Museum practice regarding handling and preservation of objects has been largely taken as a given, and it can be difficult to see how these activities are politicized. Author Miriam Clavir argues that museum practices are historically grounded and represent values that are not necessarily held by the originators of the objects. She first focuses on conservation and explains the principles and methods conservators practise. She then discusses First Nations people's perspectives on preservation, quoting extensively from interviews done throughout British Columbia, and comparing the British Columbia situation with that in New Zealand.
Miriam Clavir is Senior Conservator at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, and an associate of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, UBC.
Preserving What is Valued will resonate with conservators and curators in Australia who work with Indigenous Australian material culture. Clavir’s book elucidates the culturally-determined nature of values and motivations in cultural preservation, and the importance of adopting appropriate conservation methods. It is among the first major texts to provide a detailed examination of these issues.
Preserving What is Valued: Museums, Conservation and First Nations, a revised version of the author’s doctoral thesis, makes a significant contribution to the discussion of cultural heritage issues from a conservation standpoint.
Firstly, Clavir is skilful and largely successful in drawing out the local focus in order to examine and illustrate far broader questions that concern us all: and, secondly, the depth in which the detail of often conflicting local views is explored is itself central to the making of some of the book’s most important views.
I found this to be an interesting, richly researched and carefully presented book. It is an excellent resource for those wanting to explore museum-source community debates about cultural heritage in Canada and in the relatively neglected area of conservation practice, and has considerable overall value as a text for those wishing to explore cultural heritage sites.