Regional Restoration Camps, Kosovo

Mitrovica, Kosovo is a divided city.  Some see the bridge connecting north and south as a heritage monument symbolising recent violent conflict; to others it is a prime site for peace and reconciliation.  Heritage Without Borders (HWB) is charity that ‘builds bridges’, because heritage matters. 

In 2013 and 2014, Heritage Without Borders (HWB) and Cultural Heritage without Borders (CHWB) jointly delivered conservation and restoration training in Mitrovica, Kosovo as part of CHWB’s award winning Regional Restoration Camps. 

Cultural Heritage without Borders is an independent non-governmental organisation dedicated to rescuing and preserving cultural heritage affected by conflict, neglect or human and natural disaster. They have been working in the Balkan regions for over 19 years. This year their Regional Restoration Camps won the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage, The Europa Nostra Award. 

Since 2013, Heritage Without Borders has sent a team of enthusiastic volunteers to help teach the next generation about the practicalities and value of object conservation.   The aims of the teaching are to: 

  • To develop preventive conservations skills in the region. 

  • To promote cooperation and networking between heritage organisations, professionals and even students within the region. 

  • To complete basic conservation cleaning on a range of artefacts from the Mitrovica City Museum. 

  • To raise the profile of conservation within Balkan museum practice. 

The participants to the camp came from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Backgrounds and previous experience in museum environments varied across the group, which included architectural and archaeological students, practicing conservators and museum staff from the Museum of Mitrovica. 

Along with the skills that all the participants learnt, the Museum of Mitrovica now has a conservation plan set in place that they can begin to follow. Through our classes and group projects we were able to conserve their whole numismatic collection, numerous traditional textiles, archaeological ceramics, three pairs of traditional shoes and two swords. They now have the know-how to begin to document all of their objects and begin to build up their records again. 

HWB hopes to have a long-term impact in the region through yearly involvement in the camp.    

The impact on an HWB volunteer 

Alex Cantrill gained her MA in Conservation of Historic Objects from the University of Lincoln in 2007. Since then she has gained experience of both museum conservation and private practice working for Liverpool Museums, Crick Smith, Hare & Humphreys, the Royal Armouries and Birmingham Museums Trust. Alex is currently Conservator for the Collections People Stories project at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London. 

In 2013, she volunteered to be on a team of conservators travelling to Mitrovica, Kosovo to deliver training on object conservation as part of the Regional Restoration Camps run by Cultural Heritage Without Borders.  Since that first experience, she has become an HWB project leader and is preparing for her third trip to Kosovo.   

The relationships and trust which she has built with her colleagues from the Balkans have enriched HWB’s project and also her experience.   

Despite being in Kosovo to teach, I feel that I learnt just as much as the participants. I had the opportunity to meet some fabulous people, work with a great team and experience the generosity and culture of a truly fascinating country in a way that would never be possible by other means. My time in Kosovo was wonderful and having previously worked with other non-heritage focused charities in countries such as Uganda and Mexico I would be the first to encourage someone who has the opportunity to get involved in such a project to do so. It really is life changing.