Monday, August 08, 2016

Touching the past

THE ASOR BLOG: Collecting and the Power of Touch (Erin Thompson).
It is crucial to persuade current and potential collectors to stop buying antiquities in ways that encourage looting. But how? Decades of finger-wagging archeologists scolding collectors have had little effect. Clearly, “just say no” is not enough – especially for collectors like Borowski who think that their collections are serving important purposes.

So how can we provide the experiences collectors prize in a way that does not damage the past? One simple avenue to explore is rethinking our attitude towards touch. Rules against touching in museums are reasonable, given the damage that even careful touching by seemingly clean hands can cause. But some types of museums have recognized the power of touch to enhance visitor experiences and spark long-lasting interest.

At a natural history museum, we can feel a lizard under the guidance of a docent and then run our fingertips along a reproduction of a dinosaur bone displayed below a fossilized skeleton.

Why not similar experiences in an art museum? 3D printing and other digital reproduction techniques can produce low-cost replicas of antiquities that can be handled – even purchased – by the public. Then the awe and wonder of connection with the past could become an opportunity to educate the visitor about archeological context and what it reveals – and convince potential collectors that their love is not the only context that an antiquity needs.
The reconstruction of Palmyra's Arch of Triumph was noted here and links. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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