Los Angeles to Host International Conference on Care and Interpretation of Collections in Historic Houses

Los Angeles is hosting a four-day international conference on the care and interpretation of collections in historic house museums on November 6-9, 2012 called, The Artifact, its Context, and their Narrative: Multidisciplinary Conservation in Historic House Museums.  A half dozen organizations are sponsoring and hosting the conference, including ICOM-DEMHIST (the international committee for historic house museums), three ICOM conservation working groups, the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Research Institute, the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture/Heritage Conservation Program, and the Gamble House.  Historic sites encounter some of the most challenging preservation issues in the museum field because it is often impossible to maintain environmental conditions that are ideal for the collections, building, and visitors.  Indeed, some leaders in the field have wondered whether historic sites should be even considered museums because it establishes such an impossible standard.

The four-day conference consists of two days of site visits (such as the Gamble House, Huntington Library, Eames House, and Will Rogers Ranch) and two days of presentations and lectures.  Sarah Staniforth (National Trust UK) and Linda Young (Deakin University) will be providing broad overview presentations on the challenges and opportunities facing collections in historic sites, but most of the presentations are case studies of specific places or organizations, such as Historic New England, Darwin Martin House, Brodsworth Hall, Huntington Library, Wilanow Palace, The Elms, Frick Collection, Villa le Pietra, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Kamaraj Memorial House, Winterthur, and Gamble House.  Looks like the issues of balancing education and preservation of collections will be getting some much deserved attention, although it seems from the presentation titles that curators and conservators overwhelm the interpreters and educators in the room, and that sites that emphasize the interpretation of aesthetics (rather than documentary and representative approaches) will dominate the conversation.  I’m looking forward to the next step of developing some specific written guidelines built by a diverse range of sites and perspectives that push beyond the New Orleans Charter of 1992 (and that may need to happen on a regional or national basis, rather than international, to keep it manageable).

Participation is limited to 120 people and registration is $450 ($200 for students).  For more details, visit https://www.uscarchitecture.com/demhist.