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Subject: Furniture damaged by fire

Furniture damaged by fire

From: Christopher Gray <methistory<-at->
Date: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I am an architectural historian in New York City.  I often
cross-post Cons DistList items on an architectural preservation list
to which I also subscribe, Bullamanka-Pinheads, which is oriented
towards preservationists working in what they (and I) often consider
the "real world"--generally  oriented to garden-variety preservation
projects, but sometimes reaching up to major public work.

Although most of the subscribers are "mechanics" in the 19th century
sense of the word--stonemasons, brick specialists, etc., the
sophistication on the Bullamanka list always surprises me, with
expert and learned posts on chemicals in 19th century mortars,
off-gassing of modern caulking, that sort of thing.  Every
subscriber appears to be  interested in and committed to the
preservation of architecture and material goods in general.

Recently I cross-posted the Canadian posting about "a fire-damaged,
Victorian sewing table where consolidation of localized charring was
a main concern." (Conservation DistList Instance: 23:19 Sunday,
November 29, 2009) Cons DistList subscribers will probably not
recall it as anything too remarkable, but the extent of the measures
taken to keep the item intact struck me as verging on idolatry,
although I have no  way of knowing whether or not the table belonged
to Queen Victoria or whatever.  (This is not to say that I did not
find admirable and interesting the science behind the post itself.)

I did not state this specifically in my cross-post, but other
Bullamanka subscribers had the same reaction, including:

   "The shock for me (Canadian) is that this came from Canada where
    funds for all sorts of cultural and historic places and programs
    are currently being disastrously cut and eliminated.  We will
    soon be thinking of the historic buildings as sources of
    firewood to keep us warm during the winter, and the government
    will probably ask us to thank them for providing us with a
    little extra costly warmth due to the epoxy treatments.

   "The awful irony is that I am currently in the midst of a major
    artifact cleaning and conservation project due to a recent fire
    in the historic Farmhouse I work with.  The image of deeply
    charred wood at the closet and hall door frames where the fire
    happened is terribly familiar as a daily sight and smell along
    with  local self-appointed "experts" with strong opinions about
    the desirability of consolidating the charred remains of door
    frames due to the simplistic fact that they were made 150 years
    ago.  The original highly skilled carpenter would have no
    question about what to do with the charred mess."

Perhaps this reaction is of no meaning to the bulk of subscribers on
Cons DistList, but it may be useful to others.

Christopher Gray
Office for Metropolitan History
246 West 80th Street #8
NYC 10024
Fax: 212-799-0542

                  Conservation DistList Instance 23:20
                 Distributed: Sunday, December 6, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-23-20-008
Received on Tuesday, 1 December, 2009

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