Expertise in heritage conservation restoration and plastic arts technology dates back to a long tradition initiated by Paul Philippot, Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles Free University of Brussels from 1955 to 1995, who was also Deputy Director of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome. Catheline Périer-D'Ieteren took over the torch and created, in 1989, the Centre de recherches et d'études technologiques des arts plastiques (CRETAP). Initially intended for students in Art History and Archaeology, as a support for the courses "technology of the plastic arts" and "conservation-restauration of the movable heritage", CRETAP has rapidly expanded its activities. Through the many projects initiated by Catheline Périer-D'Ieteren and her collaborators, CRETAP has ensured the international reputation of ULB's expertise in heritage conservation and plastic arts technology. Catheline Périer-D'Ieteren has participated in numerous national and international programmes and commissions of experts in the field of conservation and restoration on her behalf, and has held presidencies within ICOM-CC and ICOM/Europe, thus creating an important network of collaborations in Belgium and abroad. CRETAP has also organized numerous events through symposia, study days, exhibitions and awareness-raising programmes. Each of these activities has always been accompanied by publications either in the form of didactic sheets or in the series Cahiers d'études, created for this purpose as a logical continuation of the Annales d’histoire de l’art et archéologie.
As part of the reform of the Research Centres in 2009, CRETAP has logically integrated CReA-Patrimoine by contributing its expertise in the fields of conservation-restoration and technology in the plastic arts and by pursuing its projects.
The "Museums and Conservation-Restoration of Movable Heritage" finality, coordinated by Valentine Henderiks, was thus created for Master students in Art History and Archaeology in order to train them in interdisciplinary work. The program has been established in close collaboration with the Conservation-Restoration of Works of Art section of ENSAV La Cambre. In addition to the lectures given to students in both institutions, several conservation-restoration projects have been launched.
The latest one concerns the preservation, study and conservation-restoration of the ULB's cast collection. Initiated by CReA-Patrimoine, it involved both the students in Art History and Archaeology at ULB, who studied the works, and those at ENSAV La Cambre, who restored them, but also members of the academic staff of the two institutions who coordinated the work and ensured its publication.
Expertise in heritage conservation and plastic arts technology is also ensured by the close links between CReA-Patrimoine and the Royal Institute for Artistic Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels. Several research projects combining study, scientific examinations of the works in the laboratory and conservation-restoration have been carried out in collaboration. As part of the exhibition Sang&Larmes. Albrecht Bouts and the images of the Passion (Musée national d'Histoire et d'Art, de Luxembourg / Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, 2016-2017), the curator, Valentine Henderiks, in collaboration with IRPA specialists, has appraised several paintings on display, photographing them and examining them with ultraviolet rays and infrared reflectography. Valentine Henderiks also collaborated on the BRAIN Closer to Van Eyck VERONA project (2013-2015) which documents the master's works preserved in Europe with the help of different examination methods (RX, RIR, Macro-XRF). She also directed the Wings&Links (BRAIN) project (2015-2018), which focused on the expertise of a group of Antwerp altarpieces from the early 16th century, including in situ infrared reflectography examinations on several altarpiece sections using a new imaging system developed by the IRPA team.
Finally, every year, IRPA welcomes students from the ULB's Museums and Conservation-Restoration Finality to do internships in the institute's three departments (documentation, laboratory, conservation-restoration).
Since 2018, the Périer-D'Ieteren Foundation has been further strengthening CreA-Patrimoine's expertise in heritage conservation and technology in the plastic arts by financing a 15-hour seminar each year that invites a specialist in the field, as part of the "Museums and Conservation-Restore of the Movable Heritage" Finality.
Through its work and collaborations in conservation restoration, CReA-Patrimoine directed (Sébastien Clerbois-Valentine Henderiks) the first thesis in Art and Art Sciences from the F.N.R.S at the ULB submitted in 2019 by Eve Bouyer and devoted to the non-illusionist restoration of ceramics: towards a decision-making protocol.
Fig.1 : Valentine Henderiks and Sophie De Potter (KIK-IRPA) examining the Virgin worshipped by Saint Jospeh of Albrecht Bouts (Private collection) during the exhibition Sang&Larmes. Albrecht Bouts and the images of the Passion at the Musée national d'Histoire et d'Art de Luxembourg.