The Institute of Conservation is considered an internationally renowned centre of excellence for the preservation, conservation and restoration of tangible cultural heritage.
In addition to practical conservation-restoration, the conservation sciences, which are centrally anchored at the Institute, are of great importance. Art-technological and cultural-historical considerations, the study of current working and research methods, the development of preventive and long-term conservation strategies, collection and exhibition support, a reflective approach to conservation materials, the inclusion of ethical criteria as well as training in the transdisciplinary-methodical thought process are important focal points here. In recent years, preventive conservation and collection care have emerged in particular as fields of research and work.
The diploma programme Conservation imparts in theory and practice the working and research methods as well as knowledge of conservation, materials science and the humanities that qualify students to work as academic conservators. The degree programme is project-based and practice-oriented, and enables students to specialise in one of the four subject areas offered: conservation-restoration of paintings, objects, textiles and stone. In addition, there is the possibility to specialise in the field of conservation of archaeological finds as well as modern and contemporary art.
The Joint Master’s programme Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management with the Thai Silpakorn University offers graduates of conservation-restoration the opportunity to expand their competences for work in an international context and to deal in depth with the conservation of (world) cultural heritage. Within the framework of interdisciplinary teaching formats and stays in Asia, international project work, project and site management, communication skills and transcultural competence are taught and applied in theory and practice.
Since 2001, academic conservators have been able to complete a doctoral programme. Since then, scientific dissertation projects have contributed to positioning and further developing conservation science as an independent discipline.
As early as the beginning of the 20th century, restoration work was carried out in the textile, enamel and painting classes of the Imperial Royal Arts and Crafts School, the predecessor institution of today’s University of Applied Arts Vienna. In the 1960s, it was already possible to study metal restoration at an academic level.
The knowledge and skills available at the Institute today are therefore based on a long tradition.
The Institute has well-equipped conservation workshops that allow work on original objects at the highest level. The Institute’s own natural science laboratory is primarily dedicated to the examination of cultural property and to providing scientific support and assistance for students’ practical work, project work and research projects. A wide range of equipment and procedures are available for examinations in the context of the condition survey and assessment of objects, such as reflected and transmitted light microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, 3D microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, infrared microspectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, wet chemical analyses and physical tests. For further diagnostic and material tests, the Institute has a fully automatic climatic chamber as well as measuring equipment for ultrasonic transmission and thermoluminescence dating. In cooperation with specialised institutes in Austria and abroad, further analytical procedures and equipment can be used.
The Institute’s extensive library contains a wide range of specialist literature and journals as well as the academic theses completed at the Institute, such as pre-diplomas, diploma theses and dissertations.
They belong to the holdings of the University Library of Angwandte and can be searched via the online catalogue.
2004 marked the beginning of the Institute’s international conservation-restoration research and working activities. Projects in India were followed by assignments in Nepal since 2010, China in 2013, and Mongolia in 2014. Since 2018, there has been close cooperation with the Thai Silpakorn University. In addition, International Summer Schools have been organised in the summer months for several years.
Staff, students, doctoral candidates and graduates are involved in international work and research projects and in the Institute’s postgraduate training programmes.
The UNESCO Chair for the Preservation and Conservation of Tangible Cultural Heritage, which has been based at the Institute since 2019, provides the official framework for the numerous international projects and offers the opportunity for an in-depth examination of world heritage.
The Institute is well networked at national and international level. It maintains contacts and exchanges with the Austrian UNESCO Commission, IIC, ICOM, ICCROM and ENCORE, is active in the university networks EPU and ASEA-UNINET, and is a co-founder of the Heritage Science Austria Platform.