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The conservation of artifacts already in museum care is highlighted more often than the repairs creators make to their own objects. Preserving What is Valued, a small display that opened last month at the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, focuses on the global history of material culture’s care.
“Our collections illustrate the diversity of technological solutions to the same universal problems, encouraging visitors to reflect upon what unites us as humans, as much as on what separates us by culture,” Heather Richardson, the museum’s head of conservation, told Hyperallergic. “Focusing on the original repairs is just one more way of doing this.”
Preserving What is Valued was curated by the museum’s conservation department, concentrating on objects in its reserve collections. “The ways of mending are actually quite limited, but the materials used to achieve the mend can tell you about what was readily available in each place,” Richardson explained.
A netted bag from Papua New Guinea was stitched with marsupial hair, contrasting in gray against the original pink and green fiber, while a Canadian Inuit knife made of walrus ivory and whalebone was stitched with either seal or walrus sinew. A ladle from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, was bound with highly valued copper, while recycled tin — the warning “highly inflammable” still visible — fixed a broken, wooden food dish from Southern Sudan.
“The repairs give an extra dimension to the object’s life, often helping to explain how it was used, while also telling you something about the person who owned it,” Richardson stated. Most repairs are aimed at keeping an object useful, but aesthetics are sometimes considered, such as an African gourd with glass beads in different colors wound into its binding, while another gourd has orderly staples winding along the break. And then there are examples of Japanese kintsugi ceramics, on loan for the display, where gold powder in urushi lacquer accents, rather than hides, its scars.
“From early times, imperfection has been the subject of aesthetic appreciation in Japan, particularly with regard to the repair of valued items that have suffered in the course of their daily use,” Richardson said. With examples from across all continents, Preserving What is Valued asks viewers to consider why an object was kept rather than replaced, whether that was spiritual or out of necessity, those repairs adding to the item’s intangible history. As Richard stated: “As conservators working with anthropological collections when we find examples of repairs from originating communities we feel it gives the object a deeper resonance and is something we strive to preserve.”
Preserving What is Valued continues at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford (South Parks Road, Oxford, England) through January 3, 2016.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…