Purpose and Principles

The Buildings and Sites department works to advance conservation practice worldwide on a range of heritage places including buildings, archaeological sites, and urban environments, and to address problems of regional or international relevance. Work is undertaken primarily through model field projects, which involve research, training, and capacity building. Projects may include development of principles, methodologies, techniques, tools, and emerging technologies that enhance understanding about cultural heritage places and improve their practical conservation. In all of its projects, Buildings and Sites works with local partners in order to build the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed locally to ensure the project outcome's long-term sustainability.

Projects follow recognized international conservation principles and adhere to the highest standards of practice. These include developing an understanding of the cultural significance of the object or site through documentation and diagnostic research, respecting the multiplicity of values associated with it, and designing conservation interventions that are minimal, compatible, sustainable, and appropriate to local circumstances.

Project Design and Implementation

Projects are selected based on the needs of the conservation field and the GCI's experience and expertise. In some cases, the GCI is approached by a potential partner, in other cases, the GCI identifies partners for an area of work. Projects are considered on the basis of the international or regional significance of the conservation issue to be addressed, the project's potential impact, the research or training opportunities afforded, and the demonstrated willingness of local and national authorities and other heritage institutions to collaborate in the work.

The GCI is a proponent of a values-based approach to conservation. Thus projects commence with determining the full range of values—including material, historical, social, and cultural values—that make the place significant, then policies and actions are developed that conserve these values.

Work generally begins with a feasibility study during which the conceptual and practical parameters of the project are evaluated. Projects are then designed in cooperation with partners and implemented according to a phased work plan. While projects vary in their nature, emphasis, complexity, and scope, all adhere to a consistent methodology that includes documentation and recording, diagnostic research, investigation and assessment, the development and testing of conservation treatments and strategies, implementation, and dissemination and training.

Our work promotes a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together specialists from the arts and sciences to exchange ideas and develop creative and sustainable solutions for preserving our cultural heritage. Project teams consist of Getty staff, representatives of partner organizations, and consultants representing a wide range of disciplines. Current project teams include archaeologists, conservators, engineers, architects, architectural historians, biologists, geologists, chemists, urban planners, curators, museum administrators, and site managers.

Dissemination and Capacity Building

Striving to build capacity in the conservation field is central to the department's mission and values. We achieve this through dissemination of our work to the profession, engagement and communication with colleagues, partners, and stakeholders, and through capacity-building and training activities.

Publishing is one of the primary vehicles for dissemination of our work, with most publications freely distributed through our website in order to quickly reach the widest possible audience. Staff members frequently contribute to externally published works as well. The department's work is further disseminated through staff participation in international meetings, conferences, and seminars.

Many of our projects include training components to transfer knowledge to partners and sustain the work into the future. A handful of our projects are designed specifically as professional or technician-training and capacity-building programs and target identified gaps in professional expertise within a subject area or in underserved regions of the world.

Other methods and means used to build capacity in the conservation field include sharing expertise through professional exchanges, our internship program, convening meetings and colloquia, hosting partners and collaborators at the GCI, providing technical and/or logistical support in the field, and in some cases providing equipment and training to implement conservation methods.

Scope of Work

The work of Buildings and Sites is broad in terms of both subject area and geography. Currently, over twenty-four projects across six continents are underway with approximately forty partners and many more collaborators.

Projects fall into a number of interrelated, thematic areas, including:

Page updated: September 2015