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Artefacts from Mars and others from Venus: The Affect of Gender Roles in Conservation

February 19th, 2013

Artefacts from Mars and others from Venus: The Affect of Gender Roles in Conservation

 Kelci Martinsen

 This week’s conservation blog will continue to analyze factors that may affect the understanding of an artefact by exploring the significance of gender roles in a society. Gender roles are incredibly important to the organization of a civilization or culture because they help to define the customs that are upheld by a society. The customs of a culture influence the function and production of that culture’s artefacts. Therefore, through proper investigation, objects are able to reflect the gender roles of a society.          

The job of a conservator can be extremely difficult at times because a conservator is required to be objective in the treatment of each and every artefact. This means the conservator cannot let his or her own cultural customs influence the way the artefact is documented and understood. There are many diverse cultures that have very different gender roles from those belonging to Western culture. Gender roles include not just female or male but also androgyne, a presence of both genders, as well as agender, neither male nor female.  If a conservator does not take the gender roles belonging to the society that produced the artefact into account, the conservator may misinterpret the function of the object and this, in turn, could negatively affect the treatment used on the object.

The gender roles of the object’s owner can also affect the treatment of the artefact. Many cultures determine the significance of the object based on the standing of the object’s owner and therefore, it is extremely important that an artefact is treated in a way that respects the customs of the object’s culture. For example, if an artefact originally belonged to a woman and was primarily used by women, some cultures would prefer a woman conservator to work on the object even if her techniques may not be as proficient as her male colleague.  This could severely affect the treatment of the artefact but the customs of the society should be respected. In order to remedy the solution, a different, more skillful female conservator could perform the conservation of the object.

Overall, gender roles can have a significant affect on the conservation of an object and conservators should not let it interfere with the wellbeing of the artefact. However, A conservator does need to recognize and respect the gender roles of the artefact’s society in order for that object to be fully understood and, consequently, displayed properly to the public.

Work Cited

The British Museum. (n.d.). Gender Identity. Retrieved 02 04, 2013, from British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/themes/same-sex_desire_and_gender/gender_identity.aspx

General Conservation

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