4th International Student Conference of Conservation and Art

Author: Daniela Molinari
Academy of Fine Arts, Krakow, Poland

Nov 4th- 6th, 2019

Though Krakow was intensely cold on arrival, the days were clear and the Academy of Fine Arts (located in the town centre) provided a welcome display of Polish history and culture. Poland has a passionately rich history, which is clearly visible in the heritage locations scattered throughout Krakow, as well as the curious artworks at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (MOCAK). Krakow has been described by one of the conference attendees as the “Florence of Eastern Europe”: accentuated by the historic architecture as well as the lively jazz bars scattered about the centre adding to the allure of this southern Polish city.

The conference commenced with excitement as the attendees filed into the lecture hall. Introductions were made and the talks began promptly. The topics of the presentations over three days presented an incredibly variety, covering a wide range of conservation specialties: everything from taxidermy to traditional Japanese paper. The subjects discussed ranged from cleaning water-sensitive painted surfaces to new technical examination methods, and alternative approaches to loss integration for a 15th chalice.

One of the strikingly noteworthy discussions was the conservation of a re-developed prison cell in what was originally a Gestapo Station, where numerous murders were committed. Yet, in 1999, the location was subsequently turned into a sports centre and one of the cells was renovated to become a sauna and jacuzzi. The conservation efforts were unique, and as with many historic places and objects, it required the utmost precision and care in order to preserve the immensely important historic values of the site.

Presenting the Student Ambassador Program on the 3rd day of the conference.

Students and young emerging professionals from all over the globe attended the conference and presentations ranged from local students to those travelling from Canada and the United States. Though many of the topics were enlightening; discussing fascinating treatments, objects, spaces, and ideas; there was seemingly little related to sustainability. Aside from my own presentation, discussing the Student Ambassador Program, there was no coverage on sustainability as a topic. Perhaps going forward, it would be worthwhile introducing sustainability as a talking point

at the next conference, given that it is a contemporary issue in the field of conservation. Conservators are notoriously resourceful, yet the topic of sustainability tends to be skirted around frequently, though many conservators seem to be interested in learning about sustainability and how it can be applied to conservation practice. There was some interest in the SiC presentation, and a couple students asked for more information.

The local students who organised the conference were very accommodating and friendly and took the group for a lovely meal. They took us for a traditional Polish lunch in a small restaurant just down the street from the University. For one of the other meals, we happened to discover a wonderful place in town to enjoy a famous Polish culinary export: pierogi. On the final day of the conference, tours were available for those with an interest in art historical aspects of the city, or of some centrally-located conservation studios. Intricately practiced panel conservation methods were presented during one of the tours, pertaining to works belonging to St. Mary’s Basilica in the town centre. Finally, the conservation studio at the Sukiennice 19th Century Polish Art Gallery, which is associated with the National Museum, was the perfect place to end a brief experience of Krakow. It was a fulfilling experience to see what the next generation of conservators are working on and moving towards.

Perhaps at the next conference SiC will be able to present not only the Student Ambassador Program, but also ways in which conservators can integrate sustainability into their research. As more conservators begin to realise the importance of integrating sustainable practices into their own studio practice, the more research can be supported and presented at conferences around the world.