Symposium—Conservation Thinking in India

May 7
9:00 am
12:45 pm
Get tickets
Conservators treating ancient Bronze sculptures from Tamil Nadu. Photo: CSMVS Museum, Mumbai.

Conservation Thinking in India convenes scholars from India and the United States to explore different approaches to conserving Indian cultural heritage. Topics will include historical practices of conservation and their combination with those of Western and other cultures, the conservation of historic buildings, the complexities of conserving historic cities, archaeological reconstructions at the Taj Mahal and questions of authenticity, the idea of the traditional craftsman in the context of Himalayan Buddhist art conservation, people in South India who conserve monuments to restore them to worship and the tensions this creates with conservation ideas, how ecologists and geologists think about the past differently from historians, and microhistories of conservation across Indian Southeast Asia. Conservation Thinking in India is the second of two days of symposia to focus on the robust and distinctive conservation traditions of Japan and India. When launching Cultures of Conservation in 2012 BGC hoped to foster a dialogue between the field of conservation and scholars of the human sciences and bridge the gulf generated by institutional divisions and the inevitable self-siloing of successful research agendas. The associated research project, “Conserving Active Matter,” then taught us that the ways in which we conceive of “conservation,” like the ways we think about “matter” and “activity,” reflect the shape of European and then Euro-American institutional and intellectual history. The working group on Indigenous ontologies of matter made us aware that the Euro-American model described but one set of possibilities. A recognition that the conservation worlds of India and Japan operate differently reinforced our discovery of the provincialness of Western conservation thinking, regardless of how globalized it has become. As Cultures of Conservation comes to an end, we launch exploratory probes into these different conservation worlds in the hope of reshaping an understanding of conservation as a human science. Conservation Thinking in Japan and Conservation Thinking in India are being held in conjunction with the current exhibition, Conserving Active Matter (March 25–July 10). It is the concluding event in Cultures of Conservation, a ten-year initiative largely funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and dedicated to modeling a cross-disciplinary conversation between conservators, conservation scientists, and humanists.