|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
Fragments (partial) excavated at the Khulbuk site Left: before efforts Right: After surface cleaning and fragments were pieced back together
Backing work underway
From November 6 to December 5, wall painting fragments in the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan were conserved on-site. The wall painting fragments that are being conserved were excavated in 1984 from the palace ruins at Khulbuk in southern Tajikistan. The Khulbuk site dates to the early Islamic period. The fragments have been kept in the repository of the National Museum of Antiquities but for a long time they were not properly conserved. Serious conservation efforts began in 2010.
The wall painting fragments are extremely fragile. Pigments from multi-colored layers are merely resting on the fragments, and the plaster base coat has been severely fragmented. Following up on last year’s work to reinforce the multi-colored layers, work was done to stabilize assembled fragments by piecing them back together and attaching a new backing. Approaches such as filling in the gaps in fragments that were stabilized last year were tested with the goal of exhibiting the fragments in the future. The wall painting fragments are easier to appreciate once they have been stabilized and pieced back together with the gaps filled. Plans are to examine ways to exhibit the fragments in the future.
This conservation project was undertaken with a Sumitomo Foundation grant for the preservation and conservation of foreign cultural properties.
Practice textiles cleaning
In the framework of the supporting project for the Conservation Center of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM-CC) by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo conducted training in chemistry for conservation materials for 10 Egyptian personnel of the GEM-CC in conjunction with JICA Tokyo. Trainees consisted of 8 conservators and 2 chemists in charge of analyses using scientific techniques. Training took place over 3 weeks from Aug. 31–Sept. 21. Trainees learned about the chemical and physical properties of materials used in conservation and they actually used these materials, providing them with firsthand knowledge of the characteristics of individual materials. This training further emphasized to the Egyptian trainees the importance of sharing information and evaluating materials so that appropriate conservation materials can be chosen. Hopes are to establish systems at the GEM-CC so that trainees can share this information among the staff and coordinate with one another.
A lecture by a conservator
Discussion of conservation techniques
In a collaborative project with the Institute of History, Archeology, and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has undertaken conservation of the wall paintings in the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan since 2008. A Seminar on ‘the Conservation of Wall Painting Fragments in the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan’ was held on June 12, 2012. Conservation experts described about the conservation efforts thus far.
The wall paintings that are being conserved are mostly those that were excavated from the palace ruins (from around the 7th–8th century) of the Sogdian people, who were known to be merchants on the Silk Road, and those that were excavated at the palace ruins at the Khulbuk site dating from the early Islamic period (from around the 11th–12th century). The Sogdian wall paintings were burnt and fragmented. At the seminar, the experts talked about conservation techniques such as those to put the fragments together and display them in the Museum of Antiquities. The wall paintings excavated at the Khulbuk site are extremely fragile. Therefore, experts spoke about current conservation efforts to consolidate the fragments and conservation techniques for display of those fragments in the future. The seminar featured presentations on techniques and materials for the conservation of wall paintings and discussions by participants, providing a forum for a meaningful exchange of opinions.
Presentation by Mr. Chandrapandian of the ASI
The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) have implemented a collaborative project to preserve Ajanta paintings in Caves 2 and 9. This project is funded by the ‘Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project’ of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan.
As a follow-up, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation invited Mr. Chandrapandian, an expert from ASI who oversaw the Ajanta Caves from July 23 to 28, 2011, to visit and an expert meeting was held on the 27th.
At the meeting, Japanese experts reported on the status of Ajanta paintings in Cave 2, covered by the collaborative project, and factors leading to their damage. Results of high-resolution photographic documentation of Caves 2 and 9 were also reported by the Japanese experts. As a representative of the ASI, Mr. Chandrapandian reported on the ASI’s activities at other archaeological sites in India besides the Ajanta Caves. The meeting was a great opportunity to discuss how to better preserve the Ajanta paintings in the future.
Experience of restoration by participants in workshop
From October 23 to 28, we held a workshop titled “2009 Conservation and Restoration of Murals unearthed in Central Asia” at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan. This workshop took place as part of a project for the conservation and restoration of mural pieces owned by the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan. The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has been working on together with the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography, Academy of Science, Tajikistan, under the framework of Networking Core Centres for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. This was the second such workshop held, following a similar one held last year. This year, in addition to the three experts from the Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz and Turkmenistan), we invited two experts from the Mural Restoration Laboratories of The State Hermitage Museum, Russia, and one expert from the DunHuang Academy. Six trainees from the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan also participated in the workshop. At the workshop, the Russian restoration specialists reported on the method of restoring murals unearthed from the Central Asia executed in the former Soviet Union, and other participants reported on conservation/restoration activities in their own countries. We introduced restoration/conservation methods currently being employed in Tajikistan, and asked participants to experience part of the actual works. We will hold the similar workshops in the future with the aim of promoting mural restoration/conservation activities in Central Asia and improving restoration/conservation methods.
Making a new support
Joining mural painting fragments
The 5th mission for Conservation and Restoration of Mural Painting Fragments in the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan was dispatched from May 13 to June 12. Four Tajik trainees joined in the conservation of mural painting fragments excavated from the Kara-i Kahkaha (Shafristan) site in northern Tajikistan in continuation of last year’s mission. The trainees learned how to join mural painting fragments and remove the attached gauze.The fragments that had been cleaned and joined were then put together to make a larger piece. This piece was reinforced with a triaxial woven textile made of rayon (Sakase Adtech Co., Ltd.) and then mounted on a new support. Conventionally, plaster and wood are used for support, but this time carbon fiber and synthetic resin were used to create a support that is more light-weight and that can be easily handled. This series of work was executed with the Tajik trainees for the purpose of transferring techniques to the Tajik people and contributing to capacity building in Tajikistan.
Conservation methodology and techniques are transferred in order to foster local experts.
A portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer is used to analyze the elements contained in the paint layers of a mural painting.
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation dispatched the first mission of the “Conservation of the Mural Paintings of the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan,” a part of an exchange program commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, from July 23 to August 5. The mural fragments to be conserved had been detached from archaeological sites in Tajikistan by Russian experts over a period of years (cf: http://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ktmonth/2007-08)
Since the number of experts on conservation is insufficient in Tajikistan, these mural fragments are placed in the storage of the National Museum without being appropriately treated. Therefore, there are numerous problems and the fragments need to be treated for conservation and future exhibition. In this project, the conservation knowledge and techniques that the Center has accumulated will be transferred to Tajikistan in order to foster Tajikistan experts on conservation.
One of the major issues associated with the mural paintings is the use of synthetic resin that had been impregnated into the fragments during their detachment. This synthetic resin was used to protect the mural fragments at that time but has yellowed and hardened the soil that had adhered to the surface, making it difficult to see the mural paintings now. Activities of this mission included a cleaning test to remove the discolored synthetic resin and hardened soil from the mural fragments.
Investigation of the paint materials is also important in understanding the painting techniques and the route by which materials used for the mural paintings were procured at the time. Thus, a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer was used for elementary analysis, and some of the pigments were identified. As a result it was revealed that the currently black areas were once green and that various shades of red paints were used to produce different colors.