STONEHENGE, an important but badly-managed heritage site
All of the articles emphasize the importance of making sources of significant heritage accessible to the public, which can’t be done if conservators are so worried about protecting the object that they build a wall between “academic” and “active” life (Lowenthal). All material is meant to disintegrate eventually over time, and while a conservator must consider the “sustainability” of an object it is important to “enable its use” for people now (Corruchaga). Do you agree? Should a conservator’s first priority be to the people or to the object and the museum which wishes to protect it? How can a museum attract people if it prefers the object’s physical preservation over the integrity of the experience people gain from interacting with it?
Elizabeth Pye points out how important and beneficial it is for people to be able to hold objects. There is an “element of exploration and discovery” that we can only find when we employ our hands, for “our facility with tools…mark us as human”. Where do human nature and emotion fit in? How important are they in preserving the integrity of heritage?
What happens when we are not only forbidden from touching the object, but from even seeing it, as in the case of many indigenous Australian sites? Andrew Thorn explores the idea of the conservator as “visitor”, an outsider who cannot possibly understand or fully appreciate the integrity of the piece that must be conserved because it is not allowed. Is it still possible for the object to maintain its integrity in this instance? How about with non-indigenous viewers? Is there a responsibility to them? Who decides and why?
Lowenthal states that “we may be more caring stewards of things” when we realize that they cannot last forever – maybe this holds true for things that we can never fully understand as well.
indigenous drawings at KADAKU, an indigenous site that is working to satisfy cultural wishes and tourist curiousity
This may also be the case in instances where we can see the object, but it is not the original. Corruchaga and Monforte talk about how public understanding and appreciation grew for Altamira when the original site had to be closed down and people had to replicate their experience in the Neocave. Even though it is not the original, the replica is effective in maintaining the integrity of the site because it shows how fragile heritage is and helps people understand the changes over time that the cave went through over time – also while allowing the site to be preserved without disturbance as well.
Most of the articles seemed to suggest that a conservator’s allegiance lay first and foremost with the object, but is this always the case? As Balachandran pointed out, where there is no provenience or site information known, preserving an artifact may actually ruin its integrity. Can we say where a conservator’s allegiance should lie (with the museum, the object, or the public and their desire to experience the object…), or are there certain instances when one party may hold more weight than another?