September 2000 Volume 21 Number 3

President's Letter

Jill Sterrett

The fading of a color photograph, corrosion on an outdoor sculpture, graffiti on a public mural, shattered silk on samurai armor, rivets on porcelain repair...Is it patina or damage? How this question is answered influences the way a conservation treatment is done.

Memory and history both derive and gain emphasis from physical remains. Physical remains have limitations as informants to be sure: they are always mute, requiring interpretation; their continual but differential erosion and demolition skews the record; and their substantial survival conjures up a past more static than could have been the case. They confirm or deny what we think of it, symbolize and memorialize communal links over time, and provide archeological metaphors that illumine the processes of history and memory. (David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country).

If an object can bridge then and now, does it merely connect two disparate points in time OR chart the whole course of its existence? Perhaps an object can be its own "text" of its journey through history. If so, among the stories it might tell is a narrative about the generations of us who have cared for it. The object we deliver may reflect our technological or scientific sophistication, mirror what we have valued, and suggest the underlying assumptions that have guided our preservation solutions.

Conservation is guided by some combination of assumptions, knowledge, and good critical thinking. Every now and then it is worthwhile to examine the assumptions that underlie what we do even if the inquiry only confirms prevailing approaches. In addition to the usual mix of papers on various conservation topics, 1/2 day at this year's Annual Meeting at SFMOMA will take a look at influences on our work here in the very late 20th century.

AND, there are some other great conservation opportunities in the San Francisco area during the week of our 1999 Annual Meeting. In addition to the video preservation post-session at the Bay Area Video Coalition, the Bay Area Art Conservation Guild is holding a meeting at the newly renovated Stanford University Museum of Art on November 13, 1999 to discuss the experiences of a number of local museums in moving their collections. The format of the meeting will be a panel of museum professionals presenting their views with participation from the audience. A reception will follow.

The Week-at-a-Glance looks like this:

Sat, November 13:Symposium on moving collections hosted by the Bay Area Art Conservation Guild at Stanford

Sun, November 14:Dinner gala at world-renowned Greens Restaurant in San Francisco

Mon - Tues, 15 and 16:WAAC Annual Meeting at SFMOMA.

Wed, November 17:Post-session workshop on the preservation of video materials hosted by the Bay Area Video Coalition in San Francisco

Abstracts for papers at the Annual Meeting have started coming in. I encourage you all to consider giving a presentation and I look forward to seeing you here in San Francisco.

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