Michèle Valerie Cloonan. The Monumental Challenge of Preservation: The Past in a Volatile World.

Katherine Fisher


Michèle Cloonan’s wide-ranging study of cultural heritage preservation opens with the premise that preservation is an unavoidably complex endeavor. Collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches are needed to confront threats to heritage, whether from war and genocide, resource limitations, business interests, or apathy. Cloonan—current professor and dean emerita at the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, and a former conservator, preservation librarian, and special collections curator—takes an expansive view of monuments, including in her definition not only physical edifices but also texts, artworks, collections, natural landscapes, and intangible heritage. In doing so, she emphasizes the highly contextual nature of preservation, which has social, historical, and political valences. These influences, along with legal, technological, and financial factors, shape understandings of what constitutes preservation and what can and should be preserved in any given set of circumstances.

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