Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Conservation principles

Conservation principles

From: Richard Fuller <frichard>
Date: Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I don't wish to belabour the subject but I would like to reply to
George Brock-Nannestad <pattac[at]image_dk> regarding his comments
concerning my posting of Aug. 28, 2006

George Brock-Nannestad <pattac [at] image__dk> writes

>... But why use a confusingly similar material for restoration
>of that function? It can only be because there is a sentimental
>approach to "healing" of the object ('there, dear, it is as good as

Conservators make treatment choices weighing a number of factors. I
doubt that "sentimental" ones are significant in this process. But,
even if 'confusingly similar' materials are used, does this alter
the entire artifact or make it unworthy of providing information for
future researchers? Materials or techniques used for repair will be
recorded on a treatment report for interested parties to read in the
future. Of course, the application of heat or other techniques, that
could partially alter the information content of an artifact, should
be carefully considered before treatment.

The focus of my comments here was to add to the discussion that that
repairs are not necessarily 'modifications' of artifacts, depending
on the type and history of those objects.

>Personal thrill at the expense of future quests for knowledge has no
>place in a public museum environment. Wear patterns and repairs may
>be practiced on worn-down replicas. ...

Goodness gracious, we wouldn't want to to be 'thrilled' by an
artifact (I'm sure many museum directors dream of such a visitor
reaction)! In any case, I'm not talking about personal choices but
about organizations that have a specific approach to the use of
certain artifacts in their interpretive programs. Individuals, such
as conservators, are employed by these publicly operated bodies. Mr.
Brock-Nannestad may be surprised to know that museums that extend
the intended function of some artifacts are staffed by knowledgeable,
professionally trained people who are not interested in thwarting
"future quests for knowledge" and have equal status in determining
the ethical standards for the use of artifact collections under
their responsibilities.

Yes, it would be splendid if these museums had access to all these
'replicas' he imagines are available but the practical reality is
that there isn't some stockpile of high quality, operable,
affordable artifact replicas out there. Reproductions and replicas
are used in 'Living History' interpretation but they can't represent
every artifact required. It's one thing to replicate or reproduce a
quilt, package label or a chair but quite another to replicate a
steam tractor, threshing machine, gramophone or cream separator.
>From my perspective, what has "no place in a public museum" is a
rigid, purist attitude.

>I definitely agree, however worldwide at least a few artefacts must
>be left alone, as time capsules representing the "real life" outside
>a collection. Others may continue their life at a lower pace, being
>repaired by skilful museum craftsmen ...
>... That artefact will
>then represent the "garden variety" life of a pensioner.

Obviously, I'm not promoting the use of all the world's artifacts.
Hopefully, most will be safely stored for future generations to
enjoy and learn from, not because I think they will represent "real
life", which they can never do completely, but that they can give
people a little insight into how people before them lived their
lives, even, we can only hope, the "garden variety life" of the

Richard Fuller

                  Conservation DistList Instance 20:15
               Distributed: Saturday, September 23, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-20-15-005
Received on Wednesday, 13 September, 2006

[Search all CoOL documents]