Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cooperation for the establishment of the Conservation Center for Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM-CC) in Cairo: workshop on the conservation of paper materials

A scene from the workshop
Participants in the workshop
With Dr. Nadia Lokma, Director of the Conservation Center for Grand Egyptian Museum

 In cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been providing technical advice to the Conservation Center for Grand Egyptian Museum. Between 24 and 28 February, the Center organized a conservation workshop on paper in Cairo for Egyptian conservators. A senior paper conservator, Sakamoto Masami, delivered a series of lectures on various manufacturing techniques of paper, both European and Japanese, their physical and chemical properties and characteristics. Following theoretical lectures on conservation and materials, some practical/technical sessions were delivered for long-scale preservation and mount-making as well as further conservation implementations.
 In Egypt, museums hold artifacts made of a wide range of extremely challenging materials, such as papyri and textiles. Since most of the participants at the workshop are experienced in the field of conservation as professional conservators, they made quite positive remarks concerning the workshop as a whole. It has become a very important key workshop in order to begin further cooperation with the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Field survey for conservation of Buddhist cave murals located in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China

Landscape of Simsim Grottoes and a group of conserved grottoes
Red organic coloring material found in Grotto 224 at Kizil (Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Bureau of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region)

 As a part of a series of research projects undertaken by the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation, a number of important Buddhist sites with murals (i.e. Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang and Ajanta Caves of India) were surveyed from conservation and technical points of view. Xinjiang region is the east end of Central Asia and plays an important role in ancient trades between the East and West. At the Buddhist grottoes with earthen mural paintings at Bezeklik in Turfan, Kizil, Simsim, Kumtura and Kizil-Qargha in Kucha, field surveys were carried out on painting materials and techniques as well as the state of conservation in a cooperative project with NHK Enterprise Co. between 5 and 12 January, 2008. This mission was composed of 4 members from the Institute, 1 from the Conservation Institute of Dunhuang Academy and 1 from the Cultural Heritage Bureau of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. These Buddhist cave sites are primarily made of unstable soft conglomerate or sand/silt stones, and murals are constructed on earthen plasters with various colourants using a secco techniques. Some organic red colourants, most of which had not remained due to their chemical instabilities, were fortunately observed in some murals. Further scientific diagnoses will provide invaluable information regarding the painting techniques in the context of ancient artisans along the Silk Roads.

Japan-Indo Cooperative Research Project for Painting Techniques, Constituent Materials and Conservation of the Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves in the framework of the “Networking Core Centres for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage” (funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs)

Indian conservation specialist explains the blackened mural paintings due to darkened shellac varnish.
Members of the preliminary mission of the Institute and ASI Ajanta Field Office.

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo plans to start a cooperative project with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) aiming to share and exchange knowledge, expertise and experience on materials and techniques of conservation at Ajanta site. Prior to the project, a preliminary mission was sent to India between 25 September and 3 October 2007 in order to establish a project working plan at Ajanta and to create a common basis with ASI as a counterpart.
 The Ajanta Caves are located in a great arc cut by the curving course of the Waghora River. Approximately 30 caves were cut in the basalt cliff as Buddhist monasteries and decorated with exclusive paintings and sculptures. Most of the paintings show yellowish tint colour due to past restoration works, thick shellac varnish coatings, by Italian and Indian conservators. Various severe biological causes such as bat excrements and microbiological growth make the paintings invisible.
 This cooperative project aims to provide information concerning the manufacturing techniques and technologies as well as to challenge the establishment of suitable conservation methods and materials to these particular conservation problems at the Ajanta site.

Condition survey of mural paintings in Tajikistan

Conditions of mural pieces which were detached during the USSR period; storage room of the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan.
In situ condition survey of murals from Penjikent at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan.

 Preliminary condition survey of mural painting pieces which are currently stored at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan took place between 23rd and 30th August in a framework of the “Cooperation Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia.” In Tajikistan, most of the conservation activities were initiated by Russian conservators until 1991. However, since the dissolution of USSR, major issues of Tajikistan’s conservation have been related to lack of human and monetary resources for research and conservation. Furthermore, since most of the conservation methods and techniques are based on those of the Russians, which are not up to the current methods in conservation, urgent technical support from foreign countries such as Japan and Europe is required.
 The National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan owns outstanding mural paintings from Penjikent, Shafristan and other sites depicted by Sogdians who are known as active merchants of the 6-8th centuries AD. In its storages, some hundreds of detached paintings from archaeological sites have been piled and left for over 40 years without any proper treatment. Especially after USSR’s dissolution, all excavated/detached pieces have been left untreated within Tajikistan. These detached paintings reflect an ethical issue, above all, against such thoughtless measure of ‘detachment’ from their original locations as well as technical issues such as the darkening of synthetic polymers that were used as consolidants in the past.
 In order to protect and preserve such important murals, urgent support is required in the training of local conservators with expertises in the field of conservation.

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