Repaired Things

Portland Vase
December 30, 2009, 11:19 pm
Filed under: ceramic | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Susan Sontag’s novel, “The Volcano Lover”, contains an account of the vandalism, restoration, and re-restoration of the Portland Vase:

“One February mid-afternoon in 1845, a young man of nineteen entered the British Museum, went directly to the unguarded room where the Portland Vase, one of the museum’s most valuable and celebrated holdings since its deposit on loan by the Fourth Duke of Portland in 1810, was kept in a glass case, picked up what was later described as ‘a curiosity in sculpture,’ and started beating the vase to death. The vase broke, fractured, shattered, was decreated. The young man whistled softly and sat down in front of the heap to admire his handiwork. Guards arrived at a run.

“The constables were summoned and the young man was taken to the Bow Street Police Station, where he gave a false name and address; the director of the museum set out to break the unpleasant news to the duke; the curators went to their knees to gather up all the little pieces. Careful not to miss any! …

“… the vase, in one hundred and eighty-nine pieces on a table in the museum’s basement, being examined with tweezers and loupe, was put back together by one intrepid, skillful employee and assistant in seven months.

“Can something shattered, then expertly repaired, be the same, the same as it was? Yes, to the eye, yes, if one doesn’t look closely. No, to the mind.

“Back inside its glass case, this new vase, neither replica nor original, was enough like its former incarnation that no visitors to the museum observed it had been broken and restored unless it was pointed out to them. A perfect job of reconstruction, for the time. Until time wears it out. Transparent glue yellows and bulges, making seamless joints visible. The jeopardous decision to attempt a better reconstruction of the vase was made in 1989. First, it had to be restored to its shattered condition. A team of experts immersed the vase in a desiccating solvent to soften the old adhesive, peeled off the one hundred and eighty-nine fragments one by one, washed each in a solution of warm water and non-ionic soap, and reassembled them with a new adhesive, which hardens naturally, and resin, which can be cured with ultraviolet light in thirty seconds. The work, checked by electron microscope and photographed at every stage, took nine months. The result is optimal. The vase will last forever, now. Well, at least another hundred years.”


July 20, 2009, 2:16 pm
Filed under: ceramic | Tags: ,

“I will never drink from this teacup again.” – Sarah Granett


July 16, 2009, 9:17 pm
Filed under: electronics | Tags: , , , ,

2004: Powerbook computer is bought new.

2005: Hardcover book nosedives from high shelf directly onto keyboard, shattering P key. Rather than buy a new keyboard, silver P key is replaced with white iBook P key, the computer equivalent of a capped tooth.

2007: Mysterious damage is done to top case of powerbook, leaving disturbing blue scar. I still don’t know what happened.

2008: Age and clumsy dropping get the best of computer, and hard drive dies. Inexplicable moisture inside the computer renders it inoperable. A shell of a person, powerbook retires to closet storage.

2009: Moneyless friend and writer loses his laptop to virus. He cannot last long without some sort of writing instrument. With an external hard drive and a free copy of Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger,” 5-year old now-dry war-veteran computer is resurrected and works fine.

by Lily Mooney