Writing histories for late-medieval objects: The engagement of conservation with theoretical perspectives on material culture

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Noëlle L.W. Streeton;


Studies in Conservation, Routledge, Volume 62, Number 7, p.419-431 (2017)


The current discipline of conservation lacks a satisfactory theoretical and methodological framework to guide historical writing beyond scientific methods. To address this gap, this paper evaluates disciplinary shortcomings and proposes a solution for a project based in Oslo that takes advantage of disciplinary strengths. The solution involves the adaptation of a robust critical approach that is closely aligned with post-processualism in archaeology, which notably engages with theoretical perspectives on material culture. The framework offers guidance for arguments developed around physical transformations of late-medieval liturgical objects and the circumstances (physical, environmental, and socio-political) that continually define and re-define their meanings. The themes chosen for the project set this research at the cross-roads between conservation and material culture studies, with investigations directed towards tangible and intangible transformations, or phases in the ‘lives’ of objects that pre-date the Reformation but are now held in museums.