The 30th Anniversary of the Latvian Society of Restorers

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The conference  participants at the Rundale Palace.  Photo by  M. Gaujenietis

By Indra Tuņa and Anna Kozorovicka

Founded in 1989, The Latvian Society of Restorers (LRB) is the association of restorers and conservation related specialists who are professionally involved in preserving cultural heritage in Latvia. The LRB has nearly 200 members. The majority are certified conservators in different areas of conservation who work in museums, libraries, archives and private companies and also includes architects, art collection managers and construction industry specialists.

The Society is committed to upholding professional standards by regularly organising educational seminars, lectures, masterclasses and conferences as well as participating in educational trips in Latvia and abroad. The LRB also holds an annual exhibition which informs the public about recent accomplishments in the preservation of cultural heritage in Latvia.

However, this year the 30th anniversary provided an opportunity to aim higher and celebrate the occasion with a more extensive exhibition informing the public about the work and accomplishments of conservators in Latvia.

Our expectations for the anniversary events were not only met but were exceeded. The Art Museum Riga Bourse http://www.lnmm.lv/en/mmrb/ provided the exhibition hall, and one of today’s best theatre stage designers in Latvia, Reinis Suhanovs, agreed to create the exhibition design ensuring a new approach to the traditional display of art objects. Almost half of the LRB members accepted our invitation to participate, and as a result the exhibition showcased 130 items restored in recent years by 80 conservators in Latvia. In addition to lectures about the conservation of metal, wood, textile, paintings and furniture, conservation workshops for children were organized; an exhibition catalogue was published; and the exhibition was feature on the radio, television and in printed media. During the Night of Museums, in collaboration with the students of Latvian College of Culture, we organised a flash mob featuring a variety of musicians ranging from a traditional academic girls’ choir to folk musicians and pop bands.

But the 30th anniversary conference was a special treat for the professional community—Latvian conservators and our friends and guests. For two days we had the opportunity to look back at our origins, follow the development of the conservation industry and learn about the latest trends including future plans related to museums, libraries, archives, the construction industry and education. For the last 30 years we have had a close cooperation with Lithuanian and Estonian colleagues, therefore we were delighted to listen to their experiences and accomplishments. We were also pleased to learn more about the activities and accomplishments of Heritage Malta, University of Gothenburg, Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and IIC. Sincere gratitude to Matthew Grima, Austin Nevin, Alessandra Carrieri, Jurga Bagdzeviciene, Marike Laht, Heige Peets, Hilkka Hiiop and Aidonas Valkiunas.

A special thanks to Juergen Vervoorst for taking the time and the opportunity to tell our participants about IIC and its activities as well as Graham Voce for supporting our cooperative initiative.

In line with the old saying “save the best for last”, we had prepared a special treat for the second day. All 180 conference participants were hosted at one of Latvia’s most outstanding examples of restoration and conservation, the Rundale Palace http://rundale.net/en/ . In those beautiful surroundings the participants had the opportunity to listen to three lectures about excellent Baltic States restoration and conservation projects including a talk on the restoration of the Rundale Palace Ensemble 1872-2018, presented by the former director of the Rundale Palace, Dr.h.c.art. Imants Lancmanis; the Influence of different studies on restoration of wall painting (presented by Aidonas Valkiunas) and combining tradition with innovation; and the projects “Rode Altarpiece in Close-up” and “Christian Ackermann – Tallinn’s Pheidias, arrogant and talented” both presented by Dr. Hilkka Hiiop. The lectures were followed by tours of the Palace and its magnificent gardens, and the day ended with a wonderful classical music concert.

You can find a more detailed conference programme here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Fy2sTvU_c0h91bNzvgirJz2oXh6I4LRr/view

Photos from the Anniversary Conference and Exhibition:
https://www.restauratorubiedriba.lv/galerija/lrb-30-jubileja-2019

So what are the results? The exhibition was visited by nearly 15,000 people. We have received thrilling feedback from the general public. People were surprised by the restorer’s profession, many not previously understanding what the job entails. Some people mentioned that they had only intended to have a quick look but instead stayed for hours. The exhibition has encouraged not only private collection owners to assess their valuables and ask for our expertise, but has also motivated Latvian municipalities and regional museums to pay closer attention to the preservation of cultural heritage, organise guest lectures, look for restorers and apply for grants. The Society has been asked to participate in the development of state educational programmes. And these are only a few of the many initiatives generated by the Anniversary Exhibition.

Our guests gained an extensive insight into the history, current issues and future plans of restoration and conservation in the Baltic States, new experiences and valuable knowledge about activities in Europe and IIC.

We are grateful for the support and interest in our activities and encourage all not to miss the next opportunity to find out more about the preservation of cultural heritage in the Baltic States; please attend the 12th Baltic States Triennial Conservators’ Meeting in Lithuania in May 2020. http://conservation2020vilnius.ldm.lt/

AUTHOR BYLINES

Indra Tuņa is a conservation chemist at the National History Museum of Latvia, and she is involved in the research of the Museum’s collection. She graduated from Riga Technical University as a paint/varnish manufacturing engineer and afterwards obtained a master’s degree in conservation technology. Indra teaches chemistry in the Department of Restoration of the Art Academy of Latvia, and as a research specialist, she is involved in numerous conservation projects in Latvia. She is a board member of the Latvian Society of Restorers and a Fellow of IIC.

Anna Kozorovicka graduated from Riga's Building College (Latvia) in the restoration program, specializing in polychrome wood. After completing her studies, Anna worked as a volunteer and then as a full-time restorer in Austria at the Universalmuseum Joanneum in Graz. Currently she is back in Riga conducting private work in cooperation with Latvian museums and churches.

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This year the 30th anniversary provided an opportunity to aim higher and celebrate the occasion with a more extensive exhibition informing the public about the work and accomplishments of conservators in Latvia.
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