In June 2015, the Getty Conservation Institute convened a meeting at the Rothschild Foundation at Windmill Hill Archive on the Waddesdon Manor and Estate in Aylesbury, UK, to explore the possibilities of adapting an epidemiological approach to cultural heritage. Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of a disease or a specific adverse condition in a targeted population. Applied to cultural heritage, epidemiological methods may investigate the causal relationships between objects’ mechanical damage and their environment.
Leading researchers active in the study of materials’ behavior in fluctuating climatic conditions, as well as those working with collections, were brought together to explore ways in which this approach can help in the investigation of the causal relationships between objects’ mechanical damage and their environment. The objectives of the meeting were to identify the methodology and assess the feasibility of an epidemiology study, to discuss its scope, and to identify areas for potential subsequent collaboration.
This report includes a discussion paper that explores the terminology and essential concepts of epidemiology and how these may be applied to cultural heritage. It is followed by a summary of the meeting’s discussions and outcomes.