Understanding Material Loss
17-18 Feb

Can we use ideas of loss to enrich our studies of the past?

Materials: Dearth and Reuse in Scientific Practice

Ayesha Mukherjee, English, Exeter
"Dunghill Papers': The language and practice of recycling in 1590s' England

Early modern period
Hugh Platt

Dunghill papers
Language and practice of recycling
Englands Parnassus
Robert Allot, 1600 poem
Persistent fear of famine affects language
Jewell house
Jewell house of art and nature
My shop of art
Manure your soul

Simon Werrett, Science and Technology Studies, UCL
"The Power and Lasting: Managing Material Loss in Early Modern Science"

Physical science 17C
Robert Boyle corroded manuscripts
Loss as produce of social order
Experimental science practiced at home
Fear of loss loomed large
Socio-materiality (protective glasses as badge of honour)
Putting into service
Repurposed goods
Injured and deranged material things
Recipe for using marble powder to mend glassware
Wren’s – Royal Observatory
Repurposed materials
Cycle – produced, single function in world, if can’t do that it has no use
Always in a state of transformation
Cabinets arranged by material not function
Posess few things with many functions

Rubbish – a broken building (rubble)
Trash – twigs
Garbage – offal
Refuse – worthlessness (refused) (moral)

Fundamental ability to know things free from use
Experiment – recover from haves of past (recovering from loss)
Taxonomies – recovery from loss of tower of Babel (narration of recovery)

Scavengers lament

The death of the sensuous chemist (uses senses to understand not measurement)

Material Loss, Change and Transformation

Allison Stielau, Art History, UCL
'I flowed with the flames: Metallic losses and gains in the fiery furnace'

Egocentric objects
Bavarian cup
Being a reliable narrator of own narrative
Communicate with the future
I am the only (held back)
Gold stuff got held back – liquidation and reformation of metal
Loss of form but not matter
Mettalurgical profile lost?
Unlocked raw potential and new products
Literal liquidation
The extant historical record
You can’t sell relics but can you split them it into 2 equally valuable?

Who’s loss are we identifying?
It’s not los to itself
It’s not loss but transformation
Documents of transformation – logging loss

Sneak a chalice into a coin
Penny with ‘Votes for women’ on
Objects in circulation with two messages on
Vestiges to a disappeared treasure
Reality persists in a new form
Potterbornes treasures – tollers (coins)
The losing side counts the losses
Rupture in material is recorded as loss
‘Unfortunately, they were melted.’
Find the records of the find
Attitudes towards preservation

Beg of you have mercy on them (on objects) (coin vessels)
Who’s narratives do we privilege by recognizing loss over transformation?

Goldsmiths always melting down work of other goldsmiths, try to make something that’s too important to be melted down

Relic power!
Souvenir of a moment in time?
By touching this thing you can touch the old thing?
Something carries through
What’s the thing that is connected?
Touch the precious object through that process

1:1 conversion is satisfying


Wilson Chan, University of Hong Kong
'Reshaping Things, Reshaping Time: The Recycling of Fractured Inksticks in Eighteenth-Century China'

Ink sticks
Solid ink
Soot, animal glue, water
Not completely dry or wet
Ink stick mother
Destroy broken ink sticks and remake into new ‘reblended’ ones?
Emery Everall Embridge? Make new things from collection to make collection more prominent

Tom Rusbridge, History, University of Sheffield
'Characteristic Absence: The Case of Shagreen in Early Modern England'

Leather shagreen 18C
Sharkskin leather
Ray leather

Losing Collections and their Qualities

Emma Martin, Museology, University of Manchester
'Losing Tibet: Diplomatic Gifts, British India and the tosha-khana archive'

Tibet, diplomatic gifts of British India’s tosha-khana archive

Labels – giving memory to things
Object biography
Non-human actors
Objects in motion – archaeology

Toshakhana – a treasure room, and later a place of inventory and onward moving
Objects separated from histories/itineries, and sold as formal objects
No record of a route – China to Durham with nothing in between
Lost archive of contemporary practice
Recovering lost colonial strategies for collecting

Tara Hamling and Cathryn Enis, History, University of Birmingham
'Shakespeare’s lost domesticity'

Separation between relics and shrine adds to value of nostalgia for both
Mulberry trees

Kate Hill, History, University of Lincoln
'"Three Centuries of Scrubbing": Gertrude Jekyll, Modernity and the Sensory Pleasures of Old Objects'

Sensory pleasures of old objects
Gertrude Jekyll – West Surrey
Rushlight holders
Lovingly describing rather than researching
Scientific necessity of recording
Textures of the past
The surface as the fakeable part of an object

Performing their smocks
Rescuing the past by recording
New objects are dishonest
The ability of objects to disrupt power
The power of objects
Museum is a colonial tool
The moment power is wrestled from object – when it goes into the museum but also happening much earlier in colonial network
The role of objects in mediating power/authority

Narrative arcs
Narrative arks?
Network theory
Object biography
Privilege the stars! (of the collection)
Social life of things
Assemblages of humans and non-humans