In the summer of 2014 the Institute of Conservation of the University of Applied Arts Vienna welcomed a group of students and teaching staff from the National Museum Institute, New Delhi. Twelve conservation students and two museology students from India had the opportunity to live and study in Vienna from July 14 to August 2, 2014. The Summer School was designed to provide hands-on experience in conservation and to enable the participants to gain deeper understanding about up-to-date methods in conservation and museology in Austria.
Both institutions, the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the National Museum Institute New Delhi, are members of the Eurasia-Pacific Uninet (EPU) and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate academic collaboration, which is now also considered on governmental level.
The Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, offers four specialisation areas in the diploma degree programme: conservation of paintings, objects, textiles and stone. Additionally there is the possibility to focus on archaeological objects or contemporary art. Learning about methods for preventive conservation and collection care is an important feature in all the areas of specialisation, as well as the development of long-term preservation strategies for historic collections.
The training schedule of the Summer School 2014 comprised lectures, discussions and practical demonstrations by the conservators. Each week of the workshop, including the weekends, was dedicated to a different field of conservation and organised by staff members of the Institute of Conservation Vienna. The participants had the possibility to work on original objects under professional supervision. Apart from this, excursions to renowned museums, institutions and monuments were organised to show Vienna in all its facets and to deliver an impression how conservation is carried out in Austria.
The exchange of knowledge in the course of the Summer School was set on a high level due to the great interest and theoretical knowledge of the Indian participants.
In the object department the tasks that formed the training comprised traditional cleaning methods for silver and gold as well as the bonding of ceramics and glass. Gilding techniques were investigated by the Indian students.
An excursion to the Museum of Applied Arts Vienna enabled to get to know conservation in this museum as well as the storage arrangements for different kinds of objects.
In the field of paintings, participants were introduced to surface cleaning as well as to consolidation-procedures of paint layers with natural and synthetic materials. The students learned how to handle panel and canvas paintings and how to carry out re-lining. They visited the painting conservation and scientific laboratory of Kunsthistorisches Museum.
The scientific analysis of paint layers was then taught in the hands-on chemistry workshop delivered by the chemist of the Institute of Conservation. Taking samples, preparing cross-sections for investigation as well as techniques of microscopic and chemical spot tests for material identification were covered.
In the third week, the participants learnt about textiles, their proper handling and mounting, deterioration problems, nature, structure and identification of fibres and conservation measures. Practical training covered dry and wet cleaning and the packing of textiles as well as sewing techniques and labelling.
To strengthen their knowledge of storage methods, the students visited the central art depository of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna at Himberg. This storage is a purpose-built, secure and state-of-the-art facility outside the city with central climate control system, integrated pest management and innovative storage techniques. It was an excellent opportunity to see and understand one of the best possible storage and management systems for a variety of different objects.
The conservation of stone was covered at the weekends via excursions to monuments and architectural sites in Vienna. These tours in the centre of Vienna and the palace gardens of Schönbrunn gave an insight into the care of monuments. As a pleasant consequence the participants could enjoy the beauty of Viennese architecture and got to know the history of the city.
Two Museology students participating to the course had a specific work schedule. They did an intensive survey on Viennese museums, for example the Albertina, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts Vienna, the Wien Museum, the Belvedere or Stift Klosterneuburg. They interacted with the experts of various museums and the teaching staff of the ecm-educating/curating/managing training programme of the University of Applied Arts Vienna. They were introduced to the concepts of assessing museums on the basis of their infrastructure, exhibitions and visitor facilities and studied various programmes that museums offer particularly for children and young people to make museum visits a learning experience. Through these exercises, the understanding of the processes involved in the conception and design of museum exhibitions was deepened.
A social highlight for both University staff and students was a warm welcome reception at the Indian Embassy in Vienna, accompanied by a typical Indian buffet.
Outcome und Future Plans
The Summer School has not only given the Indian students a chance to receive hands-on training on original works of art but has also delivered an overview of methodologies, materials and approaches to conservation in Austria.
As the academic training in India has not yet established laboratories and studios for practical conservation, the Summer School in Austria provided an important opportunity to gain practice. The training enabled students to propose, discuss and carry out conservation interventions independently and communicate their decisions.
They were able to visit many Austrian museums to get to know their systems of investigation, conservation and storage.
Due to the big success, it is planned to repeat the Summer School in Vienna in summer 2015, again with the support of Eurasia-Pacific Uninet.
The National Museum Institute New Delhi also invited the Austrian colleagues to India. The possibility of starting a joint PhD programme in conservation and onsite conservation projects in India will be further explored.
In the future the Departments of Art History of both Institutions will join the collaboration to further broaden the field of the academic exchange between India and Austria. Continuation of such training programmes in future will certainly boost the academic excellence on both sides, Austria and India, through professional exchange and cooperation.
The Indo-Austrian Summer School doesn’t only strengthen the collaboration in the conservation profession and in museology but also enriches participants on a personal level. Students and the team of both Institutes will be happy to meet each other again and to participate in projects in the future.