The 2012 IIC Keck Award was awarded jointly to the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, for the conservation and restoration of the Caryatids with the use of laser technology, in collaboration with the Institute of Electronic Structure & Laser at the Foundation for Research and Technology in Crete (IESL-FORTH) and to Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne in Kent in the United Kingdom. IIC's Council in making the award recognised that both instituions had, from their respective status, made a positive contribution to public awareness of the practice and beneficial results of heritage conservation.
The Acropolis Museum
The award relates to the Acropolis Museum’s successful approach in providing visitors the opportunity to observe procedures that until recently were undertaken in the conservation laboratories.
The Caryatids are a set of six famous female statues that were used in place of conventional columns to support the roof of the south porch of the ‘Erechtheion’, regarded as the most sacred part of the Acropolis temple complex. One of the Caryatids was removed by Lord Elgin and was later sold to the British Museum. In 1979 the five Caryatids were moved to the old Acropolis Museum to be protected from the atmospheric pollution and in 2007 they were transferred to the new Acropolis Museum.
In December 2010 the conservation project commenced, for the first time after the removal of the Caryatids from the monument. This project includes documentation of the current condition, the fixing of unstable fragments, structural restoration, removing corrosive factors and the cleaning of black crust and soot deposits by means of laser technology.
The surface cleaning is achieved by means of a custom-made, innovative laser system developed by IESL-FORTH in Heraklion, Crete. The laser is capable of operating at two wavelengths simultaneously (Infrared at 1064nm and Ultraviolet at 355nm) and is able to remove thick pollution accumulations in a controlled and safe way for both the object and the operator. The combination of the two wavelengths ensures that no discoloration or damaging phenomena occur on the original substrate, while revealing its unique surface.
The conservation process is conducted in a laser laboratory platform installed on the balcony dedicated to the Caryatids in the Acropolis Museum. The laboratory is housed temporarily on a specially-designed platform that “embraces” and isolates one sculpture at a time. This platform is being moved to different heights, so that the conservators obtain optimum access along the surface of the Kore. Following strict health and safety regulations, protective curtains made of special material to block any laser beam surround this lab.
Visitors can follow the work carried out behind the protective curtains via a camera connected to a monitor outside the laboratory platform. When conservators are not working, a recording of this process is displayed on the monitor. Since December 2010, more than 2 million visitors have followed the work of conservators, participating not only in a highly interesting process, but also in unique historical moments.
This collaborative effort of the Acropolis Museum and FORTH to preserve and to rejuvenate the unique cultural Heritage of Greece while demonstrating to the public how culture and technology can be combined is a symbolic union between ancient and modern Greece.
Further information about the project and the video can be found in the following links:
CSI: Sittingbourne - Conservation Science Investigations
Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne is a grass-roots conservation project located in a town centre shopping mall. It consists of an archaeological exhibition in one shop and an investigative conservation lab in an opposing unit in Sittingbourne, Kent. In the exhibition, visitors can learn about the archaeological discovery and see a selection of conserved finds. In the CSI lab, conservators and conservation volunteers work on finds from the 6th to 8th century Anglo- Saxon cemetery site where 229 graves were discovered, many with extensive high status iron, copper alloy, gold, silver and garnets grave finds and hundreds of beads. It is a unique community led heritage conservation project. It allows public access to the conservation techniques involved in treating and investigating objects from an archaeological dig.
The project has been a local initiative involving a Sittingbourne-based conservator (Dana Goodburn-Brown ACR, AMTeC Co-op Ltd), the archaeological excavation organization (Canterbury Archaeological Trust) and a voluntary local museum (Sittingbourne Heritage Museum), combined with the support of local businesses, history enthusiasts and the wider community. The project opened in late 2009 and has had more than 5,000 volunteer hours contributed to it and nearly 20,000 visitors. Conservation volunteers have been trained to work under supervision and discuss the conservation project with visitors.
The project and its relationship to the community has been used as a case study for two different MA student projects focusing on social values of cultural heritage, (University College London and Kingston University). Public engagement with archaeological conservation both before and after the project opened has been examined and visitors comments collected. Reportage from a resident artist reflects on public interactions with the shopping mall exhibition, and many positive communications from visitors to the exhibition and social media sites substantiate a variety of levels of public engagement with the process of archaeological conservation science. The opportunities this type of project presents to the community have been, and continue to be valued. Locating this project within a shopping mall is one of it’s greatest strengths - as an unusual ‘shop’, it raises curiosity amongst shoppers, is central to the town, and offers opportunity to many who might never visit museums/heritage material otherwise. The casual nature of the display and accessibility to the process of archaeological conservation entices many regular visitors who ‘pop in’ to catch up on developments on a regular basis. The facility was set up largely through donations of redundant exhibition materials, equipment such as an airport X-ray machine and conservation supplies.
Several conservation interns have participated in the project and gained valuable experience both in supervising volunteers and investigative conservation of finds, and in sharing their skills and knowledge with the general public. Local school groups have visited and many children have returned with their family members over the following months. Special events have been organised, such as visitors and volunteers being invited to carve and print lino-cuts of their favourite artefact or conservation discovery. The resulting prints have been used for a fundraising T-shirt design and illustrations for a forthcoming popular book on the project.
Publicity, Publications and Social Media: From the opening event in Oct. 2009, CSI: Sittingbourne has had extensive local media coverage (BBC news, papers, radio) and national press coverage (The Guardian and The Independent); as well as numerous articles in professional and popular magazines. In addition, Dr.Alice Roberts, presenter of BBC’s Digging for Britain brought the project national television exposure when her series featured the lab. The project was also recently mentioned as a good example of public engagement with conservation science at a House of Lords Inquiry, and featured in The National Heritage Science Strategy document. The Anglo-Saxon CSI project has a website/blog ( www.anglosaxoncsi.wordpress.com ), with many interesting comments from members of the public and the conservation profession – including some controversial remarks, which have served to spark much discussion amongst conservation volunteers and interested observers. The project has a frequently updated Facebook page (Anglo-Saxon CSI:Sittingbourne), and a Twitter account with 50 followers in its first few weeks of existence, @CSIsitt.