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Max Liebermann : female canners (1879)

Preservation ( Latin conservare , “to get”, “to preserve”) describes the extension of the shelf life of objects by reducing chemical aging .

Typically, products such as food and beverages as well as pharmaceuticals are preserved for a longer or shorter period of time with the aid of preservatives and processes. In the case of everyday objects , the preservation also includes a reduction in wear and tear and corrosion .

The preservation prevents or delays physical decomposition processes , which z. B. caused by drying out or swelling, as well as chemical decomposition processes such as oxidation and hydrolysis . In the case of biodegradable substances, autolysis and degradation by microorganisms such as putrefactive bacteria , mold and yeasts also take place .

In the course of evolution, (hereditary) information of important traits is preserved through selection pressure across many species in a lineage, so that the most necessary genes and proteins remain unchanged.

Food and feed

The preservation of food and feed has always been of particular importance (see also food preservation ). There are ways of preserving them to make them durable over the long term. Physical preservation processes change structure and taste, and a loss of vitamins and aromas is often unavoidable. Chemical preservation processes carry the risk of allergic reactions or hypersensitivity reactions to the preservative. Durability, economic efficiency of the process, harmlessness and nutrient retention have to be weighed against each other.

Depending on the food or feed to be preserved, the culture area and the technical and economic possibilities, different processes are used or combined.

Increase in osmolarity

The addition of water-soluble substances or the withdrawal of water increase the osmolarity to the point of hypertonicity , whereby water is withdrawn from the contaminating microbes.


The addition of biocides either kills the microbe (biocide) or prevents microbial growth (biostatic).

Oxygen deprivation

Withdrawal of oxygen prevents the growth of all oxygen-dependent microbes ( mandatory aerobes ), while the growth of microorganisms that are not dependent on oxygen, but therefore grow faster ( optional aerobes ), is slowed down . In addition, a is the oxidation of oxidation sensitive ingredients (v. A. Unsaturated fatty acids , vitamin C and vitamin E ) decreased.

Methods with oxygen deprivation are:

Temperature deprivation

Since microbes have an optimal growth temperature, their growth can be slowed down by cooling.


The disinfection describes the inactivation of microorganisms and inanimate pathogens .

Sifting, sieving and filtration

The removal of vermin, germ carriers and germs reduces the effort for other methods of preservation.

Depending on the setting, these processes alone do not produce sufficient preservation.


A coating makes it difficult for microorganisms to enter.


In pharmacy, the preservation of medicinal products means protection against microbial spoilage and oxidation. Such protection is particularly important for the shelf life after opening, since germs can easily be introduced into the medicament by opening the medicament packaging and removing medicament. Some drugs, especially those that contain water, already require a preservation in order to maintain the perfect microbiological quality over their entire shelf life up to the expiry date .

Medicines for use on the eye and for parenteral administration are made durable by sterilization processes or aseptic production and subsequent sterile sealing; chemical preservation of the drugs is generally not necessary, provided that they are used up during use. However, when packing in containers for multiple withdrawals, preservation is mandatory.

Cosmetics and household chemicals

Cosmetics and cleaning agents are mixed with biocides , such as B. Isothiazolinone , phenoxyethanol or benzoates such as paraben . This is especially necessary if they have a high water content and biologically usable substances.

Building materials

In the case of building materials, other processes are used, such B. the impregnation of porous materials with plastics ( impregnation ) in wood , concrete or sandstone as well as the painting of surfaces with lacquer or a linseed oil varnish .

Art and culture

In the field of fine arts and cultural assets in general, conservation or conservation is an umbrella term for all measures that serve to examine, document, maintain and make legible the authenticity of artistic or culturally-historical works, taking into account their age and history without changing them irreversibly. The guarantee of object safety, disaster prevention and defined and constant ambient climates with regard to room temperature , relative humidity , light and pollutant emissions as well as room hygiene conditions are fundamentally important forms of preventive conservation for works of art, their transport and storage . The aim of preventive conservation is to To minimize or even avoid restorations . Preventive or preventive conservation consists in protecting works of art from damage and preventing decay. The control of the room climate (temperature, humidity) and sunlight should be emphasized. In order to preserve works of art, it is essential to adhere to these conditions, also during their transport, as well as during and after the conservation or restoration. In the document from Vantaa (Finland) the guidelines for preventive conservation were laid down in 2000. Conversely, professional restorations always include conservational elements. Cultural monuments are preserved and cared for in the public interest , see Monument Preservation .

Vehicles, especially oldtimers , are often preserved by a coating with waxes (car polish ) to preserve their value , in order to produce hydrophobic surfaces and thus a certain insensitivity to water and to polish a gloss .


The leather care encompasses methods for the preservation and restoration of leather .

Corpses and tissue preservation

The conservation of human corpses is known as embalming , now also known as plastination using plastics. Animal bodies can be permanently prepared by drying, tanning the skin and zoological preparation after removing the (inner) water-rich parts of the organs and replacing the eyeballs. In the case of fixation , glucose , glycerine , thymol , phenol , formalin ( carcinogenic ), paraformaldehyde and various drying processes are also used in histology and preparation technology to preserve biological tissue .


In genetics and biochemistry , conservation is understood to mean the degree of preservation of a gene or protein in the course of evolution , i.e. the similarity and relationship between genes and proteins. If this information is available almost unchanged between different species , one speaks of a "high conservation". From this it can be concluded that the function of the gene or protein is important for the survival of the respective species and that there is a high selection pressure on its function, since naturally occurring mutations in these areas can be associated with negative functional changes. These are possibly lethal and therefore do not have the possibility of being passed on further.

See also


  • Ursula Schädler-Saub and Angela Weyer (eds.): Theory and Practice in the Conservation of Modern and Contemporary Art (conference files of the International Symposium, January 13-14 , 2009 in Hildesheim), (writings of the Hornemann Institute Volume 12), London 2010, ISBN 978-1-904982-54-8 .


  • Paper restoration or since 2009 Journal of PaperConservation , ed. by the International Working Group of Archive, Library and Graphic Restorers (IADA) - appears four times a year,
  • VDR contributions to the preservation of art and cultural assets: Die Fachzeitschrift des VDR , ed. from the Association of Restorers (VDR) - appears twice a year, as well as other monographs on special topics,
  • Restauro - specialist publication for restorers, conservators and preservationists, Callwey Verlag Munich, ISSN  0933-4017 ,
  • ZKK - Journal for Art Technology and Conservation appears since 1987, 2 issues per year, Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, ISSN  0931-7198 , [1]
  • Restoration and archeology. Conservation, Restoration, Technology, Archaeometry (multilingual), appears annually, Volume 1 was published in 2008, Verlag des Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseums - Research Institute for Prehistory and Early History Mainz.

Web links

Wiktionary: Conservation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hunnius Pharmaceutical Dictionary . 6th edition. Walter de Gruyter Verlag, Berlin / New York 1986, pp. 595–597.
  2. Kristina Grote:ösungen.html
  5. Vantaa ( Memento from January 4, 2015 in the Internet Archive )