Preserving What Is Valued
320 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
5 b&w illustrations, 9 tables, 22 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Aug 2002
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Preserving What Is Valued

Museums, Conservation, and First Nations

UBC Press

Preserving What Is Valued explores the concept of preserving heritage. It presents the conservation profession's code of ethics and discusses four significant contexts embedded in museum conservation practice: science, professionalization, museum practice, and the relationship between museums and First Nations peoples.

Museum practice regarding handling and preservation of objects has been largely taken as a given, and it can be difficult to see how these activities are politicized. Clavir argues that museum practices are historically grounded and represent values that are not necessarily held by the originators of the objects. She first focuses on conservation and explains the principles and methods conservators practise. She then discusses First Nations people's perspectives on preservation, quoting extensively from interviews done throughout British Columbia, and comparing the British Columbia situation with that in New Zealand.

In the face of cultural repatriation issues, museums are attempting to become more culturally sensitive to the original owners of objects, forming new understandings of the “right ways” of storage and handling of materials. Miriam Clavir's work is important for museum professionals, conservators, those working with First Nations collections in auction houses and galleries, as well as students of sociology and anthropology.


  • 2002, Winner - Outstanding Achievement Award, Conservation Category, Canadian Museums Association
Preserving What is Valued will resonate with conservators and curators in Australia who work with Indigenous Australian material culture. Clavir’s book elucidates the culturally-determined nature of values and motivations in cultural preservation, and the importance of adopting appropriate conservation methods. It is among the first major texts to provide a detailed examination of these issues. Moira Simpson, author of Making Representations and Museums and Repatriation, Museums Australia Magazine, May 2005
Preserving What is Valued: Museums, Conservation and First Nations, a revised version of the author’s doctoral thesis, makes a significant contribution to the discussion of cultural heritage issues from a conservation standpoint.

Firstly, Clavir is skilful and largely successful in drawing out the local focus in order to examine and illustrate far broader questions that concern us all: and, secondly, the depth in which the detail of often conflicting local views is explored is itself central to the making of some of the book’s most important views.

I found this to be an interesting, richly researched and carefully presented book. It is an excellent resource for those wanting to explore museum-source community debates about cultural heritage in Canada and in the relatively neglected area of conservation practice, and has considerable overall value as a text for those wishing to explore cultural heritage sites. Sandra Dudley, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, Journal of the Society of Archivists, Vol. 26, No. 1, April 2005

Miriam Clavir is Senior Conservator at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, and an associate of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, UBC.

Illustrations, Figures, and Tables

Note about the Cover




Part 1: Preservation and Museums

1 The Historical Development of Conservation and Its Values

2 Conservation Values and Ethics

Part 2: Preservation and First Nations

3 First Nations Perspectives on Preservation and Museums

4 First Nations of British Columbia

5 First Nations, Preservation, and Conservation: Personal Perspectives

6 New Zealand: A Comparative Study

7 “For What We Do”


A List of Participants

B Conservation Codes of Ethics

C Glossary of Maori Terms

Internet Resources



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