TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Intemperate statements
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-18-2001 on 07:12 p.m.
After 13 years at The Textile Museum, I've heard nearly every intemperate statement that the "ruggies" might have wished to make, and I assure you that I didn't not earn the Hali magazine descriptor of "formidable" by being shy, failing to rise to the occasion, or being unwilling to stand on principle. Truly, this subject can be debated until we all are blue in the face, but a museum wishing to maintain its accreditation as a professional institution has to endeavor to meet professional standards. Sorry guys, but science is on our side.

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  01-18-2001 on 07:31 p.m.
Sara -

I agree that some of our descriptions are pretty conclusionary in an accusing way and that's not the conversation I'd like to have.

Could I ask, though, that you go to my original question about accessibility which I tried to state with some moderation and answer at least the second part of it concerning the bases, from the conservator's perspective, of the decisions that result in what we experience as restricted accessibility.

Wendel is likely right that the various dimensions of the accessibility issue need to be distinguished (and he appears to have made some of your argument for you) but I'm worried that all the heat is going to result in a lower level of "light" in this salon than we would like.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-18-2001 on 07:47 p.m.
John, please look at the entry under Wendell's access to museum storage. I think I answered your question there. The topics are starting to cross over one another somewhat, so my answers are now mixed in with a variety of the topics.

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  01-18-2001 on 07:52 p.m.
Sara et al -

Oops, I wrote before I looked. I see you have done so. Thanks.

While I'm writing, though, is it really true that the science is all on the side of the restrictions being made?

Steve's calculations of the likely minimal effects of photo flashes seemed to me to be fact-based and to have a certain plausibility. Is it your view that the argument he provided is not valid?

You also said above attracted my eye. It suggested that part of what The TM is about now is being a MUSEUM and that there is some preoccupation with meeting accrediting standards. There may well be some real advantages of having an accreditation of which I'm unaware but in my own field accrediting schemes are always launched with good intents and almost always produce dysfunctional effects. That seems to be, in part, what's happening here too.

It almost makes one want to ask what's a museum for?

A final thought, the "access" via computer images in the TM Library is minimal. The Librarian told me she does not operate the equipment. Not much of an advance so far.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  Robert Anderson mailto:%20andersonr100@hotmail.com
Date  :  01-19-2001 on 08:29 a.m.
To follow on Mr. Howe’s posting, the major role of any museum is to preserve objects for posterity, but as was pointed out by others in this Salon, what’s the point unless the average person (as opposed to a few select scholars) can see, appreciate, and learn from them? I’ve read that the TM has thousands of textiles and rugs and given limited space and the need to limit exhibition times, one would probably have to live to a thousand to have a chance to see them all! I can understand the need to limit direct access to the textiles; therefore it’s great that digital (computer) images of a number of TM objects have already been assembled. Are these images readily available to the general Public, for example, through the Internet, via email, etc.? If so, how can one gain access to them?

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  01-20-2001 on 06:59 a.m.
Mr. Anderson et al -

I think I answered part of your question about access to the digital images produced so far on the TM collections in another thread but let me be more explicit here. Sara can correct me if I err.

I do not know what portion of the TM's collections have been documented with digital images. I know their records are not good (They have never been able to answer my first two questions about Turkmen pieces which are: 1. How many Turkmen weavings do you have in the collection? 2. What are they?) One of the problems is that in the past particular curators have used different notation systems and this results in confusion about what there is and where it might be stored.

To get access to the TM digital images one must make an appointment to use a dedicated computer in the TM library and must also arrange for a staff member familiar with this software to meet with you at least at the beginning of the period during which you want to examine digital images. (The librarian, as I have said elsewhere in this salon, who is knowledgeable and very helpful with other library materials, has told me that she does not know how to operate the computer that contains the digital images.)

So the "digital image access" is rather modest.

The TM has in a couple of cases, used digital images on the web to show portions of exhibtions. The first such was Carol Bier's "Symmetry and Pattern" exhibition which is (as a result of cooperation with an outside university-based group) still up on the Internet.

Here is the link:


The TM itself also put up a number of images of Sumru Krody's recent exhibition of Turkish embroideries. And some glimpses of the digital files is usually available on the TM site.

Most of you have it but here is the link to the TM site:

There are a couple of images up in the Learning Center at the moment but the current exhibitions are described only with text. (I have, in fact, tried to get permission to take photos of at least selected pieces of Sara's current exhibition of Anatolian pieces (it will end shortly) but have not been able to stir any interest in doing so.

We have, sometimes been able to get selected rug morning program up on the Internet as a result of our efforts here on Turkotek. Look at a previous salon "Other Ottomans" that documents rarely exhibited TM Ottoman materials. And a more recent salon, documented a rug morning session that Wendel Swan presented.

My own view is that the TM provides a wonderful community resource in the entirely free Saturday rug and textile and that they should be and actually could with relatively little expense and effort be made available to far
more than the number of people (about 75) who can fit into Mr. Myers' former living room.

This would also work to get the TM credit for the very real good work it is doing with these programs.

Wendel mentioned the Toronto Museum for Textiles. They also have some images up on the Internet but the current ones are mostly "details" with no access to images of the entire pieces.

Here is that link:


And while we're at it one can still get glimpses of the materials in the wonderful New York Metropolitan Museum's 1997 exhibition of Mogul carpets, "Flower Underfoot."

Here is that link:


I have tried, Mr. Anderson, both to answer your question a bit and to give some sense of some of the other efforts to use digital images to increase access to museum collections.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-21-2001 on 08:06 a.m.
To John, I think that the science behind lighting standards is sound. I've seen the results of light damage, and I believe that a museum has to walk a very fine line in fulfilling its obligations to the public.

The question "what is a museum" is an interesting one, and not one I think I'm the best person to discuss. I think if you look at the museum around today you'll have a hard time quantifying that answer. They serve different needs and publics. Some have almost no objects at all these days...I don't think that would "do" for a collection like that at The Textile Museum.

The TM has made some good strides in the past few years getting the collection (and particularly rugs) photographed and into the database. At the same time, there is a complete department of people working to straighten out the lexicon in the database so that when you pose the question, "how many Turkomens?" you can get a reliable answer. The process is connecting all of the various attributions together so that, in essence, all "synonyms" come up when you pose the question. This is no small job! I'm not the one to talk about it, though, as I've not really been involved. You might want to contact the Director of the Cotsen Documentation Project, Sonja Neilson, and ask her to write something for the salon on how you undertake such an effort. It's monumental.

Subject  :  Re:Intemperate statements
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  01-21-2001 on 10:15 a.m.
Dear Sara,

I don't doubt the soundness of the science behind the lighting standards, and I don't think any of the people involved in this discussion doubt that light damages textiles or that damage is desirable.

The assertion that "science is on our side", though, is simply not correct. Science isn't on anybody's side. It is just a method of getting information that we can use in achieving our goals. The subject of disagreement is the goals, and science can't set them for us.

We need to keep reminding each other that everyone agrees that the two goals that we all share (making artifacts accessible and visible, and preserving them for posterity) are mutually exclusive. What we all do is accept some compromises, trading off part of one in order to not completely eliminate the other. In the end, we achieve neither, but we do try to reach some reasonable level of accessibility along with some reasonable level of protection from damage. The differences of opinion are in what constitutes "reasonable". That isn't a question that science can answer for us.


Steve Price

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