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