Technical Art History Colloquium

Oral History in Conservation and (Technical) Art History

Image and source: Interview Joep van Lieshout / Atelier Van Lieshout – Head (series), 2006. Photo: Sanneke Stigter
Image and source: Interview Joep van Lieshout / Atelier Van Lieshout – Head (series), 2006. Photo: Sanneke Stigter

On 4 October the next edition of the Technical Art History Colloquium will take place in Amsterdam. The subject is 'Oral History in Conservation and (Technical) Art History'. 

This edition in the series of Technical Art History colloquia is a follow-up to the colloquium on conservation history held at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem on 8 February 2018. It focuses on the method of oral history used for documentation and research purposes in the fields of conservation and (technical) art history. Four speakers will draw on their own studies of traditional to contemporary art works in a museum setting to illustrate how oral history has enriched their research and findings. Oral history may be considered complementary to study of the physical object and related written and pictorial sources that document its past.

combined approach 

This combined approach can help to reconstruct the physical evolution of an art work through time, including former interventions by conservators and the likely reasons behind them. In a broader sense too, oral history adds to our knowledge of conservation history. For instance, it can offer an ‘insider’s view’ on matters relating to the development of the conservation profession in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Speakers will present examples that shed light on how knowledge and ideas have been transmitted within and between related professional groups (such as conservators, curators and conservation scientists), and how interdepartmental dynamics and hierarchies existing within the settings of large institutional museums have shaped conservation decision-making. Together these insights gained through oral history improve our knowledge and understanding of the past, and provide a basis for reflection and making informed choices with regard to the future conservation, installation and display of art works. At a methodological level, speakers will reflect upon the notions of interview as compared to oral history method, and how the interview is a co-constructed product of the interviewer and interviewee and must be critically interpreted as such.


14.00-14.05: Welcome and introduction by chair Ella Hendriks, Professor of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, University of Amsterdam
14.05-14.25: Esther van Duijn, ‘Throwing restorers down the stairs and others tall tales - Some thoughts on the values and limitations of conservator interviews as a source for the study of conservation history’
14.25-14.45: Aafke Weller, ‘The stuff you won’t read in conservation journals. Conservators and conservation technicians on the use of Chloramine-T in the paper conservation studio of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam between 1950 and 1985’
14.45-14.55: Discussion
14.55-15.15: Sanneke Stigter, ‘An interview-informed growing sculpture? Reflections on interviewing in conservation research’
15.15-15.35: Aga Wielocha, ‘The artist interview and beyond: Oral histories in the conservation of contemporary art’
15.35-15.45: Discussion

Start date and time
End date and time
Room B, 1st floor Ateliergebouw, Hobbemastraat 22, Amsterdam
Entrance fee
Free entrance