A stated aim of 4CH is to establish a European-wide network of organisations that will provide advice, support and services focussed upon the preservation and conservation of monuments and sites. Whilst the public who visit the many thousands of cultural heritage destinations may think of this as ongoing maintenance and repairs to these sites, to an archaeologist preservation and conservation is much more complex. One aspect is future-proofing, i.e. taking actions now that will help maintain the condition of the site or monument in question, keeping accurate and regularly updated records so that deterioration can be recognised and addressed, or, in the worst case, performing reconstruction and restitution when this is considered necessary. For example, many major cities such as Warsaw used archives to be able to reconstruct their historic city centre buildings damaged during the 2nd World War. Hence, an important aspect of this work is identifying and recognising the risks and planning accordingly. Common threats include:
- Climate change – rising water levels, greater temperature extremes and changing weather patterns such as more violent storms;
- Human activities such as new infrastructure and housing developments, pollution;
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes, wild fires and flooding;
- War and conflict zones;
- Vandalism (graffiti, souvenirs) and wilful damage.=
Europeana have provided a very readable overview of such risks using examples from their own archives: Heritage at risk – https://www.europeana.eu/en/exhibitions/heritage-at-risk.
Consequently, cultural heritage management will encompass planning for these risks for the protection of monuments and sites as well as monitoring, maintenance and remediation. As well as traditional archives consisting of textual descriptions, drawings and photographs, 3D scans and models are increasingly used for creating accurate records of monuments which can also be compared over time for changes in conditions. 4CH will enable access to the latest research concerning the use of modern technologies and best practices regarding preservation and conservation to enable individuals and organisations to safe-guard Europe’s physical cultural heritage for future generations.