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Matter out of place: paradigms for analyzing textile cleaning

Brooks, Mary M. and Eastop, Dinah (2006) Matter out of place: paradigms for analyzing textile cleaning Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, 45, (3), pp. 171-181. (doi:10.1179/019713606806112478).

Record type: Article


The purpose of this paper is to argue that cleaning is part of a social process, and this applies to conservation cleaning as well as to domestic cleaning. This paper identifies four paradigms that have influenced textile conservation cleaning: the domestic, the sacred and heroic, the art-historical, and the evidential. This analysis is informed by the anthropologist Douglas’ contention that dirt is matter out of place and is therefore socially determined and culturally informed. The domestic paradigm is based on a link, that usually remains uncontested, between cleanliness and social and/or moral worth, as demonstrated by examples drawn from literature. The effects of the other three paradigms are demonstrated via analysis of published case studies. It is argued that raising awareness of these influential paradigms enables decisions about conservation cleaning to be more overtly debated by curators and conservators and to be more fully documented.

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Published date: 2006
Keywords: conservation, cleaning, textiles, ethics
Organisations: Winchester School of Art


Local EPrints ID: 41047
ISSN: 0197-1360
PURE UUID: aa7d7966-e178-4673-9cc6-578c610aa50e

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Date deposited: 14 Jul 2006
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:32

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Author: Mary M. Brooks
Author: Dinah Eastop

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