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Helen Evans

MA work

How Damage Alters Meaning: An Analysis of the Conservation and Display of War-Damaged Objects in War Museums

My work is a study of perceptions of damage and how they influence the decisions made by museum staff about the conservation and display of war-damaged artefacts. It is also about how these decisions impact on viewer perceptions of these objects and the effect this in turn has on the way conflict is represented in war museums. Using case studies of a variety of different types of object, the importance of damage to object meaning and interpretation and how this has influenced conservation and display decisions is examined.

This research suggests that perceptions of the value of war-damage are greatly influenced by the type of object in question. Personal items - such as clothing - tend to have the most highly valued damage whereas larger, impersonal items - such as vehicles - tend to have less perceived damage value. The provenance of the item is also an important factor. The more detailed the known story relating to the damage the more value is placed on it by war museums. Another factor influencing attitudes towards war-damage is the scale and perceived awfulness of the events that damaged the object. The worse the event is seen to have been the more prized the object is in its damaged form. Holocaust artefacts in particular seldom have interventive conservation for this reason.

I would like to thank the friends of the V&A; for the financial support for this work.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA Conservation, 2007

  • How Damage Alters Meaning: An Analysis of the Conservation and Display of War-Damaged Objects in War Museums

    My work is a study of perceptions of damage and how they influence the decisions made by museum staff about the conservation and display of war-damaged artefacts. It is also about how these decisions impact on viewer perceptions of these objects and the effect this in turn has on the way conflict is represented in war museums. Using case studies of a variety of different types of object, the importance of damage to object meaning and interpretation and how this has influenced conservation and display decisions is examined.

    This research suggests that perceptions of the value of war-damage are greatly influenced by the type of object in question. Personal items - such as clothing - tend to have the most highly valued damage whereas larger, impersonal items - such as vehicles - tend to have less perceived damage value. The provenance of the item is also an important factor. The more detailed the known story relating to the damage the more value is placed on it by war museums. Another factor influencing attitudes towards war-damage is the scale and perceived awfulness of the events that damaged the object. The worse the event is seen to have been the more prized the object is in its damaged form. Holocaust artefacts in particular seldom have interventive conservation for this reason.

    I would like to thank the friends of the V&A; for the financial support for this work.