Over a month since returning from Albania there has been little chance to reflect on my experiences with Heritage Without Boarders. Rushing from the airport to a friend’s wedding, moving house and restarting my Masters studies has meant that everything has been a bit go, go, go. I have only just discovered my Summer School notebooks and to do list under a pile of bills and letters. So it was only yesterday, as I was preparing a lecture to give to Cardiff University Conservation students about my experience in the Balkans, that my mind was able to wander back to the hotel coffee table where every day in Tirana had begun.
In reflecting I thought of all those blank faces that looked up at me on the first day, the sea-sick feeling that maybe we had got it all wrong and the sleepless nights as we tried to adapt all that had been planned to suit the diverse range of participants. We thought that we would be lecturing to about 15 students, so it was with a mild fear that I prepared for my first experience of teaching in front of 22 eager faces. Luckily that panic soon melted as everybody began to relax and talk with each other, sharing their experiences and discussing the similarities and differences between our workplaces.
It is this memory of talking and sharing that quickly replaces all the others and is what I took away from the Summer School. It was a privilege to be able to spend a week with so many skilled Museum Professionals and Conservators from across the Balkans and to facilitate the sharing of their experiences with University students reading history, architecture and archaeology. Before arriving I thought that it would be Stefanie, Francesca, Azra and I that would be doing all the teaching but within the first few days of the school the tables had turned. Goce Eftimov, Ana Dimcevska, Marina Dimitrovska and Goran Ivanovski took the lead in helping others to understand the nature of artefacts and their decay during the condition assessment activities before giving interesting presentations on their work at the National Museum of Macedonia. Later Gigi, Conservator of the National History Museum of Albania, shared her lab with us, recounting some of the ethical challenges she faced on a recent conservation project and discussing the importance of documentation as we opened folders crammed full of before and after photos and treatment records.
Now that I have been back at work a few weeks I realise how much I have grown in confidence through my participation of the Summer School. It is through sharing my conservation knowledge that I have gained appreciation of my own expertise, an understanding which is now far broader thanks to the students sharing their individual experiences with each of us. I feel that the knowledge which was exchanged in Tirana has empowered me in my work and hope that others feel the same.
Being part of the teaching team on the HWB Conservation Summer School was a challenging and exhausting experience made wholly rewarding by all those that participated. I’d like to thank each of you involved for teaching me so much and look forward to having an opportunity to work with each of you again in the future.
- Final group picture. All together with certificates!