Restore, conserve, prevent
You may not have heard of the Centre Interrégional de Conservation et de Restauration du Patrimoine. It celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, which makes this a good moment to introduce it. It is the only institution of its kind in France and is housed at Belle-de-Mai in Marseille.
Dominique Vingtain devant Notre-Dame du Rosaire de Louis Bréa ( ancienne cathédrale d’Antibes) et Saint Antoine abbé (anonyme, bibliothèque-musée Inguimbertine, Carpentras).
Odile Guillon, photographie de peinture murale dans la chapelle St-Martin-de-Fenollar, Maureillas-las-Illas
Last October, senior heritage curator Dominique Vingtain took over as head of the CICRP. The Centre is run by a conglomerate involving central, regional, département and local government bodies. Its remit covers preventive and remedial conservation of heritage, research into the processes by which materials deteriorate, and restoration projects. Restoration was its original mission and is the one in which is has greatest expertise. CICRP works in compliance with the Culture Ministry’s Heritage Code. As such it offers scientific and technical assistance to local and regional authorities, institutions and managers of public collections and listed historic buildings and monuments.
Restoration to insect science
The Centre takes in paintings and other graphic art works on all kinds of substrate. Its first step is to study the work scientifically and produce a folder of images, X-rays and physical and chemical analyses. For this it is equipped with cutting-edge instruments and technology. It boasts three kinds of workshop: one for easel paintings on canvas, one for easel paintings on wood, and one for graphic art.
For preventive conservation it analyses a situation and recommends any treatments required. This enables user institutions to set up preventive conservation policies according to the way they function, the works they possess and their renovation projects.
One of the Centre’s special assets is its knowledge of the insects liable to frequent heritage premises and to pose a danger to museum or library collections, archives, furniture and historic buildings. CICRP has a contract with the Louvre to carry out this work on its collections and buildings.
Dominique Vingtain has a staff of about 30 people with different skills to cover the whole span of the Centre’s remit. As well as the three conservation officers there are geologists, chemists entomologists, radiologists, photographers and experts on contemporary art, wall paintings and pigments.
One main area of the Centre’s research is deterioration processes in built heritage. With its technical equipment and collections of building stone and decorative stone samples it can characterise a wide range of materials and study their properties. Its technical facilities provide high-grade scientific capabilities. They include special instruments developed and managed in-house. The Centre is involved – as leader or participant – in French, European and international research projects. It has forged a number of partnerships, for example with French public institutions and laboratories.