This is an interview with Sagita Mirjam Sunara and Caroline Roberts, attendees at the 2010 IIC meeting in Istanbul. Sagita is a senior assistant lecturer at the Conservation-Restoration Department of Arts Academy of the University of Split, Croatia. Carrie is an objects conservation fellow at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). She is currently finishing her studies as an intern at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. Sagita and Carrie shared their impressions from the 2010 IIC meeting in Istanbul, Turkey with Rose Daly, objects conservation fellow at WUDPAC and intern at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Was this your first IIC conference?
SS - Yes
CR - Yes
Why did you go this year?
SS – I submitted a proposal for the poster session and it was accepted: The Conservation-Restoration Works on the Peristyle of Diocletian’s Palace. I thought the congress was ‘reserved’ for older, more experienced professionals, but I appreciate the effort made to include younger members of the profession. I am also grateful to the IIC for awarding me the Brommelle Memorial Fund to attend the conference. That is one of the great benefits of being a student-member of the IIC.
CR – I submitted and presented a poster at the inaugural student poster session: Documentation, Technical Analysis and Treatment of a Bitumen Model Boat from Ur. I was awarded funding to attend the conference from the Brommelle Memorial Fund for student members of IIC. I was awarded the Student Poster Prize for my poster.
What did you learn about conservation in the Eastern Mediterranean?
SS –The greatest value of this conference was that it gave me an overview of the current research and needs in this region. The challenges are similar to those encountered everywhere: a backlog of treatments, how to train, how to reach the public, and questions of sustainability. There is a huge range of historic environments needing ongoing preservation and care.
CR – Other challenges include a lack of trained conservators, as well as treating previously restored objects, such as mosaics on cement supports in museums. A presentation by Kathleen Dardes described MOSAIKON: A Regional Strategy for the Conservation of Mosaics in the Mediterranean. MOSAIKON is training instructors for conservation and field archaeology classes at the university level; so more people working on sites have been exposed to conservation principles. The conference brought together conservators from around the world who are working on mosaics and offered them a chance to share their research with each other and build contacts.
What did you pack that was most useful?
SS- Sandals, camera
CR- Umbrella, scarf. We didn’t have to cover our heads for the mosque we visited (the Blue Mosque) but it is usually good to carry one just in case.
What did you wish you packed?
SS - I wish I brought some materials from Croatia: brochures, books on conservation, and more business cards.
CR – Business cards.
What other conservators did you meet?
SS – The conference gathered professionals from 44 countries. I’ve met several people from Arab countries, and many more contacted me through Facebook after the conference. In my opinion, one of the best outcomes of the Istanbul congress has been the formation of the Confederation of Arabic Conservator-Restorers.
CR - One of the highlights was meeting three of Jessica Johnson’s students from the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project (ICHP) in Erbil, Iraq. I talked to them about the kind of work they are doing. One student works at the National Museum in Baghdad. The course is an intensive, all-encompassing conservation curriculum taught in English. Conservators who have been involved in teaching ICHP courses, Terry Drayman-Weisser and Kent Severson, both attended the Congress.
What cultural sites did you visit?
CR – The Hagia Sophia was my favorite - It was originally a church under the Byzantine Empire, became a mosque after the invasion, and is now a museum.
SS – The visit to Hagia Sophia was a part of the tour ‘Byzantine and Ottoman Relics’, one of the several tours offered to the conference participants. I also liked the Grand Bazaar. It is a market, but really like a small city under one roof.
What were your impressions of Istanbul?
SS - The city has so many layers. Historical periods, styles and cultures intermix.
CR - The thing about Istanbul is it’s a confluence of many cultures, with European and Eastern influences, a very cosmopolitan place. For much of its history people of different religions lived together.
What were your thoughts on the 4th IIC Roundtable: Between Home and History: managing the interface between preservation and development of living historic places?
SS - The panelists stressed the importance of preserving the community along with the built heritage. In the effort to preserve historical sites for the posterity, we mustn’t forget the needs of the living people. For me, the discussion raised an important question: with a growing need for living space, how do we protect and preserve our past? Everybody agrees that the development is necessary and inevitable, but some restrictions should be enforced.
CR – Conservators need to consider how people who live in or near historic environments deal with their heritage. How do conservators protect historic materials, structures, and communities in a holistic way? There is a need to account for physical heritage as well as the people who live within the fabric of that heritage. It ties in to the question of whose heritage is it? For whom are we conserving heritage?
SS - The Round Table discussion was preceded by a projection of an interview with Nobel Prize winning author Ferit Orhan Pamuk. It was so nice to hear how a native of Istanbul perceives the city and how it has changed for him during his lifetime.
CR - His interview reminded me of how my mother would talk about the city she grew up in - Tacoma, Washington. The same changes like: decline of industry, gentrification, increased cultural awareness, and civic pride. It struck me how we all have more in common than we think.
Did the conference inspire you to plan future collaborations?
SS - With the regional groups there are plans for improving networking and initiating collaborative projects in the future. I think the meetings we had during the conference were a good starting point for this. Facebook can be really handy in maintaining these contacts. There were groups from Nordic countries, Japan, Austria, and Croatia - the youngest member.
CR - Students want to know what other students are working on, and the subjects of their research. Sagita proposed creating a database of student research through IIC. We are going to follow-up on this project.
Do you have any final thoughts about the conference?
CR - The whole experience opened up my world. I hope Sagita and I can collaborate on something in Croatia!
SS - Now I feel I belong to a global community of experts, and I am sure that the conservators from Istanbul and Turkey feel this way as well.