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Subject: Terminology


From: Annlinn Kruger <akru<-at->
Date: Wednesday, May 6, 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 ...

Elsewhere I have written:

   "Although the history, philosophy, and ethics of Western culture
    display a preference for fixity, that is, eternity, they also
    present, a lively subversive record of engagement with
    mutability, that is, mortality, and

   "the apprehension of the relation of a "eternity" to "death is
    the content of the form of temporality itself."(1)  When things
    are fetishized, and thought to have lives of their own, it is
    not surprising to dread their loss and experience such loss as
    death. "Now death is the most terrible of all things; for it is
    the end" (2) and life is "a constant equivocal motion of death
    and safekeeping or salvation" (3) and, of course, who would not
    be on the side of the angels?

    (1) Hayden White, The Content of the Form, (Baltimore: The Johns
    Hopkins University Press, 1987), 180.

    (2) Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics," in Introduction to
    Aristotle, ed. R. McKeon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
    1973), 400.

    (3) Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever (Chicago: University of
    Chicago Press, 1996), 328.

We (Western conservators) inherit our, for the most part,
professionally unexamined language from Western traditions of
religion, commerce, and politics. It is useful to question this
vocabulary; how we speak of things influences how we see things and
how we treat things. To speak of "life", "death", and "inherent
vice" influences our perspective of things, of our work, and our
priorities--whether we recognize this artifact of our inheritance or
not. Unquestioning acceptance of the elevation of things to a status
of beings which live, suffer, and die and which, it is implied, have
souls to be saved is a marker of our role in the cultural apparatus
dedicated to keeping things in their place. As we study this perhaps
we will come up with a different vocabulary reflecting a different
awareness of the place of things.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:65
                    Distributed: Friday, May 8, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-65-005
Received on Wednesday, 6 May, 2009

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