Preserving a Mediterranean Heritage: The MOSAIKON Initiative

Preserving a Mediterranean Heritage: The MOSAIKON Initiative

The Mediterranean Sea, bordered
by Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, has
connected cultures for thousands of years. Its surrounding lands bare the
traces of many civilizations. Among those remnants are
mosaics that once embellished the private and public buildings
of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. These are not only
artworks of great beauty, but also invaluable
records of life in the ancient
Mediterranean world. During the 19th and much
of the 20th centuries, mosaics discovered
during an excavation were commonly removed and taken
to museums for safekeeping. Today it is considered
best practice to conserve mosaics in
situ, maintaining them in their original location. Both approaches pose
conservation challenges. Many mosaics were handled
improperly during their removal from sites, and often
incorrectly backed and poorly stored. In situ mosaics
suffer deterioration from exposure to
the elements and are at risk from looting and
uncontrolled tourism. National and international
organizations have made many
efforts to preserve these extraordinary
artifacts, but in the absence of a coordinated
strategic approach, many challenges still exist. Needs exceed resources,
and important mosaics continue to deteriorate
at a rapid rate. Some are lost forever. In order to address this
problem four partners came together in 2008
to create MOSAIKON, a strategic regional
initiative, which is dedicated to creating
better conditions for the conservation,
presentation, and maintenance of mosaics
in the Mediterranean region with an emphasis on the
countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean,
essentially, the Middle East and North Africa. From the beginning, MOSAIKON
was meant to be different. We wanted to do something
to try to promote the different program
and experience that we can follow up and
that can be really roots for a new approach
and a new vision and new practices of the
mosaic field in our countries. We are convinced
that if we can train a critical mass of
individuals, who can then train the next generation,
replicable models of best practice that can be
utilized and developed across the region, and a
strong and dynamic professional network that can sustain itself
and exchange information, we will ensure a better
future for the mosaic heritage of the Mediterranean. A major focus of MOSAIKON is
capacity building and training for those responsible
for the care and conservation of
mosaics, both those in situ and those in museums. The Getty Conservation
Institute has taken the lead in capacity
building for in situ mosaics. A successful training program
for mosaics conservation technicians initiated by
the Institute in the 1990s with partners in Tunisia
has now, through MOSAIKON, expanded to include participants
from Morocco, Libya, and Algeria. These technicians receive
training in basic day to day conservation
of mosaics on site. The Getty Conservation
Institute has also undertaken a series
of education programs for archaeologists
and site managers, who are responsible
for the management of archaeological sites. These courses cover
everything from documentation and conservation to
interpretation and visitor management. A 2014 course in Pathos,
Cyprus, was the second of three regional courses. The idea with all of
this capacity building is to try to build a community
of practice, basically a critical mass of
individuals, who are trained in the
conservation of mosaics in situ so that they, in
fact, can sustain these efforts into
the future and ensure that mosaics are
preserved beyond the scope of the MOSAIKON initiative. For those caring for lifted
mosaics in museum collections, a similar series of courses
has been supported by grants from the Getty Foundation. Training workshops are provided
by the Centro di Conservazione Archeologica, or CCA,
a conservation training center near Rome with
leading expertise in mosaic conservation. It began with a course for
Syrian restorers, which was to take place in Damascus. But given the instability
in the country, the project was moved
to CCA’s training center outside of Rome. And what was originally
seen as an obstacle actually wound up
being a real benefit. The restorers were really
able to bond as a group, to form a strong cohort. The program was so successful
that additional cohorts came to CCA’s
center for training from Tunisia, Jordan, and Libya. For the training programs to
be successful in the long term, the conservation
approaches taught must be sustainable and
responsive to regional needs. And the materials and methods
to be used for conservation should be locally
available and affordable. At Bulla Regia, a Roman
and Byzantine era site in northwest Tunisia, famed
for its underground villas, the Getty Conservation
Institute, in collaboration with World
Monuments Fund and the Institut National du
Patrimoine of Tunisia, is leading a model
field project. The conservation
plan for the site will serve as a replicable
model of best practice for similar sites in the region. A component of the Bulla
Regia model project is conservation planning for
mosaics throughout the site, and in this case, there
are over 350 mosaics. And the planned activities will
include reburial of a selected number of mosaics. And this will enable the local
authorities and the site staff to maintain and present to
the public a selected number, reducing their need for
increased budgets and trained personnel, creating a
planning framework in which the local personnel can carry
out and maintain the mosaics within their resources. For lifted mosaics in
museums and storage, research is underway at the
Getty Conservation Institute’s scientific laboratories to
develop alternative backing materials and methods that
are affordable and locally available in the region. MOSAIKON also
recognizes the need for a strong
professional network and the importance of
facilitating information access and exchange. To support this,
a series of grants was provided to ICCM, the
International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics,
to strengthen its website and to provide access to the
latest literature and research tools in English,
French, and Arabic. The ICCM was founded
in the late ’70s with that purpose of building
knowledge and an approach to the conservation of mosaics. The ICCM is the principal
source of literature on mosaic conservation, mainly
in the form of the proceedings of the conferences we
hold, but it is also the principal
professional network in the world of mosaics. To further strengthen
information access, ICCROM, another
MOSAIKON partner, is managing the
translation of key texts on mosaics conservation
into Arabic. These will be available
through the ICCM website. Arabic is the first
language of these countries. It’s important that
national institutions and the professionals
have the opportunity to read the technical studies
in their native language. It’s important both to develop
a technical competence, and it’s important for raising
a more general awareness about the importance of mosaics. The MOSAIKON approach,
comprehensive and strategic, seeks not simply to
improve conditions today. Its goal is to build
for the future. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Comments (2)

  1. THANK YOU GETTY! Saw the exhibit at the Villa and watched this again…wow…Truly, making the world's history available for generations to come through such efforts.

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