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Old Vellum, an apology & clarification & M. Theatre



Dr. Werner, you've won me back with your theatre comment (I abbreviate in
deference to our moderator).  I am dizzy from laughing so hard, though it
was a little harsh.  We, however, have gotten off the point of what is worth
discussing.

Anyhow, I appear to have offended you by comparing your suggestion about
reusing old vellum to cultural genocide.  Actually, I didn't use the word
"genocide".  What I meant by writing:

"In a time when stories of the destruction of cultural artifacts in Bosnia &
Central Europe make the news, I cannot understand why anyone would suggest
that historical documents are a cheap source of art materials."

is that we, the society of the year 2000, being cognizant of past & current
losses to cultural heritage, should give an object a proper valuation of its
importance before we dispose of it or deface it.  In addition, if it's not
valuable to us, personally, we ought to ask if it's valuable to someone
else.  This is my point; I did not mean to imply that Dr. Werner was
promoting "cultural genocide."

We all have our own perspective on these matters.  When discussing family
history, an aunt of mine, almost proudly, stated how she threw out a box of
"papers" from her husband's family (I was appalled).  When my elderly cousin
went back down to an old family farm in Delaware to see the graveyard, the
farmer who now owned it said that he had used the tombstones for steps.

This list ought to be a place to share information & knowledge.  I thank Dr.
Werner for mentioning these documents & bringing the issue to the attention
of this list.  Hopefully others from different perspectives will be able to
evaluate these documents.  Perhaps most are worthless save for their vellum.
And I admit that I would too enjoy making a binding out of one; but I'd only
do so were I confident I wasn't destroying a valuable historic document.
Yes, I am challenging his opinion, but to do otherwise would mean believing
everything we read or are told.

I plan to research this further & will post a summary of this discussion to
other lists where archivists & historians can comment.  On the surface, an
indenture of an apprentice to a master craftsman, may not be important to
some, but, what about someone who studies material culture, decorative arts,
or a particular craftsman?  If the information is not recorded elsewhere,
then doesn't that document have value?  The Downs Collection at Winterthur
consists of exactly such material:

(copied from Winterthur Library's web page:)
"The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera consists
almost exclusively of primary research material. Approximately half of its
2,500 record groups are either personal or business accounts in the forms
records maintained by American craftspeople, diaries, and family papers. In
addition, the Downs collection counts among its holdings drawings
(architectural, artistic, and amateur alike), household inventories,
children's toys and games, scrapbooks, and fabric swatch books. An extensive
microform collection supplements the manuscript holdings and includes copies
of material owned by other public depositories and private individuals. "
Thank you & I look forward to further discussion on evaluation & importance
of cultural property.

Bryan L. W. Draper
Special Collections Assistant
The Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219-1905
Tel:  (804) 692-3704
Fax: (804) 692-3709
Email:  bdraper@lva.lib.va.us

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