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Subject: Termination of funding for Chersonesos Conservation Project

Termination of funding for Chersonesos Conservation Project

From: Chris Cleere <c.cleere<-at->
Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Since 2002 others and I have, on behalf of the Institute of
Classical Archaeology of the University of Texas at Austin,
sponsored by the Packard Humanities Institute, implementing a wide
ranging conservation and heritage management initiative at the
National Preserve of Chersonesos, Crimea, Ukraine. The varied facets
of this conservation project have involved all aspects of
archaeological conservation, site conservation, museums
conservation, heritage management, management planning, collections
care, museum display, objects mounting, and project management.

Each of the separate aspects of the project has required unique
research and project design, all of which was, along with the
implementation, undertaken to the highest international standards as
described in the various UNESCO conventions and recommendations and
the charters, such as those of ICOMOS, pertaining to conservation
works and cultural heritage protection.

One of the guiding aims of the project was the self-imposed
restriction of using only locally available material and resources
and prioritising training of both local and international
conservators, students and indeed experts in all the skills required
to independently sustain the project at the end of the development
period, thus allowing Ukraine to maintain, extend and export the
project in light of the likely level of funding that the local
economy could afford in future.

The project has been one of the most multi-disciplined,
all-embracing conservation projects ever undertaken on an
established major archaeological centre and associated regional
museum, a museum that holds a collection that represents excavations
spanning more than a century and demonstrates the approach to
conservation across the Tsarist, Soviet and modern eras. Scores of
people have been involved in these projects and all have greatly
benefited from the work experience, training and opportunities to
diversify their working practices and meet and interact with their
international peers.

The Conservation training aspect of the project and the refurbished
conservation and storage facilities was described by the President
of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, during his visit to the National
Preserve as "One of the greatest hopes for the future protection of
Ukrainian heritage."

Under the umbrella of the main project specific projects have
covered the following aspects of conservation and heritage

    Site conservation:

        Research to determine the extent and cause of deterioration,
        development of GIS-based conservation survey and recording
        tools, development of locally sustainable and
        internationally acceptable conservation methodologies and
        training of local and international work force and
        completion of a pilot project consisting of one city block
        and one Chora site.

    Objects conservation:

        The complete refurbishment and supply of the Chersonesos
        conservation laboratories to a level where the Chersonesos
        Museum conservators and visiting conservators and
        specialists can fulfil all requirements of both the museum
        and modern archaeological excavations with regard to both
        remedial conservation and recording.

    Training and professional development:

        Training for Chersonesos conservation and management staff,
        Ukrainian conservation students and conservation students
        from Russia, USA, UK, Canada, Turkey, Switzerland, France
        and Ireland in all aspects of modern conservation practice,
        both on site and in the laboratories and the introduction of
        international conservators to the conservation practices and
        philosophies of the Soviet Union.

    Mosaic conservation:

        The teaching of lifting and conservation techniques and the
        conservation a number of mosaics designated as Ukrainian
        national treasures.

    Museum display:

        The teaching of modern museum mounting and display
        techniques and the creation of a display of Hellenistic
        stelai, again designated Ukrainian National treasures, to a
        level acceptable to international museum standards, using
        only locally available materials, personnel, and resources.

    Collections care:

        The undertaking of a full condition survey of the vast
        collection, the training of all students and professionals
        in modern collections care methodologies, the design,
        manufacture and implementation of a state of the art storage
        facility with almost a kilometre of shelving and modern
        environmental monitoring equipment.

Heritage Management Chersonesos has been proposed for inclusion of a
tentative list of sites to be nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage
List, in accordance with this aim the conservation team and other
international consultants were working with the preserve to produce
and implement an acceptable management plan.

All this, plus much more, including the establishment of the only
stone conservation training program in Ukraine (a program that was
so successful that it was subsequently exported to the City of Lviv,
one of only two World Heritage listed sites in Ukraine) was achieved
throughout the project.

It is with all such conservation projects a professional, ethical,
and in many countries a legal obligation, a condition of receiving
an excavation license, to meticulously record all conservation
activities and produce a record of the treatment applications and
underlying research and to disseminate the results to other in the
field in order that those who come after us can understand what was
done to the artefacts, sites and structures and therefore assess the
success of treatment and if required, correct mistakes.

It is the act of recording and dissemination of the record of the
treatments undertaken that define conservation as a profession and
these requirements are a fundamental requirement of all the
international conventions and charters that pertain to
archaeological excavation and the ethical management of cultural
heritage. This requirement is doubly true in the case of the
Chersonesos Conservation Project as it is a major university that
undertook the project as a substantial element of an academic
archaeological training project. Conservation of cultural heritage
as a stand-alone project, or as in this case as part of an
archaeological excavation is an academic undertaking of equal
importance to the archaeological excavation itself and therefore
equal importance should be assigned to the dissemination of the

This not withstanding earlier this year I was informed that the
institution funding the project had without notice terminated
funding for the conservation element of the overall project with the
result that the long planned publication of the methodology and
results of the conservation project will now be abandoned and even a
basic report will not be funded. Furthermore, there are no plans to
look for alternative funding sources now or in the future. Full
publication of the archaeological project will however continue to
be funded until complete and then published.

The decision not to fully report or publish the conservation project
sends a devastating signal to the conservation and heritage
management community as when one of the biggest funding bodies of
classical archaeology and one of the largest universities in the USA
so clearly demonstrates that they  elevate of the importance of
archaeological excavation over that for conservation and
preservation of cultural heritage, it severely undermines all the
advances in cultural heritage protection and conservation that have
been made globally over the last fifty years.

One wonders if the same approach to reducing expenditure would have
been adopted if the project had been undertaken in North America or
Western Europe, rather than in the relative backwater of Ukraine?

This unfortunate decision is of such detrimental significance to the
fields of conservation and heritage management that as a
professional conservator I cannot let the Chersonesos Conservation
Project, with all the work that has been achieved by such a large
and dedicated team of people, slip quietly and unrecorded into
obscurity. It is therefore my intention to both fully report and
publish this very significant project independently and to hopefully
continue providing the now well established and unique conservation
training courses into the future. I am now in the process of looking
for funding to achieve these aims. In the mean time to all the
scores of people from around the globe who gave so much to this
project over the years I can only express my sincere apologies for
this unprecedented outcome and promise that your work will not be
for nothing and will eventually be published and disseminated to the
international conservation and heritage management communities as is
the basic requirement of our profession.

Chris Cleere
Coordinator of Conservation, Chersonesos Project

                  Conservation DistList Instance 23:9
               Distributed: Thursday, September 24, 2009
                        Message Id: cdl-23-9-001
Received on Wednesday, 23 September, 2009

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