Eggert 2009

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Eggert, Paul. Securing the Past: Conservation in Art, Architecture and Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.


"Recovering in detail the history of the writing, revision and production of the work being edited radically limits any temptation to whimsicality. But it does not answer the underlying, more philosophical questions that lie insidiously in wait was you try to make sense of your editorial methods." (11)

"categorical difference between editing and restoration. Scholarly editors do not physically alter the original documents that witness the work's texts. In comparison, conservators of historic houses, paintings and sculptures make changes to the physical objects themselves." (12)

"If curators and conservators are archaeologists of the image -- if they can make the surface articulate the painting's history -- then editors are archaeologists of the printed or written word, of its history of writing and production." (16)
"Just as, it is believed, accumulations of dirt and varnish should be removed to reveal the painting as it left the artist's hand, so ought editors to aima t recovering the text that the author intended. Through the glass darkly , we can -- with conservators' and editors' help -- espy the thing itself: the work of literary or painterly art." (16)

stalemate between desire for "the work itself" and poststructuralist cultural theory (16)

"A reconfiguring of the ways in which our (formerly positivisitc) knowledge-machines make (rather than reveal) sense seems to me to be preferable to the stalemate we have." (16)

The witness of historic buildings and the restoration of the churches

"what authenticity is, how it may be judged -- and, more generally, what the nature of historic witness is -- are question sin which we most of us come to have a genuine stake." (22)

"The passage of time will, in other words, tend to redeem the fake as it gradually attracts to itself sentiments formed in ignorance of the initial moment of its production or installation." (27)
"Postmodern scepticism that places experience of the past at a mediated remove, and then throws up its hands in helpless deference to that fact, is a luxury we can no longer afford." (31)
"One way forward is to note, as I have been doing, parallels and contrasts with the terms used by scholarly editors in dealing with literary works from the past. The building fabric is like the editor's source document (manuscript or printed book). Viewers look at buildings and readers read editions. The (textual) authority of the author that editors often invoke is akin to that of the architect or original builders. And there is the alternative source of authority deriving from the continuity of the building's ocupation, which is like the reception of a book: a composite, say, of the Revised Version of the King James Bible as well as of the earlier Authorised Version. If reception is the key, then both are equally important. Neither displaces the other." (33)
"Architects and curator-conservators do not always see eye to eye in this. The architect tends to be more concerned with the funciton and aesthetics of each aspect of the structure, the curator with maintaining th ehistorical record. The one would replace the worn stone with a perfectly square replica; the other would prefer the inconvenience of the old one because of its humble recording of a history of being worn down. A gradual shift in decision-making power from architects to conservator-curators is suggested by the change in terminology from restoration (architectural restoration of original function) to preservation and interpretation." (35)
"we need to differentiate the buildgin's temporal continuity as physical 'document' from the 'textual' meanings it acquires and their reorganisation by curators. This literary-editorial metaphor only fails insofar as curatorial readings of buildings invariably leave physical traces. The interpretations require adaptations. The scholalry editor, too, will almost certainly change the text of the basic document that serves as copy-text, and by definition the edition will be a new book. But the originating documents from which the edition derives will be physically unaffected." (37)
"Three-dimensional evidence needs to earn its continuing passage through time: in this case, it needs to do it better than a textual record of an architect or archaeologist." (38)
"Historic-house conservation loses its parallelism to the scholarly editing of literary works at this point: normally, such conservation can only offer a selection of the work, not the whole thing. It is closer to the editing of a series of linked historical documents that possess no aesthetic unity, the link between them here deriving, one could say, from their shared geographic location over time. The curators had to work out what they believed the 'best' story was and then to help the fabric to tell it, while simultaneously allowing the fragmentary evidence of other stories to remain half in view -- to allow the variant readings to be visible at the foot of the reading page, as it were -- but requiring some astute attention of the viewer." (39)
"Although the process of change is itself witnessed historically by the physical evidence it leaves behind, one cannot imagine the existence of an ideal physical form of the house, specified in every detil, behind its faulty presentation,a s one an -- in theory at least -- in the case of literary works. The conservator-curator cannot achieve a consistency and precision of the kind that scholarly editors require for a policy of emendation of their chosen copy-text. Emednation is thorough: it is considered by the editor for every word and every mark of punctuation. The curator's interpretation, on the other hand, performs something of the functio nof a (rather intrusive) form of explanatory annotation, telling the reader-viewer what to look for in the fabric and how to read its historical testimony. At the same time the selective activity of repair (preservation) of the physical fabric is supposed to extend its life while altering it as little as possible." (39)

The new Ruskinians and the new aesthetes