The Coming Clean project is about decision-making processes in conservation and the factors that affect them, from public perception, to cultural background, educational background and context. The 3-year project funded by UCL Qatar is a partnership between UCL Qatar, UCL’s Institute of Archaeology, the National Trust, Cologne University of Applied Sciences and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.

Coming Clean adopts a holistic approach to a common step in conservation which is an irreversible intervention. We investigate how different ideas, people, contexts, education as well as institutional guidelines and ethical codes influence conservation practice and whether these meet the aesthetic expectations of the public. The factors are examined across the discipline.

The project aims to explore the relationships between ethical, philosophical, aesthetic, cultural and material issues and their implications on objects and monuments. Coming Clean follows a methodology of discovery and observation though literature surveys, analysis of treatment records and public perception surveys.

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Surveys of both specialised conservation literature and popular media in relation to cleaning processes have been carried out and analysed using data mining techniques. Reviews of conservation treatment records are currently ongoing, investigating the justification of cleaning in different contexts as well as methods and materials used in the treatment of different objects/monuments. The analysis of these records will allow us to understand better the diversity of different cleaning approaches and whether these are informed by different educational systems and other particulars of practitioner context.

The collection of data from both records and literature will help us understand better the relationship between theory and practice and how this relationship has evolved over the last decades.

Finally, the public perception surveys will be used to explore how the public perceives changes due to cleaning in relation to aesthetics, values and attitudes to conservation decision-making. The survey will take place in a range of contexts and in relation to a range of objects.

Part of the UCL Qatar team. From left to right, Stefani Kavda, Flavia Ravaioli, Jill Saunders, Stavroula Golfomitsou.

Part of the UCL Qatar team. From left to right, Stefani Kavda, Flavia Ravaioli, Jill Saunders, Stavroula Golfomitsou.