Sharing knowledge across borders

Eleftheria Mavromati, who took up one of our student CPD bursaries and travelled from Athens to Bath for our seminar on Treatment & Protection, shares her thoughts and impressions of the day.

“As a PhD student I follow pages of different organizations, to be informed about the latest evolutions on materials conservation. What is more, my duties as a vocational institution professor of Archaeology and Conservation obliged me to be updated about synergies and actions all over the world. I was informed about the NHIG ‘TREATMENT & PROTECTION OF HISTORIC IRONWORK’ seminar from the IIC (International Institution of Conservation) site and I was very interested for a number of reasons I will elaborate on below.

Conservation blacksmith Toby Petersen on the causes of surface failure.

Being from Greece, a country in southern Europe that still faces the financial crisis of previous years, the decision to attend the seminar was not an easy one. However, this difficulty was addressed by the organization itself, which had provided some free places for students. The final decision to attend the seminar had to go through many trials, with the most decisive consideration being the exposure to the coronavirus, but the seminar seemed extremely attractive to broaden my knowledge and perspective on ironwork conservation, so I found myself in Bath on the eve of a modern and unknown war for Europe. Since, the will to progress and to learn is sometimes insurmountable and contrary to the rules of logic.

The most important thing for a conservator is to know the modern techniques and materials and to approach the science of conservation in a way that suits their country, the monument/ object and ethics.

My real interest in the seminar was summarized in three parameters:

  • The way specialists approach the management of cultural heritage and the preservation of iron.
  • The materials and methods they use to maintain metal objects.
  • The skills they develop for the preparation of conservation projects in the field of metal objects.

Left: taken by Eleftheria during the ironwork walk

In Greece, conservators are trained in the maintenance process for museum collections of metal objects. They learn methods and techniques for cleaning, stabilizing and protecting objects, taking into account their original surface and the environment of finding or revealing them. But they focus mainly on archaeological and marine metal, as artefacts arise from excavations at sites of various eras, Prehistoric, Classical Hellenistic and Byzantine, as well as marine metals, since many metal objects come from shipwrecks in the Aegean and the Ionian sea.

Andy Thearle explains the thinking behind the colour & coating scheme of the BathIRON balustrade in Parade Gardens.

What’s amazing and different for me is that NHIG focusses on architectural and structural applications in the post medieval and industrial eras. Historic traditional iron is fascinating and its conservation requires so much structural, architectural and material knowledge, that only specialists can treat and fully understand it.

During the seminar, the understanding of the significance and value of traditionally forged ironwork, the proper care of historic fabric and its evidence, the skills every iron conservator or ironwork consultant must have, was revealed so simply and inevitably. I left the seminar with the sense that iron specialists owe it to themselves and everyone to be cooperative, share knowledge, craftsmanship and practices for the purpose of conserving and maintaining pieces of art, architectural heritage and preserving values of great technological, historical, aesthetical and social importance.” 

Eleftheria Mavromati

Senior Investigator at the Greek Ombudsman

Archaeologist MA

Conservator of Antiquities and Pieces of Art TEIA

Professor of Archaeology and Conservation/ Vocational Institutions

Doctoral Candidate of Conservation UNIWA

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