Sunday, 30 October 2011

Altamira Cave, microbial strains and access

Altamira Cave, in the north of Spain. Image from Science & Technology 

Altamira Cave has had a long history of closing and opening to the public since its discovery in 1879. Access policies are about to be revised, again. However, according to recent studies carried out by Saiz-Jimenez and other scientists (see the article on Science 7 October 2011, pages 42-43) opening the cave for visitors  would have disastrous effects. 

Local authorities think otherwise, however, as the region has become an important touristic hub. There are some interesting points to debate here, such as how to define an access policy that will not compromise the cave or local development. Another important point would be the validity of the replica, that is, whether it provides an 'authentic' experience for visitors.

See a good discussion here For Cave's Art, An Uncertain Future, by Carmen Drahl

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Viking boat

Of course you are all aware of the remains of a Viking boat recently excavated in Scotland. See Maev Kennedy's article for the Guardian (19th October 2011) here   for more information. Don't miss the video. 
The boat has been tentatively dated to the 10th century, and would have been about 5m long and 1.5m wide. Some objects have been found associated with it, such as a knife, an axe, a copper alloy object thought to have been part of a drinking horn, dozens of rivets, etc. It is not yet clear where the material is being or will be conserved. Or displayed! But I am sure we will know soon. 
The excavations and studies of the material are being carried out by people associated with the Ardnamurchan Transitions ProjectCFA ArchaeologyArchaeology Scotland, and students and academics from various universities.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Importance of Educating and Engaging the Public

This past week, some members of the American arm of Occupywallstreet have turned their scrutinizing gazes towards cultural institutions that charge an entrance fee. Using the image seen here as a visual representation of their ideas, they have released a manifesto that condemned the practice of restricting access to cultural heritage and the perceived elitism of this institutional practice (you can read the statement here).

Although this post might be of a particular interest to our American colleagues, the implications of this statement affect institutions world-wide. This statement highlights how many members of the public still view our professions and the institutions for we work as elitist despite decades of trying to become more accessible to the community. This reminds us that even today, we must continue to constantly reassess our institutional practices and the values that they stand for (as well as how those values might be interpreted by the public). We must ask ourselves: how does the public view our institution? How do they view our interpretations of objects? How can we maintain relevance in our communities? How can we make ourselves, our objects, and our institutions more accessible to and better understood by the public?

More than this, we must consider how important it might be to make the public aware of the operation costs and the costs of maintaining the objects within the institution. We must ask ourselves how we can raise awareness for the importance of preservation management and maintain visibility within the museum so that our museum colleagues as well as the public can understand the implications of continual preservation and conservation. Now more than ever, it is important to engage in dialogue with the public community so that they are invested in the future (and funding) of their cultural institutions. (This second image provided by GOOD Culture and Cataloguetree in 2008)

Jobs for conservators

Object Conservator, Museums Resource Centre, Standlake
Closing Date:28 October 2011

Conservator of Ceramics , British Museum, London
Closing date: 31 October 2011

Conservator, Objects, Science Museum, London
Closing date: 25 November 2011

Conservator, Royal Armouries, Leeds
Closing Date:  7 November 2011

Stained Glass Conservator, Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury
Closing date: 10 November 2011

(Note that job titles are listed as publicized by employers)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Creative forms of looting

The Independent from 03/09/2011 had a very enlightening article on street art that was removed from its original context to be displayed, of all places, in a gallery.  Isn't this what some would call inside-out and upside-down?

After reading 'Hacked off: the art show that's driven Banksy up the wall' I started thinking whether this could be considered a new form of looting, vandalism, preservation or even whether this could just be a new form of art: gallery-street art? 

Re-construct Pompeii?

If you like reconstructions you should read Simon Jenkins' article on The Guardian (29/09/2011) arguing for the restoration of Pompeii. Actually, if you don't like reconstructions you should read it as well, but do so at your own risk!
Jenkins suggests that if we can restore a painting we can restore Pompeii, mainly because it is 'heartbreaking to see it decaying'. He seems to think he knows all about conservation philosophy and the disadvantages caused by what he calls the 'conserve as found' maxim. Somehow Ruskin and Viollett-le-Duc came to my mind...
Don't miss the comments!

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