Sailing away on the Ship of Theseus
March 1, 2013 11:41 AM Subscribe
I'm taking up restoration of mechanical calculators as a hobby. To what extent would repairs/part replacements constitute "restoration", and when does it become "reproduction" instead?
posted by jackbishop to sports, hobbies, & recreation (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So I'm a big fan of old-fashioned mechanical calculators (Odhner pinwheels, Monroe stepped drums, etc.) and I've recently started collecting them. Of course, if you collect them, you also have to repair the all-too-frequent ravages of time, most of which is just a good cleaning, but there are definitely ways to improve them which involve significant material changes.
Some things I'm thinking of: replacing screws (which I have no real qualms about doing when they're stripped or missing, but replacement of functional but worn screws comes under the heading of not-wholly-necessary part replacement), repainting covers (if I can find paint that matches the original), and if absolutely necessary machining whole replacement parts (in particular, I'm half-tempted to try to work up a more durable cover for my cracked Nippon HL-21)
Now, I might be overanalyzing this, given that they're my own objects and I can do whatever I like to them and call it "restoration", but I'm rather proud of having these things in their proper historical context, and I'm mindful of the fact that reproducing a historical object is different from repairing an authentic object from that time. Basically, I'm trying to avoid accidentally building the calculator of Theseus here. So what, in most people's minds, would constitute ethical "restoration" of an object, and to what extent would replacement of elements be something that would be appropriate to disclose when displaying them (or mandatory to disclose if selling them)?