Virtualizing Conservation: Reflections on Conservation Theory

This article addresses to what extent computer applications contribute to museum conservation objectives, defined as the balance of preservation, investigation, and display of artifacts. It evaluates novel two- and three-dimensional digitization technologies for enhanced examination and recording. It provides case studies on alternative digital conservation methodologies for conservation operations. It approaches the coexistence of physical and digital artifacts critically within the museum environment. It explores the nature and transformations introduced in the theoretical frameworks for conservation and the interrelationships formed between traditional museum practices, conservation objectives, and computer applications. Results indicate that the proposed methodologies alter the dynamics of conservation. Digital techniques manage to balance between the core ideas of conservation. These are potentially initial steps for a new subdiscipline that will focus on virtualization of conservation practice, rather than digitization of artifacts.

The Inclusiveness of a Museum's Appeal Using Principles of Visual Persuasion

The appeal of most museums is inherently primarily visual. This paper makes use, therefore, of the theoretical work of Paul Messaris on visual persuasion to add insight into the persuasive messages present in the visual layout and design of one particular museum: the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. In the process, Messaris' key concepts of indexicality, iconicity (and an extension, analogical visual representation) and syntactic indeterminacy are first explained and then applied to the structure of the museum, as well as to the nature and layout of the collections themselves. The persuasive messages identified focus on, but are not limited to, the manner in which the museum reinforces the notion that it is inclusive both in the attributes of its collections and in the diversity of the types of patrons to which it appeals. Furthermore, reference to the public outreach materials offered by the museum are used to support the idea that these visually-oriented messages are intentional.

The Empathy Gap: An Ethnography of Volunteer Tour Guides and the Language of Affective Interpretation

Tour guides at historic sites are increasingly recognized by heritage and place studies as important agents of place creation and re-creation. Guides at Civil War sites repeatedly preform official and vernacular historical narratives for school groups, military staff-rides, and general visitors. At Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Southwest Missouri, the interpretive division relies on a reciprocal relationship with dozens of volunteer educators who make it possible to keep the Ray House, a homestead site used as a field hospital during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, open for visitor tours. Using the analysis of surveys, in-depth interviews, and tour observations, this study seeks to illustrate that volunteers act as important conduits for channeling and reinforcing certain cultural heritage identities and promulgating certain national values and popular myths. In this paper I will discuss the politics of attachment and discomfort as volunteer guides create narratives that are often far removed from the objects or stories established by the museum and park management. I will focus on the way guides create the stories designed to make an impression on visitors and why those stories regularly exclude difficult histories of enslavement and violence against women.