Conservation is embedded with a range of practical and philosophical dilemmas. Accordingly, we need to make judgements about how to balance concerns that achieve the best outcomes holistically for understanding, valuing, preserving and engaging with carved stones. The issues we face may relate to recognising and attempting to resolve conflicting values. For example, are carved stones artefacts or monuments? What weight do the artistic merits of architectural carved stones hold against structural and contextual values? When does graffiti possess cultural values and when is it detrimental to significance (Graffiti: Case Study 34)? Dilemmas may stem from concerns for unintended outcomes of our action (or equally a lack of intervention). For example, can preservation by record be a double-edged sword? How can we identify future needs? Will increased tourism result in higher risks to stones from visitor damage, theft or vandalism? We face a significant challenge in devising ways to safeguard stones that simultaneously optimise benefits to preservation, research, access and engagement (Foster 2005b). Creating greater self-awareness of these different perspectives enables us to see how changes in preservation link to shifts in the cultural and public values placed on carved stones, and the role our actions to arrest deterioration play in this dynamic. This understanding is urgently needed to guide practical actions to protect the highest at-risk categories of carved stones (see Sections 5.3.3, 5.3.4, and 5.3.5).
The values of each stone will be different at any moment in time as will their conservation needs, so the range of solutions will always be time- and place-specific, but there are wider issues, beyond the technicalities of conservation science, that we must also research. The approach taken in the Materials, Authenticity and Values (MAV) Project reminds us how critical it is that we reflect on the material qualities of carved stones (and their replicas), and the spaces we encounter them in, how this intersects with the ways authenticity is negotiated, and the manner in which different communities of interest value the thing in question (Science, value and material decay: Case Study 8). Qualitative research is necessary to better understand these issues and their implications for what we do and how we do it. In making our decisions to protect carved stones, what emphasis should we give to the different sorts of values, and where should the balance lie between the cultural and public ones (see Section 4.2)? The Moray Buried tombstones: Case Study 35 is an excellent example of how partnership working initially driven by different, potentially conflicting, sets of cultural values can produce wider benefits for understanding, accessing and engaging carved stones. Conserving in situ, the use of shelters or moving stones can impact either positively or negatively on stones’ landscape associations and values. Is it more important to keep a stone on display in situ or locally than to perhaps provide more ready access or greater security to it somewhere else? What is the attitude of the public, including private owners of carved stones, to replicas of carved stones as part of heritage strategies? How should their presence and role be communicated?