can be accessed online by everyone, and not just by members of the association. GE-conservación is a relatively young publication (its first issue was published in 2009).
As this review approaches its end, some patterns become recognizable among the conservation periodicals in Spain. Firstly, all of the periodicals highlighted here are published by publicly-funded institutions, such as universities, conservation schools and conservation centres, the only exceptions being GE-conservación, which is published by a professional association. A word of gratitude is perhaps in order, as it is astonishing how much effort the workers in these institutions are willing to invest in order to share their findings, achievements and perplexities. In fact, another feature of many Spanish conservation journals is their open-access policies, which makes their content freely available to any interested reader. Finally, another noticeable characteristic of many of these periodicals is their youth: most of the publications highlighted here first came to light in the 21st century. This means that the average life of the Spanish conservation publication is, as of now, comparatively short. Fortunately, it also means that the conservation world in Spain is active and lively.