By Silvia E. Ramírez Paseiro, with introduction by Sharra Grow
The world’s heritage is at risk as never before due to factors such as climate change, natural disasters, national conflict, and of course the intense competition for a meaningful share of funds. Preserving the multi-layered contexts, stories, and techniques of artistic and heritage objects ensures the transmission of cultural identity from one generation to the next. The International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) plays a vital role in supporting conservators and institutions all over the world.
The IIC Opportunities Fund was established in 2010 to offer support for a short period to institutions who cannot easily afford the annual membership fees. Formerly known as the Professional Development Fund, when it only assisted individuals through the generosity of members’ donations, it now provides support for whole institutions.
IIC has recently been able to offer support through the Opportunities Fund to The University of Arts of Cuba. This institution already has a rich and established history, and we are thrilled to welcome them into the IIC community, introducing them with a few questions.
Q: How does the University of Arts of Cuba (ISA) and the Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage support the conservation community and promote the preservation of cultural heritage?
A: The University of Arts of Cuba (formerly El Instituto Superior de Arte) and its Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage approach the conservation of cultural heritage from an integrative and interdisciplinary perspective. We combine the experience of artists and specialists from diverse fields of the arts and sciences including the social and humanistic, the natural, and material sciences, joining together more than 57 professionals from different disciplines.
The mission of the Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage of the ISA is to develop an integral university education with continuous improvement and research in the fields related to the conservation of Cuban cultural heritage. This mission is based on our pedagogy of excellence, from a humanist and revolutionist understanding of art and culture, in correspondence with current scientific research, contemporary artistic practices, and social demands.
The Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage is the home office of:
· The conservation and restoration of moveable heritage; this is one of the specialties in our bachelor’s degree of plastic arts (active through 2022). This specialty is where the advanced studies in the conservation of cultural heritage in Cuba began. 188 conservator-restorers are working today in different locations in Cuba, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in this specialty.
· The bachelor’s degree in the conservation of cultural heritage, which started in 2017, with four specialties; museology, the conservation and restoration of paints, the conservation and restoration of documents, photographs and textiles, and the conservation and restoration of sculpture and furniture.
· The master's degree program in the conservation of cultural heritage, which started in 2011, having at present four specialties; museology, the conservation and restoration of cultural objects, intangible heritage, and the management of documentary heritage. At present, over fifty specialists have obtained a master's degree through this program, while just as many will graduate between 2020 and 2022.
Since 2012, the Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage of the ISA has worked to further develop the cultural heritage conservation program. The research fields within this program include:
· History, theory, and critique in the fields of cultural heritage conservation and museology.
· Politics, legislation, and management of cultural heritage.
· Applied sciences and cultural heritage conservation. The application of scientific analysis in identifying the material
composition of cultural objects and the examination of their condition.
· Exhibition design, packing, transportation, and storage of Cuban cultural objects and collections and the application of preventive conservation principles.
· Management of the Cuban archeological and documentary heritage.
· Research into cultural objects in museums and other Cuban cultural institutions, considering the material composition, the artist’s/maker’s techniques, and condition.
· Study and conservation of architectonic cultural heritage.
· The application of information and communication technologies to the conservation, interpretation, and presentation of cultural heritage.
· Evaluation of risks and vulnerabilities of cultural heritage in the context of climate change.
· Evaluation of museography projects.
· Management of museums and their collections, evaluating the impact of Cuban museums in the community, considering diverse strategies for the development of cultural projects within the museums as well as public studies.
· The popular traditional culture in Cuba: its present-day status, role, and defiance in contemporary society. Current status of local studies in Cuba, their main tendencies and contributions.
· Management and conservation of the cultural heritage collections located at the Cuban University of Arts.
· Professional university formation in the field of cultural heritage conservation in Cuba.
Within this program our faculty has executed approximately 60 research projects in different contexts around the country between 2018 and 2019; all made important contributions to the value and conservation of these cultural objects and to the management of Cuban museums (Some examples are in our Annual Report 2018).
The ISA Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage offers expert advice and services in conservation and restoration to different Cuban cultural institutions.
Q: How has the IIC Opportunities Fund helped the ISA to further these or other goals?
A: Institutional Membership with IIC allows our staff to contact and exchange information with colleagues worldwide through the IIC website’s membership pages and social networking links. This membership also allows us to stay informed about technical advances in conservation and share our experience and activity in this field. The University of Arts of Cuba, particularly our Faculty, has website access to articles from all past IIC journals and papers and receives the IIC's scholarly and news publications, Studies in Conservation and News in Conservation.
In the future, We hope to be able to participate in the IIC’s biennial professional and student congresses.
Q: What can ISA offer the global IIC community? What does ISA hope to accomplish going forward?
A: The University of Arts of Cuba can offer the global IIC community our experience in the conservation of cultural heritage in geographical locations with humid tropical climates. We can also share the Cuban experience related to the theory and practice of cultural heritage conservation and to the professional formation in this field. In addition we can facilitate the participation of the IIC community in ISA events, furthering the interchange of experience and knowledge between the IIC community and our Cuban specialists.
The ISA hopes to be able to establish and develop relationships and to have academic and scientific interchange with the IIC and with different institutions represented within this organization, including the collaboration and exchange of information with colleagues around the world.
Silvia E. Ramírez Paseiro has a master’s degrees in science education (specializing in chemistry) from the Pedagogic University of Tula, Russia and the University of Havana, Cuba. Silvia is an associate professor for the University of Arts of Cuba and Dean of Faculty of Arts in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage. She is also currently a PhD candidate and a professor at the graduate and postgraduate level. Silvia is a presenter at national and international events and author of several publications and is a member of the ICOM Cuban National Committee.
(The full story and images can be found in the February-March 2020 "News in Conservation" Issue 76, p. 18)