In May 2015, HWB volunteers traveled to Albania, where they visited local museums to teach conservation skills, and also made an appearance on national television. They wrote about their trip for the HWB blog, and all of the posts can be read below.
First thing this morning I travelled to meet local artist and traditional costume expert Stavri Cati, in his home studio where he has been working since at least the 1960s (…so long he can’t remember the exact date). Stavri is possibly the only person living today who holds within his mind and studio walls the complex and detailed historical knowledge of traditional folk costume from the eight Gjirokaster sub-regions.
Day 8 of the school started very early in the morning for Nedi and I. We had been asked to appear on national breakfast television on the programme ’7 pa 5′ and had done the 5 hour drive from our day drip on Sunday afternoon up to Tirana in readiness to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at the TV studio on Monday morning! After being plastered with orange face make up they decided I was ready to face the cameras. We were asked questions about the conservation school and the work of Heritage without Borders and Cultural Heritage without Borders. The question that amused me most was ‘Is textile conservation a profession that only women should do?’
We hit a road in a minibus. It was more flying than driving, but nevertheless we reached Seranda safely. This time we had a chance to see Museum of tradition, with ethnological collections, as well as Archaeological Museum.
A sunny morning for the last day of lectures! To wake people up we had Charley’s informal lecture and demo on stitching. She took us through a process of stabilising a textile using a needle and thread. Participants had a chance to see samples of different types of pins, needles, and also various ways of conserving textiles on their own samples. For some people this was the first time they came across a curved needle, but others had experience of using them before. Everyone had a chance to try different types of stitching on their own sample of cotton material.
We awoke to a beautiful, sunny day after two foggy mornings. Mela, Nedi and I headed straight to the Ethnographic Museum to pick some objects from storage for conservation treatments. In the meantime, the group were in Babameto to hear from Charley and Azra about conservation principles for display and setting up a conservation workshop. Mela then gave a lecture on crease removal.
Day 3 kicked off with Mela introducing the group to some of the weird and not so wonderful pests that like to munch on textiles. We were treated to photographs of carpet beetles, clothes moths, mould and rats which may have come a little bit too soon after a large Albanian breakfast.
Day two began with a mini exploration of the newer part of town in Gjirokaster in a quest to buy the lowest powered domestic vacuum cleaner we could lay our hands on. The aim will be to show participants how to adapt the vacuum and make it more conservation friendly for safe use with delicate and vulnerable museum textiles. This exercise illustrates well our training principles here in Albania, teaching ideal conservation methods alongside ways of working in a region where there is no easy access to conservation supplies.
We arrived late Saturday night into the beautiful UNESCO world heritage site of Gjirokaster, Albania and despite the dark shade of night the city’s historical charm was immediately apparent, set on the hillside with narrow cobbled winding streets and old traditional stone buildings. The following morning we were able to see the city in its full glory and visit the Ethnographic Museum where we will be spending much of our time working as part of the Textile Conservation School 2015.