top of page
Objects of Cultural Heritage and the quest for accuracy in the historical record.

    The contribution to the arts and sciences facilitated by the 19th century's creative milieu is well documented. Scholars have said cultural history does not repeat itself, but its echoes traverse time, the echo representing attributes of a time period. This is a clever but dubious metaphor, as the attributes the echo represents are in reality bits of sentimental cultural information transmitted socially. As new generations create their own identities, the propagation of a cultural echo is not only improbable, but if echoed, likely absorbed, altered, or entirely corrupted, potentially changing its intent or meaning.
    The data embodied in objects of cultural heritage allow a more objective analysis of a time period by answering the questions of how and why quantifiable resources were allocated and prioritized, contributing to ameliorating questionable interpretations of culture gleaned from more subjective historical sources. This is true for many objects, but the wealth of information present in instruments of time keeping is unparalleled in the domain of objects of cultural heritage. This is not due only to the diverse material usage, but also to the mechanical engineering and scientific knowledge requisite their makers. The clock is the physical record of the endeavor and conveys an abstract concept, just as the painted canvas is a record of the artists' work and also an abstraction manifested. We know a painting is a representation; not just an adroit utilization of the varied physical material properties rendering the concept or vision, but the artist’s knowledge. The innate understanding of the relationship of medium to vision conflates the physical and abstract world, not an illusion of unity, but a codependency, intimate, respectful, and synergistic. This accord creates an environment in which greater expression of the vision in the work is possible. It is a feature of great art and easily discerned. Viennese clock makers were special; their palette was the natural world and its resources, their brushes were knowledge, and their finished canvas a functional instrument embodying both culture and science. 

     Advances in materials science and analysis, [infrared (IR), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy prime examples] have allowed the acquisition of previously undiscovered information contained within objects of cultural heritage.  The ease of safe data collection coupled with current information technology provides the ability to objectively analyze and percipiently discern inferences not possible prior.  It is imperative these objects are preserved for the edification and enlightenment of future generations by those with the forethought, conviction, and cognizance of their importance. 

bottom of page