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Subject: Conservation facilities and the public

Conservation facilities and the public

From: Valinda Carroll <vcarroll>
Date: Thursday, August 9, 2001
At Colonial Williamsburg, there were some who wanted our facilities
(opened in 1996) to be set up as "conservation in a fishbowl," but,
fortunately, that was not done.  Instead, there are docent-led tours
on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 to 4.  This allows the
conservators to control the message received by the visitors.  If
tourists are just watching through a window, without anyone to
explain what they are seeing, then the visitors won't really learn
what's going on.   (The casual observer can't distinguish
consolidation from inpainting, but he/she can see that you're using
a tiny paint brush).  The downside to the approach at CWF is that
the tours interrupt our work because the visitors actually enter our
lab space. The tours go to different labs each day, so each lab only
gets two or three public tours per month.  Visitors have to place a
reservation, and there are usually 10 to 15 people in each tour. The
docent calls around 2pm to tell us how many people to expect.

We try to emphasize preventive conservation and environmental
control to visitors to the paper lab.  We also explain preservation,
conservation, and restoration procedures in the context of folk art
and 18th-century historical materials (ie stabilization without
cosmetic treatment for certain objects).

Unguided gawking at the trained dolphins working in a "conservation
tank" may not do very much to aid in your institutional mission.  It
is also important to give visitors a chance to ask questions,
because they often wonder how to care for their own heirlooms and
collectibles.   I would definitely push to allow only guided tours,
in order to deliver your message clearly, even if a "fishbowl"
design is built.

Valinda Carroll
Marshall Steel Postgraduate Fellow
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:16
                 Distributed: Thursday, August 9, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-16-001
Received on Thursday, 9 August, 2001

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