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e-Conservation Magazine • 13

e-Conservation Magazine • 13

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Published by conservators

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Published by: conservators on Apr 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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the online magazineNo. 13, February 2010
   e    d    i    t   o   r    i   a
Paradox of Choice
Conservation is, above all, about making decisions. In conservation, ideas, knowledge anddecision-making are essential for good practice. After all, it is those decisions that have a deepimplication in the future survival of a work of art. However, to make decisions requires not onlyexperience but also information and time: time to imagine, time for reflection, time to find themost appropriate solution. The problem is that at the present current pace we no longer seem tohave available that required time.Nowadays, information and time are deeply linked. Not long ago I was discussing with a friendabout the difference between the newer and older generations of conservators. When we thinkmore precisely about these differences, we find that before there was more time for reflection but limited access to information whilst today we virtually have access to any possible informationsource but quite limited time for its perusal.Bibliographic resources were once scarcer, as was also the access to scientific research. Today thereare hundreds of books published in our field every year in both conservation and conservation-science areas. However, are we better conservators for this? Are we now able to make better decisionsthat will ensure the survival of works of art for future generations?The last decade and a half has been characterised by the boom of information technologies and theWorld Wide Web. In fact, today we have access to a potentially unfathomable amount of information like never before in the entire History of Man. Nevertheless, I believe we stay asignorant as ever.Diderot once said that there would come a time “when it will be almost as difficult to learnanything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe”. Those times can’t be very faraway anymore. Right now the problem is no longer if there is information about a certain issue, but how to find it. Information access is a real problem, for example, the search for a technical sheet of a product is probably as difficult as it was 20 years ago. Furthermore, I would argue about thevalidity of the information sources we use nowadays but that would digress to a whole new topic.Returning to the present, today we can hardly let a day pass without checking our email or doingsome search on the internet. However, no actual useful information is necessarily being found inthese ways. In the end we spend our time dealing with a lot of worthless information and we canoften end up making decisions based on incomplete data which may be useless out of context. EvenI usually thrive on more information, such as when I find a new website or book, however thesetend to be equally and easily forgotten as soon as I discover yet another website or book. This endsup being like the paradox of choice: the more we have, the more confused we get. And we must confess that indeed the access to more information does not necessarily make us betterprofessionals.This is the situation of today. But I wonder, what does the future reserve for us? Will we perhaps bemore organised? Or will we just get more confused? So…
wait and see.Rui BordaloEditor in Chief 

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