Double Down on a Torn Spine

When playing Blackjack, the simplest forms of card counting usually involves keeping a plus or minus running total.  One system, which assigns Aces, face cards and 10’s a minus one, and all others a plus one, can give the player an idea of how many aces, 10’s and face cards are left in the deck, or decks.  If the plus count gets fairly high, you should increase the size of your bets, if it is negative, decrease the size.  Card counting is legal, but Casinos will ask you to leave if they suspect you are counting.

I was intrigued to find the patent application from 2005, titled  “System and Method for Classifying Restoration of Paper Collectables.”  The abstract describes this patent as “A method of assigning a score to a restored paper collectable based on the quantity and quality of restoration procedures.”  

In many respects this system is similar to card counting– a running count is assigned to various common paper treatments, such as surface cleaning, washing, bleaching, tape removal, etc….  These treatments subtract points from the total. The extent of work and evidence of work subtract points as well. Using “benificial materials (1)”, written and photo documentation will add points.  The score starts at 100 and generally gets lower. The higher the total score the better restored (more valuable?) your artifact is. Should I hit on an eighteen?

One troubling aspect of this system is that bonus points are awarded for repairs that are so visually indistinguishable that a “device [is] needed” to detect them!  Repairs that are visually apparent at 12″ or less are given a neutral score of “0”.

Another troubling aspect of this is that it enters a gray area in the AIC Code of Ethics, especially  Commentary 2- Disclosure.  Of course, it is up to individual conservators if they join AIC (2) and if they choose to abide by the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice or not. I have chosen to do so in writing. One advantage of adhering to the Code and Guidelines is that it offers a conservator protection against lawsuits, since the treatment  follows the current accepted practice by the professional organization that represents conservators. 

The commentary recommends disclosure the formula of a patented item, but patenting a system of classification?  It seems to limit the use of this new methodology (3), except by the assignees, and does not further the professionalism in the field by demystifying conservation procedures.  Instead, does this dumb down the field by simply giving the client a quantifiable number, like a movie or restaurant review?  Maybe we should just give thumbs-up or thumbs-down when examining an artifact.   Does the attempt to quantify our examination make it seem less subjective and more scientific?    

What would Linnaeus think?

 

 

NOTES

1. I wonder how this would be determined.

2.  There are many advantages to joining AIC and a speciality group, such as the Book and Paper Group (BPG) or Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP).  First, they hopefully lead to an exchange of information intended to raise the level of treatments, exchange information and increase professionalism within our field.

3.  Although from the patent description, this system seems intended more for collectors rather than conservators.  I seriously doubt that it will become widespread, but the point is if it were to become a standard means of describing an object, anyone other than the assignees would have to pay or get permission to use the system.

 

 

One thought on “Double Down on a Torn Spine

  1. nicole

    Very interesting … I like the comparison to card counting.

    Here’s something else that I find problematic:
    “As used herein, “paper collectible” includes, for example, comic books, pulp magazines, glossy magazines, paperback books, posters, advertising ephemera, archival collections, historic records, sport and non-sport trading cards, book jackets, record sleeves, postcards, certificates, photographs, maps, newspapers, family documents, original toy and advertising boxes, cereal boxes, prints, original art, works of art on paper and the like.”

    I am too new to conservation to speak intelligently about the system from that angle, but it seems to me that from a collector/dealer’s perspective it is oversimplifying to put all of these items together in one group for the purposes of this classification system simply because they all happen to involve paper. The monetary value of, not to mention emotional tie to, a family record will differ from a work of original art will differ from a cereal box. And thus the decisions made for its treatment would also differ accordingly.

    I guess what it comes down to is that the whole thing seems to be an oversimplification of a complicated problem. Thanks for posting this!

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