Day 1. Otrar project: an introduction.

Hello and welcome to the Otrar 2016 blog! We are Maria Ledinskaya and Natalie Harding, this year’s volunteer conservators with Heritage without Borders in Otrar, Kazakhstan. Before we start blogging about the HwB project in Otrar, we thought we would say a few words to introduce ourselves.

I am an objects conservator currently working at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. I have studied conservation at the University of Lincoln and completed a 12-month ICON internship in Conservation of Sculpture and Architectural Metalwork.

I have left my previous career in propmaking and set design and got into conservation because I felt that heritage preservation was fundamental to any culture and national self-identity; it was literally “the right thing to do”. Because of this, the mission of Heritage without Borders is very close to my heart and I feel privileged to be a part of the collaborative Otrar project. I am a native Russian speaker and hope that my language skills would come in useful here!
— Maria
I am an objects conservator currently working for a private restoration company where we specialise in high end metal antiques and antiquities. Having initially trained as a gold and silversmith my interest in cultural heritage naturally grew from my curiosity of how objects are made and who is responsible for their care when they are housed by a museum. I followed my curiosity and trained in fine metalwork conservation and have worked in many museums across the United Kingdom where I have been involved in major refurbishments, exhibition installations and public facing archaeological conservation initiatives.

I became interested in working with the Heritage without Borders team as I strongly believe in collaborative work and the dissemination of conservation skills and knowledge which all form part of the longevity of the object. With relationships already in place between HwB, UCL and the regional museums in Kazakhstan, I hope that I can continue the great work and further the joint working partnerships between these cultural heritage groups.
— Natalie

The Otrar project is a collaboration between Heritage without Borders; Centre for Applied Archaeology, UCL; University College London, Qatar; the Margulan Institute of Archaeology of Kazakhstan; and Archaeological Expertise, a commercial company Kazakhstan, acting as the main local organising partner. Our role as volunteer conservators with HwB is to provide first aid conservation support and training to the UCL archaeological team, who will undertake excavation of the historical site in Otrar. We will be staying at the UNESCO base camp for the duration of the project and intend to set up a field conservation lab to help clean, stabilise and pack excavated finds. We will also work with conservators in the local museum and reach out to other heritage institutions in the region. The objective is to facilitate international cultural exchange and discussion around conservation issues and give support where it is most needed.

As the project gets underway, we will both contribute blog entries about the progress of the work and our experiences. Stay tuned!

Glasses and smiles: at Gatwick airport, about to board an Istanbul-bound flight on our way to Almaty, Kazakhstan

Glasses and smiles: at Gatwick airport, about to board an Istanbul-bound flight on our way to Almaty, Kazakhstan