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

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 University of California, Los Angeles, entitled "Copies, Facsimiles, and the Invisible Text."

Participants included


Thomas BranchickWilliamstown Art Conservation Center
Carmon ColangeloFox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University
Harry CooperNational Gallery of Art
Fenella FranceLibrary of Congress
Carlo GinzburgUniversity of California Los Angeles
Christian ScheidemannContemporary Conservation, Ltd.
Alexa SekyraThe Getty Research Institute
Samantha Stout, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, San Diego
Carol StringariThe Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Jeffrey WeissThe Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Mariët Westermann, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Mariёt WestermannThe Andrew W. Mellon Foundation