While most conservators spend their days immersed in the technical/mechanical processes of repair and preservation, we are also considering the deeper concerns about the work we do.
Is our job to recover, discover or pass judgment on an artifact?
Does the value of objects in the present depend on or reflect the value of objects in the past?
Do people in the present decide what the value is of those possessions their ancestors kept?
Does the owner convey the importance of an object and therefore ask us to ‘save’ it?
Or do we tell the public what is valuable by our willingness to care for it?
What is our role, if any, in preserving culture?
Do we repair those items that were valued in the past or those we believe will have value in the future? Both, of course. Both views are judgments subject to change, however, and if we want to be regarded as ‘guardians of material heritage’, we can’t make those decisions. Conservators must be neutral in their assessment of an item; condition and preservation are the main focus of our involvement, not whether that item is in our judgment, worth saving. Conservation is not just about saving historical artifacts but in ‘promoting the ethic of care’*
Samuel Jones: In a Material World; the relationship between culture and policy.