Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Million Dollar Shed

It's refreshing to see that the USA is not the only place where people chunter about public spending for museums. In the UK, a minor storm in a teacup is erupting over the fate of Roald Dahl's shed. The Dahl museum wants to move and conserve the shed, a 1950s "temporary" structure in which Dahl wrote most of his classic stories and which has been left untouched since he died in 1990. This comes with a £500K price-tag, which strikes some people, notably Andrew M. Brown of the Daily Telegraph, as a bit steep.

In part, this comes down to the usual problem of people not understanding what's involved in conservation; if you look closely at the film of the hut on the BBC's website, it becomes immediately apparent that many hours of work will be required to stabilise the hut and its contents; it's packed full of archival materials, including papers, photographs, furniture, and other items, all of which will need treatment and most of which appear, even from a distance, to be severely degraded. Conservation is expensive. Get over it.

A bigger issue from Brown et al, is the fact that Dahl's family are asking for help rather funding the project themselves. Dahl's books remain best-sellers world-wide, no-doubt ensuring a dependable revenue stream for his Estate. According to the Museum  the family has made "a very significant financial contribution" to the project. It may seem a little intrusive to them, but if they want the public to pony up funds they may have to come clean about exactly how much that contribution is. That's the world we live in

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