Review of the 4th European Student Conference on Object Conservation 'Layers in Time' by Eva Christiane von Reumont

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The European Student Conferences on Object Conservation (ESCOC) is an initiative started some 9 years ago in the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, when Prof. Dr. Friederike Waentig decided to involve students to organise and hold a conference on object conservation. Themes included conservation and preservation of historic buildings, modern materials, musical instruments, ethnographic objects and waterlogged wood.
The goal was to begin an exchange of ideas to start talking about objects, projects, scientific methods and working habits with students from schools all over Europe. It successfully took place in 2007 under the title “1st European Student Conference on Object Conservation”. Two years later the “2nd European Student Conference on Object Conservation” was held under the same title in Finland, organized by conservation students from the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The “3rd European Student Conferences on Object Conservation” took place three year later in Austria. The Academy of Fine Arts in collaboration with the University of Applied Art Vienna organised it under the theme “3rd Dimension”.
Each year papers which emphasise a critical approach to work processes dealing with the methodology of investigation, and addressing ethical questions. The event also encourage students to submit papers about ongoing projects where final results have not necessarily been obtained yet.

Layers in Time, the 4th European Student Conference on Object Conservation was held in April 2015 in Budapest. It was organised by the Hungarian National Museum’s National Centre for Conservation and Conservation Training in association with the Department of Conservation at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts.
The 27 speakers represented schools from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The audience extended the list of schools with participants from Belgium, Croatia, and Switzerland. About 130 European students had decided to attend the event, which was held in the most beautiful ceremonial hall of the Hungarian National Museum.

Presentations:
The conference began on Friday morning (9am) and ended Saturday afternoon (18:00), with an additional excursion on Sunday (9:00 – 15:00). The papers included a great diversity of themes ranging from conservation of fresco wall-paintings, plaster polychrome sculptures, oil painting on stone plates, large scale cartoon, modern artworks and furniture, metal, glass, textile, several scientific research from the University of Chemistry and Technology of Prague and last but not least a sincere report on the conservation of street art in Athens.
The presentations where limited to 20 minutes and in between the sessions all students were invited to a coffee and tea break with tasty Hungarian biscuits. A poster session included the display of more conservation projects where students had the opportunity to exchange ideas and ask questions.

Workshops:
On the first afternoon of the event four workshops had been arranged. Two presented the results of successful conservation projects: The first was “The Art Deco - Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music from 1907”and the second was “the Várkert Bazár (Castle Bazaar) and the Royal Gardens built between 1875 and 1883”.
The remaining two granted insight into the Hungarian conservation departments, where the training had started in 1974. The third workshop was therefore titled “Hungarian University of Fine Arts - Conservation Department: painting, wooden sculpture and stone sculpture” and the last event was: “National Centre for Conservation and Conservation Training at the Hungarian National Museum: wooden objects and furniture, metal and goldsmith's art, paper and leather, textiles and leather, and siliceous artefacts”.
Events:
After the workshops, all participants were invited to the Conference Dinner, which took place in the foyer of the National Museum.
A beautiful and delicious buffet was offered and the students which again had the opportunity to mingle and meet.
On Saturday evening many students took part in a free course on Hungarian traditional dances and afterwards proceeded to a Balkan themed party in one of the local clubs.
The excursion on Sunday gave an insight into the restoration of the Royal Palace of Gödöllő, which had been constructed around 1735 by Grassalkovich I.

Feedback from students and the announcement of the 5th ESCOC from the Conservation Department of the Bern University of the Arts followed, presented by four students from different specialties within the bachelor programme and one master student. All participants agreed that it was very much worthwhile to meet so many students from different conservation programmes as it broadened our horizons and has encouraged us to seek more communication. Moreover, speaking and writing in English is a great chance for us to exchange knowledge and experience as students of conservation have very individual and highly interesting backgrounds. The coffee breaks, the dinner, the workshops and the events were very important representing a great opportunity to initiate and continue dialogues.
Although most students are not working professionals yet, the content and tone of the conference could have easily been compared to a conference held by seasoned professionals. It was also interesting to hear that many of us students shared the impression that too many people in the world are unaware of what we learn. The conservation profession really needs more advocates to ensure that the public is aware of what we do.
The conference ended with the announcement that the 5th European Student Conference on Object Conservation is to take place in Poland, organised by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts Krakow, approximately in 2017.
If you want to find out more about ESCOC and the previous events see:
http://db.re.fh-koeln.de/ICSFH/student-conference.aspx
http://www.metropolia.fi/
www.studentconference.at
http://www.studentconference2015.hu

Eva Christiane von Reumont