Helen Merrett, our Collections Officer, writes about our work on a Regional Restoration Camp in Kosovo.
For a second year, myself and Alex took a few weeks away from the Horniman to volunteer with Heritage Without Borders (HwB) working in partnership with Cultural Heritage Without Borders (CHwB), on one of their award winning Regional Restoration Camps.
HwB is a charity organisation based at UCL and CHwB is an independent non-governmental organisation. Both are dedicated to rescuing and preserving cultural heritage affected by conflict, neglect or human and natural disaster.
For the last three-years CHwB have run a Regional Restoration Camp in Mitrovica, a town in Kosovo divided by the Ibar River. It is still an area of recent contention and the camps aim to bring communities together, as well as preserving cultural heritage.
Alex demonstrating using a microscope to investigate damage and how best to treat an object
Based in the Museum of the City of Mitrovica, the camp provides lectures on the theory of preventative conservation, collections management, remedial conservation and interpretation, as well as a lot of hands on practical work - including working with the museum’s own collections. The participants ranged from university students to local museum professionals and international heritage workers, largely from the Balkan region.
Two participants cleaning a leather miner’s bag from the museum’s collection
Alex was our fantastic Team Leader and made sure there was a brilliant range of content for the course, and also had to organise sourcing local supplies to make sure that there was real value in what we were demonstrating. The course is very practical, with sessions on marking artefacts, basic conservation cleaning and repairs, sewing covers for costumes, packing artefacts for storage and transport, and the ever popular egg packing challenge! In the mornings we would start with lectures to inform on all these subjects, and Alex led a number of sessions on ethics in conservation, pest monitoring, object drawing and material experimentation where the students got to try out a selection of conservation tools on some sacrificial materials which had had a few 'little accidents'.
Alex showing participants how to make Paraloid for marking objects
My role was focused on the importance of documenting collections – to truly understand what you have, how best to work with it and preserve it for future generations. I also discussed the ethical side of collecting, documenting and storing collections, taking in to consideration legal and sector guidelines, but also a variety of cultural factors. Along with this I was able to teach and assist with a variety of packing and handling techniques, practical documentation tasks and preventative conservation.