By Thomas Roby
At the IIC Edinburgh 2020 Congress, a paper was presented on recent training activities of the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) concerning the conservation of mosaics in storage under the umbrella of the MOSAIKON Initiative. The training took place at the site of Volubilis in Morocco in collaboration with the Direction du Patrimoine Culturel and involved technician-level government employees from North African countries who had already participated in previous GCI-MOSAIKON courses on mosaics in situ. A similar training program is planned for 2021 in collaboration with MOSAIKON partner ICCROM and the General Directorate of Antiquities in Lebanon for trainees from Middle Eastern countries. This course will be the last official MOSAIKON training activity, along with an advanced training course in Jordan for site managers on protective shelters and reburial as preventive measures for conserving mosaics on sites.
While MOSAIKON is coming to an end, the GCI has recently made didactic materials available for free download on its website, in the form of 24 PowerPoint lessons which were developed for its technician training courses.
Together with the training handbook and reference documents already available on the website in three languages (English, French, and Arabic), the PowerPoint lessons are offered to the conservation field as a resource to support future training in mosaic conservation. The lessons are currently in French and English, with an Arabic translation expected to be available sometime in 2021.
The MOSAIKON Initiative was launched in 2008 as a partnership between the GCI, the Getty Foundation, ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), and the ICCM (International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics) to advance the conservation and management of archaeological mosaics in the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions. To achieve its aims, the initiative has focused on training, developing locally sustainable conservation practices, strengthening the professional network, and promoting the exchange of information.
For its part, the GCI has largely concentrated its training efforts at two levels: technician level practitioners who work on mosaics in situ and site managers who are responsible for the overall management of archaeological sites with mosaics. The 22-week technician training courses, divided into four modules and conducted over a two-year period, with practical conservation work continuing between each module, have trained over 30 government employees from eight countries, strengthening their institutional capacity to conserve their mosaic heritage. The regional courses for site managers have been organized as initial three-week courses including a week-long workshop the following year with mentored mosaic management assignments between them. The three site management courses, carried out in collaboration with various partner institutions, have trained over 50 government employees from 15 countries.
With funding from the Getty Foundation, other MOSAIKON partners and consultants have developed similar intensive training courses for museum professionals and conservation technicians regarding the care of mosaics in museums. These courses have resulted not only in trained teams of technicians capable of conserving and displaying lifted mosaics in museums and storage, but also in the creation of national mosaic-conservation “ateliers” or workshops in Algeria and Lebanon.
Overall, MOSAIKON has now trained some 235 mosaic conservation specialists from 17 countries, many of whom have received advanced training so as to become trainers themselves. The result is a more robust community of practice that is better equipped to confront present and future challenges.
In addition to courses and workshops, the MOSAIKON partners have collectively been involved in a number of other activities that support and sustain the training efforts. In collaboration with the Institut National du Patrimoine de la Tunisie and the World Monuments Fund, the GCI carried out a model field project at the site of Bulla Regia in northwest Tunisia in order to demonstrate affordable and sustainable conservation practices. There, the technician trainees at the site were provided the experience of conserving and maintaining the mosaics of an entire ancient house, Maison de la Chasse, while a multi-year conservation plan for the site’s hundreds of excavated mosaics was being produced as an example for other sites in the region with significant collections of mosaics. (https://iccm-mosaics.org/publication/at-what-cost/) (https://iccm-mosaics.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Programa-ICCM-Bcn17.pdf).
With the support of the Getty Foundation, the ICCM has strengthened its governance and has been able to increase regional representation at its triennial conferences. Significantly, all previous ICCM conference proceedings—which represent much of the literature in mosaic conservation—are now available on the ICCM and other partner websites. In addition, the Getty Foundation provided support to ICCROM to produce a compendium of Arabic translations of key publications on mosaic conservation in order to make the literature more accessible throughout the Arabic-speaking world.
Similarly, the proceedings of a MOSAIKON workshop dealing with protective shelters on archaeological sites, led by the British School at Rome the Herculaneum Conservation Project with Getty Foundation funding, are freely available online. Longer term, the GCI is currently working with partners at the Israel Antiquities Authority and Historic England to develop practical guidelines for the design, construction, and maintenance of shelters which should be available soon.
MOSAIKON is currently in its final phase and will conclude at the end of 2021. In the course of a decade, the initiative has produced a critical mass of trained individuals, some replicable models of best practice, publications and didactic materials in several languages, and a connected community of conservation practitioners.
Our hope is that these efforts will contribute to the improved conservation, presentation, and maintenance of archaeological mosaics in the Mediterranean. In the end the success of MOSAIKON will be measured in great part by the professional relationships that the initiative has been able to create and maintain.
Further information on training courses and other activities of the MOSAIKON initiative can be found at: https://www.getty.edu/conservation/our_projects/education/mosaikon/
Text and images, unless otherwise credited, © 2021 J. Paul Getty Trust
IIC Members have free access to Thomas Roby’s congress paper on MOSAIKON along with all the 2020 Edinburgh Congress presentations, posters, and accompanying videos published as part of Studies in Conservation online at Taylor & Francis.
Thomas Roby, Senior Project Specialist, Buildings and Sites, Getty Conservation Institute, is an architectural conservator with master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and University of York, England. He worked in private practice based in Rome before joining the GCI in 2001, specializing in the conservation of archaeological sites and mosaics in the Mediterranean region. Other current projects include Paphos Conservation and Management Plan and Herculaneum Casa del Bicentenario Tablinum Mosaic Conservation. TRoby@getty.edu
(View the entire article in the February-March 2021 "News in Conservation" Issue 82, p. 14-17)