Review by Tanushree Gupta, Gabriela Krist, Johanna Runkel
Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna
Raising the standards of conservation training and contributing to the improvement of conservation practices for shared cultural heritage have been the objectives of a long-term India-Austria collaboration. The Embassy of India in Vienna and the University of Applied Arts Vienna – Institute of Conservation, organized a workshop entitled, “Conservation of Cultural Heritage – Materials and Equipment in Conservation Today” which was held from April 23 to 25, 2018. The goal of this workshop was to share advancements in conservation methods, tools, and technology with practicing conservators from India. This workshop also aimed to develop partnerships between Indian and Austrian industries for the manufacture and sale of precision tools and equipment in India.
The workshop’s opening session was attended by dignitaries from both countries as well as researchers focusing on conservation at different sites in India. Acknowledging the long cooperation between both countries in the field of conservation, this workshop was also part of a broader celebration as India completed 70 years of Independence and Austria marked 100 years as a Republic in 2018.
In the spirit of the welcome notes, which emphasized the continual need for partnerships in developing the field of conservation and the protection of cultural heritage, the first day was dedicated to a colloquium of speakers sharing research updates. Presentations were given by both Indian and Austrian colleagues and included topics such as the protection and care of monuments in India and Austria, investigative studies on wall paintings of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, the conservation of palm leaf manuscripts of Orrisa, collection care at Napier Museum, Kerala, and summer school for training Indian conservation students in Austria.
The next two days were dedicated to visiting nearby laboratories specializing in object, textile, painting, and stone conservation, as well as conservation science and the photography laboratory of the Institute of Conservation, introducing Indian delegates to various methods, materials, and equipment used in Austria today. Case studies and challenges were discussed throughout these visits. Considering the growing need of conservation supplies in India, a business meeting was organized at the Indian Embassy where conservation companies from Austria and nearby countries presented their expertise, and the embassy suggested the possibility of expanding to the Indian market under the “Make in India” campaign.
The workshop concluded with a roundtable discussion defining ways in which collaboration in the field of conservation can be taken forward. Various similarities and differences in conservation training, practice, and research in India and Austria were observed and provided a scope for learning from each other. This three–day workshop uniquely connected European conservation suppliers with the Indian market in the hope that these suppliers and products will soon make their way to India. As always, the strengthened collaboration between India and Austria aims to protect cultural heritage – a common past of mankind beyond borders.
Tanushree Gupta completed her doctoral studies in art conservation in 2016 at the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, where she had also obtained her master degree in 2010. She was a phD intern at the Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna under three scholarships and has now been a member of the team since 2015.
Gabriela Krist has been a professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute of Conservation, since 1999. She studied conservation at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, as well as art history and archaeology in Vienna and Salzburg. For many years she worked for ICCROM in Rome and at the Austrian Federal Office for the Care of Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt).
Johanna Runkel studied conservation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and has worked at the University since 2012 as University assistant. Her research focused on collection care and preventive conservation in Austria as well as internationally. At present she is pursuing her phD at the Institute of Conservation with a focus on the collection of the monastery Neukloster, its history, conservation and collection care.