|■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
Fragment prior to work
Fragment after work (cleaning & placement of small pieces in their original positions)
From October 9th to November 8th, a 12th mission was conducted on the Conservation of Wall Painting Fragments in the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan. This mission conserved wall paintings from the 11th-12th centuries unearthed at a site in Khulbuk in Southern Tajikistan. Wall paintings at the Khulbuk site are relics of the earliest Islamic art in Central Asia and are items of unmatched value. This conservation project was undertaken with a grant from the Sumitomo Foundation.
Most of the wall painting fragments unearthed from the Khulbuk site are no thicker than 1 cm. Overall, the fragments are severely degraded and are so brittle that they cannot be handed. In light of the results of trial conservation work in 2009, the 12th mission enhanced the layers of color in 3 fragments, cleaned them, and attached a backing to them. The surface of the wall painting portion was sprayed several times with a solution of Funori – (glue made of seeweed), the layers of color were brought out to a certain intensity, and then the portion was cleaned. Afterwards, small, loose pieces that had broken off were placed back in their correct position. To protect the replaced pieces and stabilize the fragment as a whole, a backing was provided with triaxial woven fabric to readily conform to the contours of the back of the fragment.
Subsequent missions will look into ways to clean other fragments, attach a backing to them, and mount them.
At the workshop
Wall painting fragments exhibited in the museum
From October 3 to November 2, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted the 9th Mission for Conservation of Wall Paintings in the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan. This was part of the Exchange Program of International Cooperation of Cultural Heritage planned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. During past missions, we examined the methods of mounting wall painting fragments on a support and decided on a basic policy. In this mission, we reviewed part of the operation process, aiming to further reduce the weight of support and shorten the operation time.
In addition, we held a workshop entitled the Conservation of Wall Paintings from Central Asia 2010 at the above-mentioned museum from October 21 to the 27. At the third workshop during these missions the theme was mounting, which is the last process of wall painting conservation work. Five conservation specialists participated in the workshop: one conservator from both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia, two conservators from the Mural Restoration Laboratories at the State Hermitage Museum, Russia, and one conservator from the Dun Huang Academy, China. Three trainees from the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan also participated in the workshop. Using the mounting methods improved during this mission, all participants experienced all the processes of mounting wall painting fragments on a new support.
During the mission, we completed the conservation treatment of six wall painting fragments among those excavated from the Kala-i Kahkaha I site, and exhibited them at the above Tajik museum. Three trainees from the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan learned methods for mounting wall painting fragments and the filling up of the lost portions on the surface of wall paintings. They were able to independently perform all conservation treatment processes. We hope that these trainees will continue conservation even after this project is completed. We also hope that they will contribute to the conservation of valuable cultural heritage in Tajikistan.
Forming new support
Mounting mural painting fragment on support
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted the eighth mission for Conservation and Restoration of Mural Painting Fragments in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan. This was part of an exchange program commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, from May 16 to June 22. The mural paintings were originally stable since they were on the walls of a building. Exhibiting them in a museum requires support in place of the wall surfaces. In the 8th mission, we decreased the weight of the support and also tried not to place any burden on the mural painting fragments when mounting them. The Tajik trainees mounted two mural painting fragments, excavated from the Buddhist temple ruins of the Kofir kara site, on the supports, following the instructions of Japanese restoration specialists, and exhibited them in a museum. The Tajik trainees actively tackled the task of forming new supports and mounting the mural painting fragments.
In the 9th mission, we will mount the mural painting fragments excavated from the Kara-i Kahkaha I site. During the period of this next mission, we will also hold a workshop on mounting mural painting fragments.
After being treated by trainees (cleaning, filling)
From February 27 to March 10, 2010, we executed the seventh mission for Conservation and Restoration of Mural Painting Fragments in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan. This mission was in the framework of the exchange program of Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage commissioned by the Agency of Cultural Affairs. The purpose is to foster experts who are engaged in conservation and restoration of mural painting fragments in Tajikistan.
In the seventh mission, the Tajik trainees used filler to restore the missing fragments under the instructions of a Japanese restoration specialist. The mural fragments excavated from the Kara-i Kahkaha (Shafristan) site in northern Tajikistan were damaged in fires, and the colors of the surfaces and undercoated layers differed depending on the fragment. So the trainees had to carefully observe the color of the entire fragment and determine what color of filler to use for each fragment. They repeatedly created samples and seemed to gradually figure out how to create filler with the appropriate color and stiffness.
