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Subject: Terminology


From: Ed FitzGerald <fitzed<-at->
Date: Monday, April 27, 2009
Jennifer Barnett <reginatextilia [at] orange__fr> writes

>During a current revision job, I was confronted with the term 'life
>expectancy' applied to paper archive objects and set to searching
>for an accurate alternative for this incorrect term: objects are not
>alive. ...

I found your query intriguing. I too have questioned the use of the
term "life" in describing objects of conservation. In my line of
work, conservation of the built environment, the phrase "life cycle"
is often used. My major qualm with this terminology is not that the
objects are not "alive" per se but rather, that "living" implies
some ultimate end to usefulness/function, i.e. "death". The
inaccuracy of the present terminology stems from the fact that,
properly maintained, a building can have infinite "life". In my own
research, I have acquiesced to the popular terminology and relegated
this minor qualm to discussion in footnotes, having nothing better
to offer.

Here are some possible alternatives:

    physical duration
    period of existence

Economists also use the terms "use" and "utility" in a similar

Ed FitzGerald
Historic Preservation Planning
Department of City and Regional Planning
College of Architecture, Art and Planning
Cornell University

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:64
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 5, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-64-008
Received on Monday, 27 April, 2009

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