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Wednesday, May 15 • 8:40am - 9:00am
(Opening Session) Conservation Is Not Neutral

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Cultural heritage institutions are increasingly sites of conflict as previously accepted or imposed societal norms are questioned and replaced with more inclusive values and practices that reflect changing social demographics and ethics. Phrases like “Museums are not neutral” and “Archives are not neutral” are rallying cries for a new generation of practitioners who seek to confront structural racism and sexism in their collections and places of work. Despite the best of intentions and a strong ethic of care, conservators and the field of conservation as a whole is no more free from the socio-economic constraints the guide the acquisition and exhibition of collections work than our curatorial peers. In her 2016 talk “Race, Diversity and Politics in 21st Century Conservation,” Sanchita Balachandran challenged conservators to consider how the core function of our work is to preserve the intangible heritage of material objects to support diverse communities of practice. This talk reflects upon the role of conservators within American heritage institutions and how our service-based profession ends up upholding the traditional racial and gender hierarchies of American society, whether through treatment priorities, conservation methodologies, or value-based assumptions. This talk will also explore the unique role that conservators and preservation staff hold in heritage institutions with broad responsibilities for the preventive care and maintenance of collections and how the authority derived from these responsibilities can be leveraged to better address the care and promotion of more diverse collections that better reflect American society and ideals.

avatar for Fletcher Durant

Fletcher Durant

Head of Conservation and Preservation, University of Florida
Fletcher Durant is the Head of Conservation and Preservation at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries. He is responsible for the care and treatment of the Libraries’ 6+ million volumes and 13+ million items in the Digital Collections. His work focuses on the preventive... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 8:40am - 9:00am EDT
Salon A & B, Uncas Ballroom
  General Session, Opening General Session