Conservation and Restoration: What’s the Difference?

The concept of restoration, dating back further than that of conservation, includes the re-facing and restructuring of buildings with a general intent to repair the building to its original appearance. Conservation is a gentler, careful approach with the same goal of restoring a building’s original appearance, but involves scientific understanding and reversible changes. Both methods involve diagnosing problems and cleaning structures, but conservation includes consolidating the building material with polymer resins and adding a protective layer to combat environmental forces.


The history of restoration in Venice dates back to Napoleonic rule, when dilapidated and out-of-style buildings were destroyed to allow new buildings to be built; however, this attitude of modernization changed in the nineteenth century when Venice began to be viewed as a ‘museum-city.1 Even so, this outlook also motivates the preservation of Venice as a historical jewel. In 1964, the Venice Charter was written by Venetian authorities. Although it calls for the restoration and preservation of Venice, it is very general, calling for no buildings in Venice to be moved or drastically changed.2 Venetian authorites should write a new charter, declaring specific conservation guidelines to raise awareness for Venice’s deterioration.


Various committees worldwide have been created to ensure the safeguarding of Venice through restoration and conservation.3 Two major groups are Save Venice, Inc. at and Venice in Peril at


1. G. Pertot, Venice: Extraordinary Maintenance (London: Paul Holberton, 2004), 15-18. See p. 46-48 of Venice: Extraordinary Maintenance by Gianfranco Pertot to learn of the evolution of conservation theory from restoration.

2. The Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, 1964.

 3. See Venice Restored by Unesco for a description of the work that various country’s private committees have accomplished.

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