E. H. Gombrich Lecture Series
Organised by the Warburg Institute and sponsored by Princeton University Press, this series features prominent humanities scholars who address pressing concerns in art, literature, and ideas, across historical periods.
On Conservation as a Human Science, by Professor Peter N. Miller (Dean, Bard Graduate Center)
13-15 June, 5:30 - 7pm
“Conservation,” “Preservation,” “Care” — these words are frequently used today, but by different people, speaking to different audiences. On Conservation as a Human Science makes the case for treating conservation as a single human activity with an intellectual history of its own. Then, focusing more particularly on the kind of conservation done to man-made things it explores the entwined relationship between conservation and history. Like archaeology, to which it bears a close resemblance, conservation explores the depth of time stratigraphically to answer questions about what was in the past from what survives into our present. But, turned around, history, too, can function as a form of conservation—indeed, this was an initial self-definition that persisted into the age of modern, academic history. The ambition of this project is to shift how we understand conservation for a twenty-first century in which climate change will make the task of conservation, and the challenge to conservation, a more urgent part of public and private life. Moreover, rethinking conservation as a human science also opens up a new perspective on the organization of knowledge at a time when inherited distinctions between disciplines and fields and “pure” and “applied” learning, like those between the “head” and the “hand,” are being reconsidered.
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