For a long time, knowledge was passed on in the traditional way: apprentices learned their trade in the workshops from their elders, but this training, although irreplaceable, proved insufficient. Given the diversity of materials used and the sophistication of new techniques, it has become essential for restorers to acquire scientific knowledge, particularly in chemistry, physics and biology. In 1973, at the initiative of Georges-Henri Rivière, Hélène Arhweiler and Jean Dehaye, the CRCDG took part in the creation of a Master's degree in science and technology in "Conservation and restoration of cultural property", under the auspices of Paris I University. The Centre's researchers still provide theoretical and practical teaching there today, and many students are welcomed into our laboratories to prepare master's theses, advanced study diplomas or doctoral dissertations. The French Institute for the Restoration of Works of Art, now known as the "Department for the Restoration of Works of Art of the National Heritage Institute", which was set up later, also calls on the CRCDG's teaching staff to give courses and lectures.This teaching activity is also aimed at future curators, who need to be made aware of the exact sciences so that they can better understand the problems posed by safeguarding the heritage for which they are responsible. For years, students from the École supérieure des bibliothèques, the École du Louvre and the École nationale des chartes have attended our courses. Today, it is through the Institut National du Patrimoine that we are helping to train the curators of tomorrow. Ongoing training is not the least of our missions, aimed at restorers and curators in France and abroad.
Internationally, the CRCDG has always been involved in a number of bodies. Even before the Centre came into being, I was involved in setting up what is now the Conservation Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM-CC). During one of the very first meetings, in 1958 at the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam, among the forty or so people present, I met some of those whom I consider to be my masters, and whose names I cannot mention without emotion. I would like to pay particular tribute to Georges-Henri Rivière, Paul Coremans and Arthur van Schendel, who at the time were directors of ICOM, the Royal Institute of Art Heritage and the Rijkmuseum respectively. Although this Committee, which now has almost 2,000 members, was one of the first to be set up, along with the International Institute of Conservation (IIC), other bodies were subsequently created, with which we maintain close relations. Over the last twelve years, this international collaboration has been strengthened by European research programmes. These projects give rise to fruitful exchanges with researchers and industrialists in the European Union, and provide an opportunity to pool a large potential pool of human and material resources.
This record may seem modest. However, it has required a great deal of energy and perseverance on the part of all those who have worked to improve our knowledge of our heritage and to develop safe, simple and effective methods for conserving it for as long as possible. This painstaking work has always been carried out in close collaboration with collection curators and restorers, which has greatly facilitated our work and enabled us to follow the practical results of our research on a daily basis. These years have brought their share of failures and successes, disappointments and hopes. One thing is certain, however: today, in our field, a large number of ideas and techniques have become established, and seem so self-evident that they seem to have always existed: I am thinking in particular of preventive conservation, which is currently a dominant concern, and one that the CRCDG has embraced for almost thirty years.