Disciplining conservation : Paul N. Banks and the moorings of library and archives conservation education
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This dissertation is a cultural history of the educational trajectory of the field of library and archives conservation. The continued evolution of the field and, concomitantly, the care of the billions of cultural records held in the vast network of libraries and archives in the United States, depend on a critical reappraisal of its history and disciplinary nature. The first objective of this study is to understand how library and archives conservation became an area of advanced graduate study in the academy. Hence this dissertation maps the period from the 1950s, when a nascent field of library and archives conservation emerged from the stirrings of a “craft” activity, through the 1980s, when it became embedded in a school of library service. Drawing heavily on archival records, woven together with primary and secondary sources from a range of disciplinary perspectives, I analyze and untangle the historical, social, political, and cultural forces that, oftentimes concurrently, worked for and against the professionalization and academic rooting of the field. In 2009, the library and information science (LIS) discipline effectively expunged conservation from its intellectual domain; within the year library and archives conservation became integrated into the nation’s three art conservation education programs. The second component of this study interrogates this disciplinary disruption. What factors and forces moored the field in LIS for more than twenty-five years? This dissertation points to the misalignment of conservation within the LIS discipline due to distinct epistemological and cultural differences between conservation education and practice and the LIS/school of information field’s steadily increasing focus over the past three decades on computed information. I suggest that for the twenty-five years conservation studies was part of LIS, it was an intellectual and cultural appendage. Significant federal funding rather than disciplinary fit provided the primary fuel that kept conservation in the LIS domain. To an extent, this disciplinary misfit restricted library and archives conservation in terms of its full intellectual development as a cultural conservation specialization.
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