We plan to conduct a training session on installing mural fragments on a new support (mounting) next year.
Treatment of sides of mural painting fragment
Exhibited mural painting fragment
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation dispatched the 6th mission for Conservation and Restoration of Mural Painting Fragments in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan as part of an exchange program commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs from October 4 to November 17, 2009. Together with the four Tajik trainees, we restored the mural painting fragments excavated from the Kara-i Kahkaha (Shahristan) site in northern Tajikistan in continuation of the previous mission. Joining the mural fragments of plant pattern excavated from the same site and cleaning were finished and securing the joined fragments on a new support (mount) was completed by the previous mission. As finishing work, in this mission we coated the missing part on the surface and the sides with filling agent and attached a bracket to the back.
On October 28, we installed the mural paintings in the exhibition room of the Museum under the auspices of the Japanese Embassy Provisional Acting Ambassador in Tajikistan and the participants in the workshop of Conservation and Restoration of Mural Paintings unearthed in Central Asia 2009. All participants shared the delight of the Tajik trainees, who joined and cleaned the mural painting for themselves and first exhibited it. We will cooperate in fostering conservation experts in Tajikistan through the restoration/conservation work.
Surveying the status after storing mural pieces
Since 2008, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, has been working on the conservation and restoration of mural pieces owned by the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan, together with the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography, Academy of Science, Tajikistan. As part of this project, we invited a total of six specialists in conservation and restoration to Tajikistan from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan, and held a workshop at the National Museum from December 5 to10.
In the ruins of Central Asia, beautiful murals from the 5th to 12th century were discovered, but the number of specialists who can conserve and restore the murals is insufficient, so conservation and restoration activities have been delayed. Also in this area, mural conservation and restoration methods established in the former Soviet Union were widespread, so common problems have occurred, such as color change color of the mural surface due to the deterioration of reinforcement. At the workshop, we asked participants to report on the current status of conservation and restoration of murals in their home countries. We also introduced the new trials that we had performed in Tajikistan, and requested them to actually experience them in their work. We will hereafter hold similar workshops in which Japanese specialists and those at the local site will work together and exchange opinions, aiming to promote conservation and restoration activities for the murals in Central Asia, and improving the conservation and restoration methods thereof.
Surveying the status of mural pieces before joining, with local trainees
As part of an exchange program commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation is conducting conservation of mural paintings in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan. Three missions were dispatched from summer to autumn, and a workshop was held in early December 2008.
Since there are not many conservators in Tajikistan, the excavated mural painting fragments have been left in the storage of the National Museum without appropriate treatment. The goal of this project is to transfer to Tajikistan conservation knowledge and techniques that the Center has accumulated to date and to foster Tajik specialists in conservation. Until now, 4 trainees have participated in works related to the storage, investigation and photography as well as the cleaning of the mural painting fragments.
In December, a workshop was held at the National Museum to which a total of 5 conservation specialists were invited from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. The participants reported the actual conditions of the conservation of mural paintings in their respective countries. We introduced the new undertaking being conducted in Tajikistan, and the participants were able to actually experience a series of the work. We hope to promote activities for the conservation of mural paintings in Central Asia and to improve conservation methods by holding similar workshops in the future, working jointly with local experts and exchanging opinions.
A scene from the meeting
Visit to the restoration studio for mural paintings at the Institute of Archaeology, Uzbekistan
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been holding international conferences and workshops in order to promote exchange among experts engaged in the protection of cultural heritage in Asia. From the fiscal year 2007, an expert meeting will be held every year at various locations in Asia in order to construct further network among experts. For the first year, focus was placed on Central Asia and the meeting was held in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. In addition to Uzbekistan, experts were invited from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as well as from UNESCO to present reports on the present condition and issues related to activities for the protection of cultural heritage in their respective countries and to hold discussions. The meeting was followed by visits to archaeological sites, historic buildings, museums and an archaeological institute in Samarkand, and opinions were exchanged on methods for the conservation and exhibition of cultural heritage. The participants commented that it was very meaningful to learn about the different issues that Japan and other countries are faced with and to hear case studies of activities for the protection of cultural heritage. They also expressed their desire to continue collaboration and to exchange information.