Carmela Lonetti asked about the ethics of conserving Catholic relics.
We have treated the recently exhumed relics of a Catholic nominee for
canonisation and found that the principles of conservation, particularly in the
field of archaeological conservation fitted well with the needs of the
religious order concerned. The items (including textile, leather, wood and
metal) required cleaning, in some cases controlled drying, stabilisation,
corrosion removal and safe mounting for handling and display.
The principles we applied were:
Treat every artefact with respect and care regardless of financial value.
Undertake only treatments which are necessary - do the minimum intervention.
Record fully everything that is done.
Wherever possible use the most stable substances.
Make sure that it is always possible to distinguish between the original and
any gapfill or repair.
All substances removed from the objects (e.g. dirt, corrosion products) can be
retained by the owner for future analysis or other use.
This meant that we used only synthetic materials to consolidate or gapfill the
objects, so that in future it will always be possible to distinguish what is
modern. We discussed beforehand with the religious order what might be needed
and the principles which would underly the decisions regarding treatment. There
was no problem with obtaining their consent to the treatments proposed and they
seemed to be very happy with the results.
We hope this helps
Richard and Helena Jaeschke
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