The context and conservation of patent metamorphic furniture 1780-1820

2012-03-14T14:42:16Z (GMT) by Clive Edwards
This paper addresses the role and nature of patents in considering the construction, use, social context and conservation issues of ‘Metamorphic’ furniture objects designed to be changed from one use to another or otherwise operated by moving parts. If part of the job of a conservator is to preserve knowledge as well as artefacts, then conservators need to draw upon as wide a range of documentation as possible in order to evaluate objects prior to assessment, treatment and interpretation. The patent documents often have drawings as well as specifications enrolled that can be very valuable in considering the furniture based on them. Patents often specified a new method of operating, locking or moving parts with a piece of furniture that was initially protected but was later used in a range of other models. Patents can therefore act as evidence of the intentions of the designer/maker and as templates for the original operation. An analysis of the context of making and usage (often in collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines) is also a major part of an understanding of products. Through a case study of the patents related to folding tables and associated products, links between meaning, making and conservation decisions will be made. In addition the study will demonstrate the value patents as a historical and contextual tool for conservators. This knowledge will go some way to ensuring accurate and ethically sound decisions are made concerning the object(s) under review.