what we do

Bogart, or, Protecting Cultural Heritage

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.

New technologies

Archivists in Second Life

While I have always been curious about and appreciative of the Second Life evolution, I’ve not been too interested in putting any time into exploring it. My First Life is time-consuming enough. I’m starting to see, though, that there will eventually be no such thing as a disparity between the life we lead in what we consider “real” time and the things we do on-line. I’m getting more interested in participating, especially since things like THIS are starting to happen – digitized archives presented on the Information Archipelago of Second Life. This is where true innovation is happening for things like networking and marketing. This is where we can create new audiences and find new methods of fund-raising and outright selling of services. I am starting to envision ways to use this in my new job. Hmmmm. You may be witnessing the start of a new obsession on my part. Or maybe not – I’ll be moving in the next few weeks and then starting a new demanding job. Stay tuned.

what we do

Tag – We Are Not It

I’ve been searching for other paper conservation blogs. I’ve Googled and Asked. I’ve looked on Technorati, Digg, Del.icio.us. I’ve varied my search terms. I’ve decided…Houston, we have a problem.

“Paper conservation” brings us mostly to discussions about saving trees, and a very interesting blog about a conservation experience in the Antarctic. “Paper conservator” might get you here, and to a nicely-done British book conservator blog-he tells me he is now at the Huntington- Broken Books, or Mr. Paper’s look into the paper industry in it’s many permutations, including a bunch of stuff on paper dresses, and to a blog by a newly hired paper conservator in Australia. “Art conservation” – not much except conservator’s private practice websites, training programs, the Distlist and other publications, and vendors – no blogs that I’ve yet found. “Preservation” is mostly buildings, unless you add the word “Library”. “Book conservation” brings you to the ubiquitous Future of the Book. Frustratingly, many feed search results provide articles about political conservatives instead of conservators. “Art restoration” is mostly articles written by non-conservators.

Bottom line is that any combination of search terms only yields a handful of relevant results, and anyone looking for a blog talking about our profession has to rummage like the most persistent flea-market hound. We’ve got to do better than this.

So, shall we revisit the ever-evolving conversation about what is that we should be called? What search terms, keywords and tags should we be promoting? How can we make sure that we get found?

My question to you: how do you describe your profession to a stranger, when you have about 5 seconds to get it across? Do you say “I’m a conservator”? The response to that, it seems, is “…like you save the environment?” I tend to say “I fix art and historic documents”, and leave the word “conservator for later in the conversation. That don’t seem right, PR-wise, but it communicates the essentials quickly. It does leave something to be desired in expressing the intricacy, extensive training and education, the professionalism required.

Ideas, anyone?