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This Interviews in Conservation Initiative is a research group sitting at the cross-roads of AHM’s Contemporary Art Conservation Research Group, and the Oral History Research Group.

Description of the group

The initiative aims for an integral approach of the use of oral history methodology in conservation research, and seeks to reflect the use of interviews as a dynamic process as part of it. Critical analysis of how oral history is used and can be used in conservation research and museum practice is crucial to understand how it can influence the way in which artworks in collections are understood and mediated through time. The initiative aims to better implement the use of oral history methods in conservation research, by seeking ways to better facilitate this. This includes improving good practice in conducting interviews, disclosing them, and archiving for future use, in addition to initiating new research, for instance on developing a new language model to improve automatic speech recognition for the field of conservation, advancing this approach in a productive, intelligent and responsible manner.The goals of the Interviews in Conservation Initiative are to better facilitate sustainable archiving of interviews and oral narratives with all who play a determining role in the lives of artworks and our cultural heritage: artists, assistants, conservators, collectors, curators, dealers, directors and all others involved in collections and sites; to advance the research infrastructure for analysis; and to make the material better available to professionals and where possible to a broader audience to enjoy. The resulting material is archived at DANS-KNAW in the thematic collection Interviews in Conservation Research. This is an ongoing initiative to build a rich collection of unique source material that allows for cross-referencing, providing a unique view behind the scenes of the lives of works of art and cultural heritage in the Netherlands. 

Envisaged results

This research group is ongoing initiative. In addition to working on research projects, the Interviews in Conservation Initiative is keen to organize workshops on the theory and practice of oral history in conservation, focusing on interview techniques, tips and tricks in recording, the use of automatic transcriptions, the use of metadata and disclosing and archiving interview material in collaboration with its partners. Their planning is dependent on external funding. Please consult the project website for details on relevant projects and research output (Interviews in Conservation Initiative project website). By establishing collaborations and research projects, the initiative aims to produce datasets, publications and conference contributions, but also spin-offs in exhibitions and podcasts. Moreover, the research team is working on applications for external funding to support the research aims with national and international research organizations and funding bodies. 

Societal relevance

The project aims to catch up the backlog in archiving existing interviews in museum archives and to further develop theory and practice of oral history in conservation by initiating research, workshops and dissemination of the results. The results will lead to a broader understanding of our cultural heritage and the way this is managed. The Interviews in Conservation Initiative is not only relevant for academia, but also for museums and cultural heritage institutions as well as the general audience. Gathering testimonies about personal involvement in cultural heritage objects, also provides material for storytelling, which could be used to make new ways to connect to a larger audience. 

Research Group Type: Network & Project group 
Duration: 2021-2025 

Group coordinator

Dr. S. (Sanneke) Stigter

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Conservering en Restauratie

Members of the research group

Bernice Crijns, MA, RCE 
Dr. Esther van Duijn, RMA 
Prof. dr. Ella Hendriks, UvA 
Dr. Arjan van Hessen, UT, UU, SOS 
Widia Mahabier, MA, DANS-KNAW 
Em. Prof. dr. Selma Leydesdorff, UvA 
Dr. Tatja Scholte, RCE 
Mr. Hinke Sigmond, MA PD Res 
Sylvia van Schaik, MA, RCE 
Dr. Aga Wielocha 

Institutional or professional partners: 

  • DANS - Data Archiving Network Services - KNAW 
  • INCCA - International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art 
  • NICAS - Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science 
  • RCE - Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands 
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 
  • SBMK - Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art 
  • SOS - Stichting Open Spraaktechnologie 
  • UT - University of Twente 
  • UU - Utrecht University