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Video transcript
- There's a range of disciplines in conservation mostly focused on the varying materials and periods from which those materials come from, where the works of art come from. Paintings, decorative arts, photography. In the case of my department, we deal with ancient material. We deal with archaeological artifacts. They may be seen as works of art as well, but primarily they're archaeological artifacts. That puts a certain amount of responsibility upon our plate and function to be sure that we preserve all the evidence that's carried within and on top of the object, in many cases. This very cautious approach, that restrains the conservator and guides the conservator very often in terms of what he or she might do to an an archaeological artifact, certainly wasn't always the rule. The main objective of early restorers was to bring an object back to a state which they imagined, in most cases, existed in ancient times. The way it looked when it was new, undamaged, unharmed, unsullied from the burial environment. Unfortunately that led to a great deal of invention. For the recent projects in the department which represents the problems of mistakes made in early restoration of an object is a Roman bear. We realized that the bear was not in it's correct position. And it's very subtle, but looking at it closely one realizes that there simply isn't room for the back right paw to exist on the plinth that's associated with the piece. We began to investigate it from the standpoint of how it had been reassembled. So the conservator at the moment is busy removing a lot of the overpaint at the restored joints in order to determine whether those joints were made correctly or not. Among the reasons we might bring an object up to the laboratory for treatment may be that it's structurally unstable or we may disagree with the method used for aesthetic reintegration. How loss, or what's called "akune" were filled and how they were aesthetically integrated into the rest of the surface. In the case of Roman mosaic that's being treated in the lab now, there are only a number of fragments remaining. Any of the places in between the fragments are completely lost and therefore were infilled and overpainted. So the object was removed from the gallery, disassembled from it's mount, and then the soft and aging grout from the modern restoration was carefully and mechanically removed from in between the tesserae. Once that cleaning procedure is completed there will be a greater distinction between what is left of the ancient mosaic and what is modern infill. Not all the objects in the collection come to us intact or even in one piece. Particularly the ceramics. What's laid out on this table, a series of shards that all belong to a rather large and monumental crater. There are a lot of clues encased in these shards and on their surface as to where they go. It can be the design on the surface, it can be basic shape, it can be their thickness or color, even the turning marks on the interior left by the craftsmen as they created the vase. All of those are used by the conservator to slowly build the form. To arrive at what has survived the centuries of burial and time. After assembly, and complete fitting of all the fragments, and infilling of the losses and the gaps, the conservator will in-paint the fills with a suitable tone. Repeating only the basic outline and segments of the design, but never recreating the drawing on the vase itself. The idea here is really to make our work visible and highly available when you're seeking it, and never allow it to be confused with the ancient material. We can't make an object look like it was freshly excavated and be honest about it. What we normally try to do is return the object to the last point in it's history where an irreversible change had occurred, and the best you can do is stabilize it at that moment, hold it still in time, and try to preserve it for future generations.