Once you have lived such an interesting, fulfilling and funny experience the will to share it with as many people as possible comes naturally. To tell the world what a good time you had, what wonderful people you met and how much you learnt. This is what has been happening to me since I came back from Tirana, Albania, about a week ago.
Stepping back a bit, I may start by introducing Heritage Without Borders, the UCL-based charity that is at the base of the Albania Conservation Summer School 2012 project. The organisation has been founded by UCL alumni willing to contribute to preservation of cultural heritage in areas of the world where more problems are present. In my opinion the most exciting part of their vision is that they focus on working with local heritage professionals. The aim is to build up their confidence and connect them with local communities, international conservators and organisations, to create national and international networks for the preservation of cultural heritage.
I've always considered the possibility of working in an international, multicultural environment one of the most fascinating aspects of conservation so I took the opportunity and applied as a volunteer for HWB. I was lucky to be chosen to participate in their latest project in the Balkans.
The Albania Conservation Summer School 2012, funded by Headley Trust, was held in Tirana between the 24th and the 28th September 2012, in collaboration with Cultural Heritage without Borders (similar name, but different organisation!). It was a one-week training course in basic preventive conservation for heritage students and professionals.
The main topics addressed during the course were principles of preventive conservation, understanding and monitoring the museum environments (lights, relative humidity, pests, pollutants, etc.), correct handling, packaging and organisation of storerooms. The schedule was full of lectures, discussions, practical activities and visits.
|Sokol Cunga, archivist at the State Central Archive of Tirana shows us a precious manuscript|
|Participants carry out a condition assessment|
|Recording the objects from the Institute of Archaeology, Tirana|
An important aim of the project was also to create an occasion for people working in different countries and institutions to meet each other, building contacts and a local network of interest in conservation of cultural heritage. About 25 people from the southern Balkans participated in the course: Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia. Many of them had a great deal of experience in conservation, and we tried to engage them in sharing their expertise as much as possible. Indeed, what excited me the most about the course was the great opportunity to learn from each other.
Participants were involved in giving presentations about their work, assisting during practical activities, discussing about different treatment methods, as well as effective engaging strategies in museums. After a couple of days to get to know each other, a great atmosphere was created among us. Everyone was willing to share problems faced in his/her own institutions, as well as participating in finding possible solutions. The most interesting aspect of being in such an international environment was to realise how the risks that threaten cultural heritage are often the same in different parts of the world. Complaints about inadequate storage areas were shared by Megan, from Wales, Goran, from Macedonia, Stefanie from Ireland, and then Albania, Kosovo, UK, etc. Realising that we all face the same problems was a powerful incentive to sharing and cooperating to find a solution.
|Measuring light levels in the National Museum, Tirana|
Fortunately the social aspect was not neglected either! We had chances to get to know each other, chatting about non-conservation-related topics (sometimes!) and having fun. I personally learnt how to say Cheers! in at least three different languages!
Me and the other volunteers worked really hard and made our best to make the experience as fruitful as possible.
|Stefanie shows how to use a swirling hygrometer|
The volunteer team was composed by Stefanie White, Ma (hons) Ma B.Sc. Conservator, Ireland, our team leader;
Azra Becevic Sarenkapa, MA in Conservation of Historic Objects, Senior Textile Conservator at National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
Megan de Silva, BSc, Objects Conservator: Monmouthshire Museums Service, Wales;
and me, Francesca Guiducci, MSc Conservation for Archaeology and Museums, University College London.
|Azra is delivering a lecture about conservation of textiles|
I really want to thank everyone that participated in the project for contributing to creating such as wonderful experience. For me, it has been a fantastic opportunity to meet inspiring people, and it really gave me a new boost of enthusiasm for what I am doing.
If you are interested in reading more about Albania Conservation Summer School 2012, visit the project blog. We have been blogging daily about the course, with more info about people and activities:
If you are interested in Heritage Without Borders, its history and future projects, visit the website: