What we’ve been reading

February 4, 2010

I would apologize, but this is the occasional nature of the Conservation Occasional.  To wit:

  • Technically not reading, but NCPTT has released their latest podcast on 3-D Rock Art Documentation and Preservation which provides some great insights into the development and deployment of 3-D image capture in the preservation of rock art.  Are there other fields that might be able to effectively utilize similar technology?  Could the image capture and stitching process be used to create 3-D models of tooled leather bindings to add some cultural presence and weight to the decidedly 2-D presentation in emerging digital libraries or exhibitions?
  • Perhaps the people to answer the above questions will be found shortly at the Library of Congress’ new Optical Properties Lab.
  • NYU’s Material World blog asks many insightful questions about the Wittelsbach Diamond, not the least of which is “Does the recutting of a famous gemstone—improving its luster and increasing its market value—fundamentally alter its identity as a historical artifact by erasing signs of use?”blue diamond large comparison
  • What is more ethically troubling, possibly contributing to the destruction of cultural patrimony or re-appropriating said patrimony as cultural imperialism?  (I think that the commenters point out the obvious that this individual most likely acquired a modern fake, but the question of re-appropriation is an interesting one that may or may not mean as much in our globalizing culture.)
  • Harvard Magazine has excerpted a nice piece about George Stout’s role in the Monument Men’s recovery of art during World War II from the new book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel.
  • A nice piece about a small institution fundraising to undertake the treatment of an historic map by NEDCC.
  • Are ruins a condition or a process?  Should we treat ruins as a final state to be preserved bereft of a future or a temporary state that we determine to preserve for our own edification?
  • With the much heralded release of the iPad and the ebook revolution, will libraries look to a rental-type program to provide continuing service to their users?  If this means decoupling preservation from access, will there need to be a national (or international) repository to ensure permanent retention, like LOCKSS?
  • Finally, Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s thoughts on the emergence of a competing duality in Digital Humanities and the problems of the disciplinary departmental model in universities, prodded me to consider the impact of multi-disciplinarity upon the field of conservation.  At least in the US, the field is fractured at the foundational level by the specialty group structure of AIC, with the spread of knowledge retarded by the limited outlets (SG post-prints, JAIC, and Annual Meeting talks).  Beyond that, the field is so multi-disciplinary that published works are scattered over dozens of equally fractured and specialized fields, art history, material studies, archaeology, optics, librarianship, chemistry, the arts, that it takes not only a dedicated researcher (in addition to AATA) to identify relevant works, but a truly top-flight research library to provide access to all the obscure journal subscriptions needed to see these works.  I can’t say that I see an easy answer, but my hope is that web 2.0 can help to bridge some of the chasms and help to build a more readily accessible body of (written) knowledge.

Making my own contributions, one little bit at a time.

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