Friday, August 25, 2017

Collection - the Deconstructed Edition

The Atlantic has a splendid essay on being a fashion historian and costume curator. "There’s something transgressive about touching other people’s clothes—especially dead people’s clothes." An arresting conclusion: "dress codes and sumptuary laws are free-speech issues" ... This is a wonderful read sociologically, historically, personally, or just as an exercise in curiosity about the how-it's-done of historical curation and study. (The click beyond - Balenciaga - a designer I find fascinating, deconstructed, without breaking a single stitch.)

The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader.

Another Atlantic essay, this time from Tom E. Ricks, deconstructs (most literally/literarily) the process of an author fundamentally revising a book. On getting out of the way of the story; you can almost hear how much better the revision is than the original, in the way he talks about the process. Bonus - all the surprises, after the first one, are good ones.

Respect and responsibility are the two most important words in this article about the limitless ways people destroy artifacts in their bids to make every moment about themselves. Here is the question I have yet to see answered in any of the articles about this heedless piece of dolt-ery: have they contacted the family who orchestrated this defacement, and will there be any financial responsibility for them? If I walk in a store, "if I break it, I bought it." What is the responsibility when we break our own cultural history? The crossword-puzzle example after the headline lack-of-details makes me especially cross. (Personal bonus: I accidentally typed mement within the link above. Might be the the right word, in the end.)


Jeff said...

Holy crow, I hadn't seen the story about the coffin. I try to keep in mind, though, that I didn't really set foot in an art museum until I was in my twenties, and I grew up in a milieu where few of us would have known not to touch. (I also grew up in a milieu where no one used the word "milieu.") Similarly, I didn't start hiking until my twenties, and as a kid I wouldn't have had any idea that you couldn't just take whatever you found on the ground in, say, a national park. These things really do have to be learned somewhere along the line.

I've seen two excellent examples of museums educating potential newbies about this. Crystal Bridges, the art museum in Arkansas endowed by the Walmart heiress, gives everyone a thirty-second orientation speech that teaches, I'm sure, many first-time museum-goers not to touch the paintings. The other is the Cloisters in NYC, where they exhibit a sarcophagus that's been touched so often that people's oily hands have turned it from white to black. I do my part by teaching my nine-year-old niece these things when we go to museums together.

None of this is meant as absolution for that dumb family, of course. I'd gladly make an example of them, even if fighting the amusement-park mentality is probably futile...

DLM said...

I don't really want to see them in the stocks with signs on their necks explaining their crime, but the "you break it/you bought it" thing really does ring in my head. And running away, while in one sense being understandable (ISH), is all but amusing in the country in this world most known for having cameras EVERYWHERE. Okay, they weren't in London. Still. To think "nobody saw us, we can just get away" is not merely craven thinking, it's pretty sickening lesson for the kid. Blunders have consequences, and this was blundering behavior.

Bull in a china shop? Meet kid in a sarcophagus.

It makes me extra-sick in an age when the situation for preservation of cultures worldwide has been shunted by politics to the position of heedless waste. So this poor kid's heedless destruction costs everyone else, financially and culturally.

Jeff said...

Oh, I'm with you on all of that, especially the bit about the political neglect that surrounds cultural preservation. I come from a town in New Jersey that was founded in 1666, but you wouldn't know it. Sometimes, if they're lucky, archaeologists get a few weeks to poke around the few last undeveloped patches of mud before the piling for a new highway get slapped into place.

What surprised me about the coffin story was that it didn't happen in a place that attracts mobs of tourists; it was a small, local history site of the sort that you have to be at least somewhat respectful of history to go out of your way to visit. Your question remains, though. Will there be even token accountability?

DLM said...

The good news, such as it is, is that repairs should be the matter of under $150 American. But no, it sounds from all accounts I've read as if, while the family can be SEEN running away, they haven't been identified nor found. The History Blog has a good (and nimbly funny) account here: Some nice background on Prittlewell, more than other articles I've seen covering the story - The HB is alwasy reliable for such delicious detail.