Conserving ourselves: Embedding significance into conservation decision-making in graduate education

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Ellen Pearlstein;


Studies in Conservation, Routledge, Volume 62, Number 8, p.435-444 (2017)


Graduate conservation students are well educated in many aspects of their work; however, it is difficult in the classroom to teach students how to base their conservation decisions on aspects of cultural significance. It is widely acknowledged that conservation decisions are not neutral, that they depend on cultural context and upon the predilections of the conservator and the owning individual or institution. Partnerships between community members and conservators have had a long history within conservation practices described as ‘ethnographic’, and such methods have arguably influenced working practices within other conservation specialties. A graduate conservation class is described in which students conserved important heritage items belonging to their classmates, in an environment where access to discoveries of significance were encouraged for their ability to inform preservation decisions. Cases are described that link decisions with specific values.