Bogart, or, Protecting Cultural Heritage

11 01 2009

Once upon a time, in the 1980s, when I was an art student undergrad living in an apartment complex full of same, I went to a party.  One of my neighbors had an unusual pet, and brought said pet to the party.  This pet, name of Bogart, was a very young panther.  I have no idea what happened to Bogart once he grew up, and really don’t want to think about an adult panther living in a two bedroom apartment in Austin.  That is not the point of this story.

The point is that a bored Bogart gathered up everyone’s purses, piled them in a corner of the room, and stood guard.  No one was allowed to have their purse until the neighbor tempted the cat away with some meat.

Some of you may know that Bogart can also be a verb meaning to keep something to oneself.  From the urban dictionary:  “To keep something all for oneself, thus depriving anyone else of having any. A slang term derived from the last name of famous actor Humphrey Bogart because he often kept a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, seemingly never actually drawing on it or smoking it.”  As in “heeeey, man…don’t bogart that…”

How does this relate to preservation and conservation?  Glad you asked.  I feel like Bogart sometimes.  There are times that I want to gather all the stuff into a corner and not let anyone at it.  You want to look at it, but you find my request to not drink coffee over it inconvenient?  You want to squash that book onto the photocopier when I’m not looking – who cares if you break the spine off?  You want to know if we’ve got some extra archival material that you can take home?  No! Mine!  Stay back!  Grrrrr [bares teeth].

One the other paw, I know, I know – what good is having the stuff if no one gets to play with it.  We’ve got plenty that will make it into the next century or two, and sharing will help gather support for ensuring that the institution continues.  We’ve made great strides in the past year in terms of creating better environmental conditions, gaining intellectual and physical control over the collections, and stirring up interest.  People DO seem to take preservation and access issues more seriously, and I am VERY excited about our progress and the support of the higher ups.  It’s all good.

I just feel a bit attached, is all.  Someone’s got to bar the door, so call me Katy and  I’ll be the one to try to slow processes down.  I’ll ask annoying questions about de-accessioning policies and responsibility for cultural heritage.  I’ll make people examine their plans and actions and their potential consequences.  I’ll be the bad guy and say no until someone higher up says yes with full knowledge of the whys and hows.

So, this is all just to say that I am embracing my inner Bogart.  And..I’m not sure distracting me with a large hunk of meat will work, but you can try.

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