COTAC Understanding Conservation School Structure: Introduction

This introductory volume explains what is offered through COTAC’s Insight 1 and Insight 2 content (ISSN 2753-9083), and how that information underpins the Understanding Conservation Series of 5 Units (ISSN 2754-088X). In doing so it is hoped that an integrated advancement of knowledge can be developed from Insight 1 (Need to Appreciate the Built Heritage) combined with Insight 2 (Need to be Aware of the Built Heritage) to progress towards the more detailed Understanding Conservation (Need to be Skilled in the Built Heritage) volumes.

The Pedigree of Understanding Conservation

The 5 Understanding Conservation Units are based on and created around the 1993 International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Education and Training Guidelines. Following an analysis of the ICOMOS Guidelines they were translated into a pragmatic 'Framework Document' that distilled the preliminary work into five basic units of architectural conservation understanding.

This was developed with the support and agreement of the pan-professional Edinburgh Group under the auspices of Historic Scotland, resulting in the launch of the ‘’ website in 2007. The following year further agreement was reached that both the Group and the website would be enabled by COTAC.
The relevance of the 1993 ICOMOS Guidelines is that they have been adopted by the UK’s Conservation Course Directors Forum (CCDF) where all the member courses agreed to observe them in their delivery. In addition, the Guidelines underpin all professional body peer-reviewed Accreditation in Architectural Conservation Schemes currently operated by the pan-professional spread of bodies in the UK and Ireland, this in support of the 2013 ICOMOS CIF International Training Committee ‘Principles for Capacity Building through Education and Training in Safeguarding and Integrated Conservation of Cultural Heritage’ intentions.

In 2015 the ‘’ Unit content was updated to incorporate Guidance offered by the revised edition of BS 7913:2013 Guide to the Conservation of Historic Buildings. Whilst retaining the previous 5 Unit structure, in 2021, the content of the ‘’ was totally revised, incorporating numerous new illustrative examples, especially chosen to enhance the text by authors, Ingval Maxwell and Barry J. Bridgwood.

Now presented as free to download PDF’s, consistent with other on-line COTAC educational materials, we encourage you to explore these throughout our website.

Images used in all this material have been primarily sourced from the author’s copyright photographic archive, with a small number incorporated from other sources in a manner as fair use educational material, under the terms of the ‘Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial – ShareAlike’ (CC-BY-NC-SA) license defines, to identify and acknowledge the copyright holder wherever that has been possible.

Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of information in the Understanding Conservation 5 Units COTAC, its authors specifically exclude any liability for errors, omissions or otherwise arising from its content.
Understanding Conservation Unit 1: Need to be Skilled in Cultural Significance

Unit 1 focuses on informing the practical and pragmatic substance and assessment of significance that underpins conservation to assist users on how to contextualise their thoughts and approach with a greater understanding of current conservation philosophy and ethics. It integrating a detailed consideration across 9 of the Insight 2 14 ICOMOS Guidelines (5a, 5b, 5c, 5d, 5g, 5h, 5i, 5j & 5m) that also integrate with COTAC’s Insight 1 Unit 1: What is Special and Why?
Understanding Conservation Unit 2: Need to be Skilled in Aesthetic Qualities and Values

Unit 2 focuses on contextualising the wider visual conservation issues of place and performance within a philosophical understanding and evaluation of aesthetics - integrating a detailed consideration across 5 of the Insight 2 14 ICOMOS Guidelines (5c, 5e, 5h, 5l & 5m) that also integrate with COTAC’s Insight 1 Unit 2: Is Appearance and Appeal Important?
Understanding Conservation Unit 3: Need to be Skilled in Investigation, Materials and Technology

Unit 3 focuses on how to obtain relevant information across a wide range of technical parameters to aid effective decision making whilst acknowledging the substance/value of an asset - integrating a detailed consideration across 8 of the Insight 2 14 ICOMOS Guidelines (5b, 5d, 5e, 5f, 5h, 5i, 5j & 5m) that also integrate with COTAC’s Insight 1 Unit 3: How Does a Building Work?
Understanding Conservation Unit 4: Need to be Skilled in Social and Financial Issues

Unit 4 enhances an understanding developed in the previous three Units and contextualises that with the recognition of the importance of reaching a satisfactory conclusion with all pertinent parties - integrating a detailed consideration across 9 of the Insight 2 14 ICOMOS Guidelines (5a, 5c, 5d, 5f, 5h, 5i, 5j, 5m & 5n) that also integrate with COTAC’s Insight 1 Unit 4: What Needs to be Thought About?
Understanding Conservation Unit 5: Need to be Skilled in Implementation and Management of Conservation Works

Unit 5 restates the importance of operating with a philosophical and ethical understanding of conservation issues, and to be able to advise effectively on relevant current and future needs - integrating a detailed consideration across 7 of the Insight 2 14 ICOMOS Guidelines (5e, 5h, 5i, 5j, 5k, 5m & 5n) that also integrate with COTAC’s Insight 1 Unit 5: How Does What we do Affect Heritage?

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