Last week the CCA team had the pleasure of attending the 12th ICCM conference, a triennial international event that gathers specialists from around the world to discuss current research and practice in mosaics conservation. It was held in Sassari and Alghero, in Sardinia, at the invitation of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per le Province di Sassari e Nuoro.
Professionals from 35 countries delivered 41 oral and 42 poster presentations, revolving around the theme of cost understood in its wider sense – the monetary costs as well as those exacted by intervention on authenticity, the human costs of management and the socio-political costs of excavation and tourism. The first two sessions in particular explored the costs of reburial, intervention and maintenance on mosaics around the Mediterranean and in the UK.
The program included several excursions, with a full day tour on Tuesday around the Northern part of the island. After an enjoyable ride down the stunning Western coast we arrived in Bosa, known for its colorful townscape. A visit to the Phoenician colony of Tharros, further south, was followed by lunch in a peschiera, an ancient fish farm, after which the delegates had a chance to see the Nuragic sculptures of Monte Prama, recently restored by the CCA. The day ended with a moonlit visit to Nuraghe Santu Antine, an impressive Bronze Age megalithic tower.
From Wednesday onwards the conference moved from Sassari to the nearby Alghero, in the elegant civic theatre.
Documentation emerged as a key topic throughout the conference, and was discussed at length in many case studies as well as in a dedicated session. Speakers presented tools and techniques employed for documentation at various levels: from mobile platforms useful for in situ recording to detailed examination and analysis techniques to investigate tesserae reuse and manufacturing variations through time.
Several talks addressed the issues linked to shelters on archaeological sites, highlighting the complexity of requirements and the need to improve communication between conservators and architects.
The MOSAIKON program was the focus of two talks, reviewing the results of four years of training initiatives in management, restoration and documentation. The conference saw the unprecedented participation of a large number of delegates from North Africa and the Middle East, many of which were past MOSAIKON trainees. The Syrian speakers, who presented a new mosaic recovered from Ain Al Helwa, in Latakia, received the committee’s warm thanks for their incredible efforts in such challenging times.
The last day saw presentations of research from 4 different countries into alternative backing materials. This is a crucial point for sustainability given the high cost and limited availability of Aerolam, the aluminum honeycomb panel that has been widely employed as a support for relaying mosaics in the last decades. The durability and long-term stability of new backing materials appeared to be a key concern due to the traumatic nature of the re-backing process. Various approaches to presentation and display were examined during the final session.
In the course of the conference, 140 voting delegates elected ten distinguished professionals in the field of conservation and archaeology to form the new board:
- Aicha Ben Abed, Director of research at Institut National du Patrimoine de Tunisie.
- Evelyn Chantriaux, manager of the Atelier de restauration de mosaïques et d’enduits peints de Saint-Romain-en-Gal.
- Stefania Chlouveraki, lecturer at Technological Educational Institute of Athens and the new Vice-President of ICCM.
- Abdallah Komait, archaeologist and Director of Scientific and Conservation Laboratories, Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, Syria.
- Alessandro Lugari, mosaics and sectilia restorer, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archaeologici di Roma.
- Demetrios Michaelides, Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cyprus. President of the board from 1996 to 2014, now President Emeritus.
- Roberto Nardi, founder and director of the Centro di Conservazione Archeologica. Vice-president from 1989 to 2014, now President of ICCM.
- Hicham Rguig, Conservator at the archaeological site of Chellah, Ministry of Culture, Morocco.
- John Stewart, Senior Architectural Conservator in the Building Conservation and Research Team at English Heritage in London, was appointed Treasurer.
- Jeanne Marie Teutonico, Associate director of the Getty Conservation Institute.
In his concluding remarks, Honorary President Gaël de Guichen expressed his hope that the new generation of mosaic conservators formed by the MOSAIKON courses will be followed by many other generations of highly skilled professionals, which will continue to use conservation as an exceptional means to preserve and enhance cultural heritage.