File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 257


To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2008 22:16:30 GMT
Subject: [Puptcrit] Preservation and loss & context


David Shayt, 56, a Smithsonian Museum specialist died November 4th. Patricia Sullivan wrote his obit for the Washington Post which was reprinted in the Nov. 15th Los Angeles Times

Among the ecclectic ephemera that Shayt collected:

A Miss America cown, scepter & sash
A toy castle which survived Katrina flooding
tool chests & lunch boxes
coffins

"There's an accurate perception that we ....will care for--not neessarily exhibit but care for--and honor an object eternally. That perception of immortality is very precious to people." (1992 quote from Shayt to the Post newspaper)

Shayt added, "There's a school of thought here that regards museums, especially the Smithsonian, as ecclesiastical, as quasi-religious, and that people give things as a way of obtaining a piece of immortality.....what we do offer is perpetual care."

Well, forever is a long time. Perpetual care only lasts so long. The best we can do is preserve as much as possible for as long as possible so that it can speak to future generations. With effort, SOME art and artifacts and knowledge will survive fires, floods, earthquakes, landslides, extinctions, wars, asteroid landings, censorship, lightning, highway accidents, burglary, accidents and other disasters including financial Recessions & Depressions. But all of these things of value were made to be enjoyed in the present and anything later is "extra" if we are lucky.

This weekend's wildfires have displaced thousands of Californians, destroyed hundreds of homes. There is no way of knowing how many art works have vanished in the flames. But one Korean family lost a 5 hundred year old scroll which had been passed down in the family up 'til now, making us all the poorer for such a cultural loss.

Fires have been part of puppet history--Margo & Rufus Rose suffered a home fire. Many puppets survive, but Sarg Mikado puppets by Donald Cordry were damaged, and now preserved at UConn.

Michael Myerberg's Hansel & Gretel and Aladdin movie puppets were destroyed in a New Jersey Warehouse fire, Wallace & Gromit figures were lost to flames. 

Tony Sarg's successful career ended in bankruptcy. Puppets now highly valued sold as low as $1 to $3 each.

The Taliban destroyed century-old buddhas for "religious reasons", and the religious right just outlawed the right of same-sex families to be married in California---iconoclasts destroyed religious images. Zealous people are as dangerous as wildfires.

Survival is tricky for puppeteers and puppets, but we do what we can to keep on going.

ALAN


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