The story of the Tower of Babel is one of the most famous in the Bible: God created the confusion of languages so that people had to stop their all too ambitious tower construction because of communication difficulties.
(Lucas van Valckenborchower, 1594, Louvre, Photo: Public domain)
As the Hornemann Institute has been working internationally since its foundation in 1998, we have had to struggle from the very beginning with the fact that the terminology of conservation is not standardised: communication is sometimes really difficult, not only in Europe but sometimes even within a single country.
In some cases, the terms mean the same thing, even partially, in different areas and languages. The inconsistent meaning of a term can already be found, for example, in the word "restoration" itself: In English, the term "restoration" still has a negative connotation, since in the 19th century it was largely associated with reconstructions. In Italy and Germany this was also the case, but the terms "restauro" and " Restaurierung" - as well as the French "restauration" and the Polish "restauracjya" - received a positive reinterpretation in the course of the twentieth century.
For one, it is due to the cultural diversity in countries and regional societies, which is also reflected in cultural assets that differ in terms of content, material and technology.
For another, it is a comparatively young academic subject that is also highly interdisciplinary: its terminology is influenced by the natural sciences and humanities, architecture, engineering, but also by traditional crafts and artistic traditions.
Technical terminology does not only have its origins, but also its everyday life in interdisciplinarity: because today, in conservation measures, it is also used by experts from all these disciplines involved. The need for standardisation of specialist terminology is therefore very great and is becoming ever greater due to the increasing mobility of restorers in Europe and the number of Europe-wide calls for tenders.
The terminology used on building sites or in restoration workshops can sometimes differ significantly from that used in publications. Moreover, for historical reasons, there are many Italian terms used in conservation, for example, but not all of them are still used in practice today. Finally: language is alive, changes and - as history teaches us - cannot be conserved to permanent standards. Even the terms developed in the different working groups of CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation; European Committee for Standardization) are not always identical.