Cultural heritage is a general term that covers all sorts of tangible objects, buildings, architecture, architectural ensembles, monuments, archaeological sites, and other objects associated with people and their activities resulting from the versatile human cultural traditions.
The purpose of conservation and restoration is to preserve monuments both as works of art and as witnesses of historical events.
The principal task in the conservation of monuments is to ensure their preservation. Based on documents adopted by international organizations, any conservation activity must comply with the basic principles formulated as:
the possibility of any further action or treatment after restoration;
continued availability of the facts and testimonies embodied in the material and the object in future;
preservation of the existing (original) material to the maximum;
conformity of any corrections to the tone of colour, texture, shape and scale; they should be less conspicuous than the original material, yet discernible;
where the guidance of an experienced expert is not available, the work may be performed by a person with sufficient experience or skills in conservation/restoration works. Such a situation may arise when faced with unique problems in cases where the solution must be based on experiments and previous experience.
Restoration is a highly specific method of monument conservation. It is aimed at preserving and revealing the aesthetic and historic value of a monument based on the original materials used in the monument and on authentic documents. Restoration work must be stopped where hypotheses start. Where new components must be used, they should depend on the historical architectural composition and carry features of their time. In any case, archaeological and historical research of the monument is to be performed both before and during the restoration work.
All conservation and restoration activities require detailed documentation in the form of analytical and critical reports illustrated by graphic and photographic materials. This documentation should cover all phases of repair, conservation and restoration, including the reinforcement of the monument, separation of individual elements, restoration of the lost parts, and other technical works as well as discoveries made in the course of these works. Monument documentation is to be kept in the archives and it should be available to scientists.
As mentioned before, the preservation and restoration of cultural heritage involves a wide range of professionals specialising in different directions .
Principal international documents on the protection of cultural heritage, Latvian National Commission for UNESCO, VKPAI, Riga, 2000.