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Subject: Site-specific art and conservation ethics

Site-specific art and conservation ethics

From: Jack C. Thompson <jct>
Date: Tuesday, August 24, 1993
The modes whereby a work of art may become a thing of the past are
various, and may include inappropriate conservation practices, acts of
war, acts of congress (or other elected bodies/individuals), or the
caprice of time and custom (how many conservators have removed the fig
leaf painted over the pubes of a 15th c. figure by a 19th c. painter?)

Why, then, should we become excited if a body of elected officials,
responding to the electorate (the vocal portion; the representative
portion) decides to dictate that a work of art be removed from public

It is not as though this sort of thing has never been done before.

The AIC Code of Ethics relates to those elements of our day-to-day
existence over which we may reasonably exert control.  The Code does not
dictate every movement which we may make.  To accept that premise would
be equivalent to renouncing our responsibility to decide.  It is the
individual conservator's duty to decide; what is appropriate in this
instance, given this set of parameters, in this time and in this place.

We may, of course, disagree with a colleague.  The form of the
disagreement may be public.

However, in this instance, I do not believe that disagreement, based
upon the AIC Code of Ethics (as expressed by Elizabeth Welsh in her
recent posting) is called for.  If the murals were removed in a fashion
which will permit them to be displayed in their intended venue in a time
to come, there has been no harm, except, perhaps, to the ego of the

Jack C. Thompson
(who is not a psychiatrist)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 7:23
                 Distributed: Saturday, August 28, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-7-23-001
Received on Tuesday, 24 August, 1993

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