EPICO - Preventive Conservation in Historic Houses and Palace-museums (2014-2018)

Methodologies and applications

The research programme EPICO (European Protocol In preventive Conservation) was attached in 2018 to the Établissement public de Versailles (EPV).

The purpose of this research programme is to draw up a methodology for developing a preventive conservation strategy for collections on display in historic houses and palace-museums. Its aim is to provide an overall view of the state and conservation conditions of collections, to throw light on the cause-and-effect relationship for deterioration in order to prioritise and set up an action plan.

Historic houses and palace-museums are multi-facetted sites, originally places of power, of delight and representation; today they are museums, areas for reception, contemporary exhibitions and institutional events. All of these activities often co-exist inside one residence so this implies different
ways of managing collections from those of a classical museum, as the conditions for their use and for visits have been designed on an ad hoc basis. The interiors of historical houses and their collections composed of furniture, art objects, paintings, sculptures and textiles require specific conditions for conservation.

Since the 1970s, the 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 minimizing future deteriorations or losses” (XVth Triennial Conference, ICOM - CC, 2008). Many preventive conservation actions have been carried out since then and are widely documented. These experiments as well as dedicated computer tools are now widely available. However, we are aware that there is a distinct absence of any methodology applied to exhibited objects in historic houses and palace-museums, any approach which could be considered systemic, reproducible and transferable to other historical houses. This methodology would enable us to evaluate the efficiency of preventive conservation over time and across different spaces.

Inaugurated in December 2014, the EPICO program was included in the scientific and cultural programming of the Palace of Versailles and in the research axes of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles for the period 2015-2017 (phase 1 of the program). Thanks to the dissemination provided by the Network of European Royal Residences, the Palace of Versailles has partnered with two European partners, the Venaria Reale of Turin and the castle of Wilanów near Warsaw. The collaboration of these chateaux-museums presenting many common problems makes it possible to benefit from multidisciplinary and complementary teams.

The EPICO project received the grand prize of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage 2018.



The scientific management of this programme is assured and by the Conservation Department of the Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles and by the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles.

  • the Network of European Royal Residences (France): this network enables partners to work together and share their experience in the preservation and promotion of the rich cultural heritage in their care. Programme progress and results will be disseminated to the all network of royal residences.
  • the Fondazione Centro per la Conservazione e il Restauro dei Beni Culturali “La Venaria Reale” (Turin, Italy) provides its skills on scientific research and experience on conservation management of historic houses collections.
  • The Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów (Warsaw, Poland) takes part in many important european projects on conservation, and it puts in practice preventive conservation actions since years.

The stages of the program will be submitted to the expertise of a scientific committee composed of professionals active in European museums and international research centers at the forefront in the field of preventive conservation protocols.


  • Phase 1 (2015): bibliographical research and overview of existing methodologies; analysis of methods and tools; discussion and choices; first meeting with the Scientific Committee.
  • Phase 2 (2016): implementation of the methodology applied to historic-houses: based on a self-analysis made by the partners with quantitative and qualitative data about the collections and their management, and thanks to the critical review of existing methods, the most suitable ones will be tested on two pilot sites.
  • Phase 3 (2017): adaptation of the methodology to the management tools of each partner site; closing meeting organised by the Network of European Royal Residences.


  • Paper published in the proceedings of the International Symposium “Les nouvelles rencontres de la conservation préventive” (June 8-9, 2017, Archives Nationales, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine): “Assessment methods for collections: comparative and test study toward their application to exhibited collections of historic houses and palace-museums- EPICO research programme” by Danilo Forleo, Nadia Francaviglia and Noémie Wansart, pp. 125-139.


>  Danilo Forleo, Project supervisor, Works manager responsible for preventive conservation, Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles,
>  Noémie Wansart, Project coordinator, Research Assistant, Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles,
>  Nadia Francaviglia, Conservator of organic materials, Research Associate, Centre de recherche du château de Versailles,
>  Elena Alliaudi, Network Coordinator, Network of European Royal Residences,
>  Stefania De Blasi, Head of the Documentation Centre, Fondazione Centro Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale” (Italy),
>  Agnieszka Pawlak, Deputy Head of Prevention and Conservation Departement,
Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III w Wilanowie (Poland).

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