A group of 34 professionals from the region shared unique experiences exploring the interdependence of conservation and use of collections, and changes in materials and values over time. The importance of teamwork and work planning were presented as key issues to improve critical thinking, thereby fighting the tendency to rely on assumptions while practicing the conservation and education professions.
Activities included formal lectures, brainstorming sessions, hands-on practical sessions, interviews with museum staff, visits to local institutions and traditional workshops, participant presentations and film club sessions.
Among the main topics, the group learnt about the materiality of objects, the 10 agents of deterioration and the vulnerability of collections, as well as all the challenges related to the value and use of collections. A series of course team presentations stimulated the group to discuss risks to collections, and the challenges of categorizing the vulnerability of different objects. The effects of light, relative humidity and water were explored in depth and experienced through specific exercises.
Various case studies on the values and stories behind objects helped participants understand the fundamental questions of “why we conserve” and “how we conserve.” The study visit to the Giri Harja Jelekong Workshop, Bandung, West Java, where participants learned about the conservation and use of traditional Indonesian puppets, facilitated discussions about the interdependence between conservation and use.
The replica of an “Elephas” exhibited as a visitor’s focal point in the main hall of the Museum Geologi also served as new case study for group discussions. Issues related to the planning of moving, packing and unpacking collections provided a concrete platform to address the challenges of teamwork.
The participants’ eagerness to have immediate solutions to their problems in taking care of their collections produced a constant flow of questions regarding correct, internationally accepted solutions. For the course team, it was an equally constant challenge to refrain from offering ready-made solutions, while instead focusing on providing conceptual tools for discussing the problems and available alternatives. While the resource people offered generously from their vast experience, the final choice was left to each participant. The material, technical and cultural characteristics of the collections in different parts of Southeast Asia must guide the choices made by those involved in its conservation.
Among the various activities held during the course, an International Conference on “Conserving and Using Collections: Experiences and Questions” took place on Thurday 18 - Friday 19 February at the Mason Pine Hotel in Bandung. This conference was organized with the support of the Geological Agency and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, and included twenty-four presentations by participants and course team alike. The intense rhythm of contributions offered a wide overview on different conservation and educational experiences amongst Southeast Asian museum professionals and beyond. It provided a unique chance to learn and share amongst heritage professionals, inspiring regional collaboration in the future.
The course concluded with a closing ceremony held at Museum Geologi on Friday 26 February, preceded by another conference entitled: Changes in Materials and Values, held by Dr. Dinah Eastop at The National Museum in Jakarta on Thursday 25 February. Course participants and professionals from the National Museum and other Indonesian institutions had the chance to exchange views on significance beyond different conservation actions.
Member States represented (course participants and resource persons): Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Korea, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, Viet Nam, United Kingdom.