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Preservation and Its Intellectual Framework

January 30 – 31, 2013

This invitational colloquium -- convened by Charles Henry, president, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and Gary Wihl, dean of Arts and Sciences, Hortense & Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis -- explored the threaded intellectual activities of preservation and art historical interpretation.

Too often, preservation and scholarly interpretation are separated topically and thematically; each has a lexicon and practitioners as well as formal organizations and professional societies. This colloquium programmatically and intentionally brings these fields together and is framed by the following questions: What are the decisions made in choosing a particular method of preserving a work of art? What are the alternative methodologies, and why are they not utilized? What aesthetic and scholarly issues obtain in making such decisions? How are art objects seen and understood before and after selected examples of preservation? Are these changes at times significant and transformative? How significant is an act of preservation to the meaning of an object? What are the philosophies of preservation? What are some of the salient questions an art historian must ask when confronting a newly restored work of art? Are there any arguments against preservation? What are the histories of preservation as scientific and philosophical discourses?

The public element of the colloquium was an address given by Carlo Ginzburg, Franklin D. Murphy Professor of Italian Renaissance Studies at UCLA, entitled "Copies, Facsimiles, and the Invisible Text."

The colloquium was a collaborative event sponsored by The Clark, CLIR, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Participants included: Thomas Branchick, Williamstown Art Conservation Center; Carmon Colangelo, Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University; Harry Cooper, National Gallery of Art; Fenella France, Library of Congress; Carlo Ginzburg, University of California Los Angeles; Christian Scheidemann, Contemporary Conservation, Ltd.; Alexa Sekyra, The Getty Research Institute; Maurizio Seracini, University of California San Diego, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology; Carol Stringari, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Jeffrey Weiss, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Mariet Westermann, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.