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The purpose of the EPICO project (European Protocol In preventive COnservation) is to develop simple and flexible methods for developing a preventive conservation strategy for the collections exhibited in the stately homes and castle-museums of Europe. The aim is to provide a global view of the conditions and state of conservation of the collections and to highlight the causes/effects of changes in usage with a view to giving priority where necessary and implementing action plans. Stately homes and castle-museums are multi-faceted locations: originally places of power, authority and delight, they are now museums and spaces for contemporary events. All of these activities frequently coexist within the same structure, which implies a different kind of collection management to that of a traditional museum, for which usage and visiting conditions are usually designed specifically. In stately homes, how the collections are presented is the result of the history of the place, and the collections themselves have a special atmosphere, in itself part of the attraction of these monuments. However, the conditions for conserving the collections is intrinsically linked to the constraints of the building itself.
Since the ‘70’s, a practice of preventive conservation has emerged in the world of museums, which the international Council of Museums defines as “all measures and actions aimed at avoiding and minimising future deterioration or loss (XV Triennial Conference, ICOM - CC, 2008). Many preventive conservation actions have been conducted since then and are amply documented. These experiments, and the dedicated IT tools developed from them, are now widely available. However, there is a lack of a methodology to exhibitions in stately homes, castles and museums that can develop into a systemic approach that can be repeated and transferred to other historic sites, regardless of their dimensions. This kind of methodology would permit assessment of the performance of preventive conservation over time and in different spaces. Inaugurated in December 2014, the EPICO program has been included in the science and culture program of the Palace of Versailles and research institutes of the Palace for 2015-2017 (phase 1 of the program). Thanks to the visibility given by the European Royal Residences Network, the Palace of Versailles works with two European partners, the Venaria Reale in Turin and the Wilanów Palace, near Warsaw. Collaboration between these castle-museums, which have many problems in common, offers the benefits of multidisciplinary, complementary teams.
The EPICO project won first prize in the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage Awards 2018.