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Working towards a new generation of conservators

© UNESCO/C. Rellensmann

© UNESCO/C. Rellensmann

“Do not turn this place into a dust bin!” Professor Rodolfo Lujan Lunsford warned twenty-five participants of the three-week Training Course in Mural Painting and Stucco Carving Conservation, Bagan, Myanmar, from 3 to 22 December 2012.

The class were looking at a photo of a garbage dump before the supposedly pristine sight of Ananda Temple, one of the most prominent structures among more than 2,500 Buddhist monuments in Bagan. The Spanish-Guatemalan painting conservator and restorer ended his presentation at the opening of the training by referring to general maintenance issues at the site such as littering.

It has been more than a decade since the last group of Myanmar specialists was trained in the conservation of mural paintings in Bagan. The UNESCO/UNDP project, in which Mr Lujan was  also involved, was carried out at this site from 1980 to 1994, following a devastating earthquake in 1975. The professor with long-standing experience in teaching mural painting conservation has revisited Bagan, when UNESCO Bangkok sent him on a survey mission to assess the state of conservation of the mural paintings and decorative works at the site.

Based on his recent assessment, he designed a three-week curriculum responding to fundamental training needs, which brings in a diverse group of participants ranging from chemists, fine art teachers and conservation team leaders to technicians and masons. 

“It is important to work towards a new generation of conservators for mural paintings,” said U Myat Min Htwe, a lecturer at the University of Fine Arts in Mandalay. A young chemistry graduate, Chaw Su Su Hlaing, who has recently joined the Ministry of Culture, also expressed her eagerness to become a successful conservator to safeguard the mural paintings at Bagan. 

The training, concluded already on 22 December, was a part of the overall project “Building Capacity to Safeguard Cultural Heritage in Myanmar” that is funded by the Italian government and implemented by UNESCO Bangkok in close cooperation with the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library (DoA). Addressing Bagan’s unique corpus of mural paintings is a first step in building up a corps of technical staff to raise the conservation standards at the site. 

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