Damage, Decay, Conservation (Mellon Curriculum)

Few human-made things last in their original form. Things change. Some are inherently unstable, whether physically or chemically. Some are purposefully modified. Some are damaged by human action, either accidental or intentional. This seminar focuses on issues arising from human intervention in changed artifacts from many societies and time periods. We shall investigate Western conservation practice in various contexts, including museums, the art trade, and sacred sites. How do changes to tangible things occur, and what are those changes? What forms of examination facilitate intervention? What are criteria for intervention? Whose values affect the definition of these criteria? Whose values might be in conflict with those that promote intervention? What agendas (such as nationalism, tourism promotion, reconstruction after armed conflict) affect conservation and restoration decisions? How responsive are conservation institutions to theoretical and ethical concerns? We shall pursue these puzzles through theoretical texts, case studies, and visits to conservation laboratories. 3 credits. satisfies pre-1800 requirement.