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Revised Schedule of Fees for Applications made to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA)

Wonderwerk Cave Temp Export of handaxe to Bard Graduate Center




Case Type: 


Proposed temporary export of stone handaxe to the Bard Graduate Center, New York: The Bard Graduate Center, New York, requests temporary loan the re-knapped handaxe SPL 97 St 9 from Wonderwerk Cave for an exhibition on the subject of conservation. The BGC wishes to ground the modern discipline of conservation in a universal ‘preservation’ theme, opening the show with a ‘deep history’ object reflecting the long human effort to repair and reuse objects. As described by Michael Chazan (2015) the SPL 97 St 9 re-knapped handaxe illustrates this phenomenon. The exhibition runs from February to July 2022. The McGregor Museum's CEO has approved the loan including transport by courier after discussion on this point with SAHRA (Emails to be provided is requested). The museum therefore applies for a temporary export permit for the loan to be made.


The Bard Graduate Center motivates a request for loan of a stone handaxe dated to the Acheulean period from the Wonderwerk cave (St 9, SPL 97) for the exhibition Conserving Active Matter at the Center, scheduled to open at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery on February 25, 2022 and continue through July 10, 2022. The Dean Peter Miller, a member of the curatorial committee for the exhibition was in contact with the McGregor Museum at the recommendation of Prof Michael Chazan, University of Toronto, who studied the handaxe in question. Conserving Active Matter is an exhibition that explores the practice of conservation as seen through the lens of the activity of matter. The exhibition is the culmination of what will have been a ten-year project sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, “Cultures of Conservation,” which has been dedicated to creating new pathways for exchange and intellectual mingling between conservation and the human sciences (history, archaeology, anthropology, as well as art history). Conserving Active Matter considers the many ways in which objects are active and envisions an expanded role for conservation in their care. First, it takes a step back from the received knowledge of professional conservation to consider the diversity of human responses to pervasive material activity across time and cultures, and the range of strategies of care, repair, and preservation. It then introduces a variety of ways in which matter itself can be active: on the molecular level, as described by conservation and materials science; according to Indigenous ontologies, by which some “objects” are living beings; and accounting for shifting conceptions of the artwork, particularly those that are ephemeral or performative. Turning to more extrinsic factors regarding how different people act on objects over time, the exhibition posits conservation decisions as a form of active mediation in a shifting present between a construed past and an imagined future. Framed by the persistent human entanglement with objects, the exhibition concludes with a consideration of how conservation might play an expanded role in processes of survival for individuals, communities, societies, and cultures—both within and beyond the museum. With new materials that are carefully engineered for their activity, renegotiated heritage management strategies, and accelerating changes in the climate, new challenges and opportunities arise for conservation, creating opportunities for creative conservation thinking and practice as we prepare for living in a future with unanticipated forms and levels of activity. The Center seeks the loan of the stone handaxe dated to the Acheulean period from the Wonderwerk Cave because of the evidence of re-knapping on the handaxe that speaks evocatively to the presence of conservation that stretches back far in time preceding even the evolutionary development of Homo erectus to Homo sapiens. The handaxe therefore figures centrally in the concept of the exhibition, firmly grounding conservation as a response to the persistent activity of matter, and moreover the scholarly research that re-situates its past in present understanding as yet another. We envision the prominent display of the handaxe at the beginning of the exhibition as a way to illustrate these ideas. The Bard Graduate Center will publish an open-access digital publication online that will accompany the exhibition. The digital publication will contain contributions from faculty members on the curatorial committee, contributors and collaborators to the exhibition, and graduate students who participate in two associated courses held in the Spring and Fall semesters of 2021. The digital publication will also include an illustrated checklist of the objects featured in the exhibition. The Bard Graduate Center will cover the costs of packing, shipping, and insurance for all works included in the exhibition, providing wall-to-wall insurance coverage through the fine arts broker, Huntington Block. Galleries are equipped with state-of-the-art security, humidity, and climate control systems. The gallery installation procedures adhere to the guidelines of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the American Association of Museums (AAM).


Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 09:15





CitationReferenceTypeDate Retrieved
Chazan, M. 2015. Technological trends in the Acheulean of Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. African Archaeological Review 32:701-728.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Wonderwerk Cave re-knapped handaxe SPL97 St9

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