Sagita Mirjam Sunara
The Arts Academy of the University of Split, Croatia, hosted the 9th International Conference of Conservation-Restoration Programs in April 2012. The two-day conference included 14 lectures, a student poster exhibition and a roundtable discussion. Three Croatian and one Slovenian school participated in the event.
History of the conference
The first such conference was organized in Split in 2004. At that time, Croatia had two graduate programmes in conservation-restoration: one at the Arts Academy of the University of Split and the other at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of Zagreb. The conference aimed at bringing together students from these two schools to showcase their work. The teachers also benefited from this event, as it provided them with the opportunity to share experiences and discuss how programmes could be improved. In 2006 the newly established programme at the University of Dubrovnik joined the project. With the inclusion of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design from Ljubljana in 2007, the project achieved an international character.
The conference is held annually, each time at a different Croatian university (Split, Zagreb or Dubrovnik). Four students or recent graduates represent each programme. The topics of their lectures vary from preventive conservation and technical studies to complex conservation-restoration treatments. Students usually present the projects that they took part in during the previous academic year. The official languages of the conference are Croat and English, and students can choose in which language they want to present their papers. All lectures are open to the public.
So far, the papers presented at the conference have neither been collected nor published. This year, the organising committee, headed by the author of this article, decided to launch a conference website and to publish all materials online. These are now available at the following link: www.konferencija-restauracija.com. The website is in Croat, but the abstracts of students' papers are available in English.
At this year's conference, thirty-four students from the universities of Ljubljana, Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split presented the results of their scientific and practical work. There were 14 lectures and 10 posters. The organising committee introduced the award for the best oral presentation, the best PowerPoint presentation and the best poster. The award was named after Zvonimir Wyroubal (1900-1990), who is considered the founder of the Conservation-Restoration Service in Croatia.
Martina Tekavec, a recent graduate of the University of Ljubljana, received the Zvonimir Wyroubal Award for the best oral presentation. Martina talked about a 15th century polychrome wooden sculpture that was vandalized in the 1950sand following this attack, large portions of the sculpture were reconstructed, but the original appearance was not respected in every detail; recently, conservator-restorers had to re-evaluate this treatment and to decide on its future. Elena Jurić, a recent graduate of the Arts Academy of the University of Split, received an award for the presentation on the conservation and restoration of a 17th century wooden polychrome antependium from a small church in the Dalmatian hinterlands. This project is a part of a wider effort to restore the original inventory of the contents that church, which were removed during a renovation thirty years ago. The Zvonimir Wyroubal Award for best poster was given to Nataša Treursić from the University of Dubrovnik; Nataša presented a poster "Felkl's Globe with the Representation of Earth from the Maritime Museum in Dubrovnik: Diagnostic Research and Conservation-Restoration Treatment".
Professional accreditation of conservator-restorers in Croatia
A round table discussion "Conservator-restorers: What to do after the diploma?" generated a great deal of interest among conference participants. Panellists included graduates of the conservation-restoration programme in Split, the director of the Split City Museum, a representative of the Croatian Employment Service and a representative of the City Municipality. One of the topics the panellists discussed was the professional accreditation of conservator-restorers in Croatia. Although the country has three graduate programmes in conservation-restoration, a diploma in this field is not needed to attain the accreditation. Conservator-restorers can have any diploma and two years of work experience (one, if they worked in a museum). Obtaining work experience is one of the greatest challenges emerging conservators face, as institutions lack the money to hire new people. The inspiration for this round table discussion came from the Student and Emerging Conservator Conference "Conservation: Futures and Responsibilities" that was held in September 2011 in London, and organized by the IIC.
Conservator-restorers at work
As a part of the conference, a visit to the conservation-restoration studios of the Arts Academy of the University of Split was organized. This was an opportunity for the participants, and for the general public, to get a behind-the-scene look at how students treat valuable artworks.
Sagita Mirjam Sunara
Sagita Mirjam Sunara is an assistant professor at the Conservation-Restoration Department of the Arts Academy, University of Split (Croatia). She obtained a diploma in conservation-restoration of easel paintings and polychrome wood in 2005 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. She teaches easel painting conservation, preventive conservation and documentation techniques in conservation. Sagita worked for five years as a documentarist at the Croatian Conservation Institute in Split, Section for Stone Sculpture. She authored three exhibitions on the conservation of the Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace in Split, and presented that project at numerous professional meetings. Public outreach for conservation is one of her greatest passions.