During the ‘Archivtechnische Woche in München’ (Congress on Techniques for Archives in Munich) on February 28, 1957, conservators working in the archives founded the ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Archivrestauratoren AdA’ (Association of Archive Conservators).

The AdA initially focused on three objectives:
a) maintaining a helpful relationship between conservators and their co-workers
b) promoting and supporting the new generation of conservators by ensuring continuing education and exchanging the experience acquired
c) advocating the interests of the group.

Image of discussion during the first IADA Congress held in Freiburg, Basel and Zurich 1967
Discussion during the first IADA Congress held in Freiburg, Basel and Zurich 1967

From ‘AdA’ to ‘IADA’

The progress made by conservation studios outside of the Federal Republic of Germany demonstrated that it was inadvisable to remain on the plateau of knowledge already acquired and adhere to methods developed nationally – but that it was imperative to steadily enlarge conservator expertise. It also made clear that achieving a match with the level of other conservation studios could be facilitated by means of regular contact and exchange of experience. As a consequence, apart from archive conservators, also book and paper conservators became affiliated with the association. Simultaneously, more and more colleagues from the neighbouring countries were convinced of the efficacy of a joint programme. Since 1967 the AdA has been known under the name “Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Archiv-, Bibliotheks- und Graphikrestauratoren” (International Association of Book and Paper Conservators).

New methods developed in conservation highlighted the need for regular exchange between conservators.

IADA Congresses

This innovative approach led to the organisation of the first International Congress of Conservators, held in Freiburg, Basel and Zurich in 1967. This meeting for the first time offered the opportunity for further development of experience exchange between Danish, Austrian and German conservators. Through many discussions, participants were able to share their points of view, learn new conservation techniques and widen their knowledge and skills.

Energised by the successes achieved, more conferences were planned and organised afterwards:

IADA Publications

The decision to publish regular reports was already made when the association was founded. The first reports, published in irregular issues and in multiple copies, were however, rather simple but, nevertheless, resulted in significant progress. These reports led to an increase of the number of memberships, and rather soon a report was published in a quarterly period. In 1968 the reports were presented in a useful offset print and until 1975 they were published by the authors themselves. However, due to editorial and design difficulties, it was decided to publish the reports from 1976 on as part of the “Maltechnik-Restauro” journal. Since 2000 the IADA reports have been published four times a year with a supplement as specialist journal “PapierRestaurierung”. In 2009 the name was internationalised and changed to „Journal of Paper Conservation“. Articles are now published in English and attract many more non-German readers as well as new IADA members. The IADA reports had been a lively means of information for the members as well as a forum for conservators and specialists for nearly four decades. Recently IADA has started to appear on social media platforms as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

IADA logos throughout the decades

Growing in numbers

As the number of memberships increased so did the board members: from eight in 1971, to ten a little later. This allowed a more sustained work task division among the members and to create a more appropriate spectrum of skills to the board.

Although the association is still mainly made up of conservators from German-speaking areas, more than 500 paying members are from more than twenty-five countries.

Joining the European Confederation of Conservators-Restorers’ Organisations E.C.C.O.

The IADA launched several important initiatives, especially important at times when the conservator’s job profile in Germany was not defined and legally protected. In an effort to address this problem and to keep alive the common goals of the professions working in the conservation field, in 1991 the IADA joined the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organizations (E.C.C.O.). Later, in 1995 the members of IADA decided not to merge with the German conservation associations but instead to continue as an independent international association for book and paper conservators.

Adapting to Changes in the Profession 

Over the fifty years of IADA activities, the organisation has adapted to a continuous shift in the job profile of the conservator. If, in the earlier years, interventional conservation was the main and indeed almost the sole activity carried out by conservators, today preventative conservation activities such as environmental monitoring and optimum storage mean that more intrusive measures can be avoided. The job profile of conservators has widened: the preservation of collections is based on a more holistic approach.

In the view of this change, it is important to guarantee and develop the necessary training for conservators. It is not acceptable to leave cultural heritage under threat by neglect or by inappropriate repairs carried out by untrained conservators, both dangers arising from a lack of funds or skilled professionals.