Travels through Conservation: Spring in Iraq

By Director of Conservation Lois Olcott Price

Anemones in Erbil

My travels through conservation have taken me a bit further afield this week. I am in Erbil, Iraq, working with the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH). It is my fourth trip to the Institute, but the first in the spring. The Institute is located in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, a semi-autonomous region that is both peaceful and pro-American. Spring in Erbil is wonderful—everything is green, birds are singing everywhere, and anemones sweep across the walled garden in the rented house where the Institute’s academic director and visiting faculty live.

I spent yesterday teaching a class about the history and preservation of paper to the introductory students who come from institutions throughout Iraq. They will spend six weeks here before returning to their home institutions to complete a practicum and spend a few weeks at home before returning to Erbil for the next session.

Making paper

As part of the class, we made paper as a means to enhance the students’ understanding of the material. We also tested various papers for pH and the presence of ground wood. The advanced students discussed the role and importance of archives documenting archeological excavations and then explored ways to help preserve these archives, including improved storage, surface cleaning, and relaxation of creased and rolled documents.

The students are very bright and eager for knowledge; they are a joy to teach. Their English improves daily, although my Arabic and Kurdish are still almost non-existent. Our translators are invaluable.

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