This paper is part of a longer research project focused on restoration and conservation practices as forms of active reception that reveal various political, aesthetical, and philosophical contexts. In my first book about the restoration of paintings in France (1750-1815), I argued that eighteenth-century conservation both reflected and constructed art historical values and agendas: at the time, art history was not only a written science, but also amaterial practice elaborated through the physical selection, updating, and presentation of paintings. In this paper, I would like to take the argument further, and observe past and present debates about conservation in a cross-cultural context. In this perspective, debates andconsultations with artists and communities are key methods for conservators: but what do those discussions tell us? What is embedded in the frequent controversies? How are practices and debates both informing us about art historical positions, as well as aesthetical and politicalagendas? I will consider three cases studies, focusing on a variety of media (namely paintings,furniture, and sculpture). These examples come from different historical, cultural and social contexts. Nonetheless, they all show that conservation – taken here in its broadest sense - is a dynamic practice building up a material and political history of art and of cultural heritage.