Arrival in Gjirokastra

By Charlotte Gamper

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.

The 2015 Gjirokaster team consists of four members: three textile conservators, Mela Penrhys, Azra Becevic-Sarenkapa and me (Charley Gamper) and Lyndsey Mackay who is tackling all things interpretation.  I am the only new member of the team, the other three having participated in the 2014 school.  The course aim is to provide a platform for teaching textile conservation in a region with no formal textile conservation training in place, working also with the local Ethnographic Museum to help introduce conservation ideas to improve the care of their collection.

Mela began the session by introducing HwB, describing the aim of the second year of training in the region as “continuing to make training more sustainable and reach more people”.  Each of the trainers then spoke a little about each of our backgrounds, where we work and how we got into conservation and I found it interesting to discover each of the four trainers came from a design background.

Following this, the participants each spoke a little about their own backgrounds and where they work: a mixture of Albanian Cultural Heritage Management students and museum professionals from the Balkan region.

The next session introduced the participants to object documentation with a mystery object that they were asked to document without any guidance as to what they should be documenting, provoking many questions but no answers.  The participants discovered how each of them approached the task from a different viewpoint based on their experiences and illustrated the importance of aiming to be objective.

In the afternoon, Lyndsey introduced interpretation in a museum setting for both adults and children, considering how each of these audiences might need a different approach for engaging them with objects.  Participants were then asked to work in teams producing their own interpretation for different audiences for one of the Ethnographic Museum’s objects, a wedding dowry chest.

The remainder of the day was spent at the Ethnographic Museum on a tour which gave us all insight into how the historic house setting would have been used by local Gjirokaster people in the past.