Author: Inga Vollmer-Bardelli, Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology – LEIZA
On 30 June 2023, the Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology (LEIZA) in Mainz hosted a one-day workshop in the framework of the KulturGutRetter (1) project (Cultural Heritage Response Unit). The workshop simulated individual components of the mechanism, especially the ones concerning the emergency conservation of movable cultural heritage. Experts from the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and LEIZA, who jointly develop the KulturGutRetter project, took part in the workshop together with colleagues from various Leibniz Research Museums and from the Mainz Notfallverbund. The workshop engaged a total of 28 cultural heritage experts including restorers specialized in paper, graphic art, natural history material, and archaeological cultural heritage, as well as librarians and one excavation engineer.
During the workshop, the participants tested the rescue modules of the mobile emergency lab and the minimum standard procedures - MSP developed as part of the KulturGutRetter project. The basic module consists of a lightweight and scalable table system. Movable cultural heritage items are documented and subject to emergency conservation measures at various workstations for photographic documentation, dry and wet cleaning, and packaging. In view of LEIZA’s archaeological expertise, the mobile emergency lab was initially set up to deal with archaeological cultural heritage. In the future, it will also be adapted to other specialized CH areas. Consequently, in addition to the archaeological field, other different cultural heritage areas will be incorporated in the MSP. The primary aim of the workshop was to include as many diverse fields besides archaeology in order to discuss the different requirements of the rescue modules and the MSP with reference to a wider range of material assets/resources.
The event started by introducing the participants to the KulturGutRetter project and the functioning of the response mechanism. After which the cultural heritage experts tested the modular equipment, following the MSP. Three THW tents, usable also in future salvage operations, were set-up on the square in front of the new LEIZA building. The emergency conservation workstations – e.g., photographic documentation, dry and wet cleaning, and packaging – were prepared for testing. Within two hours, the cultural heritage experts had performed emergency conservation of contaminated test material, such as ceramic, glass, metal, bone, and paper, at the various workstations. This was not only a matter of getting to know and learning how to use the special modules and the workflows, but also a way to test the digital documentation procedure of movable cultural heritage. This included using the documentation system QField, which the DAI’s IT department has adapted for the damage assessment and documentation of cultural heritage. Using the QField app, it is possible to assign an identification number and a corresponding QR code to individual cultural heritage items by means of a specially developed ID card (4). This ID number remains assigned to the object throughout the salvaging, documentation, cleaning, packaging, and eventual dispatch, meaning that the processing status of the cultural heritage item can be identified at any time. The ID card is an important documentation tool during the KulturGutRetter emergency conservation process and was tested for the first time on a fairly large scale on this occasion.
The workshop closed with a feedback session on the exercise. The overall feedback by all participants regarding the workflows, the minimal standard procedures, and the user-friendliness of the modules was positive. At the end of the workshop, the participants all agreed that the condition of the object is decisive for the success of emergency conservation, irrespective of the type of material.
The workshop proved to be an important opportunity for colleagues from the Leibniz Research Museums and the Mainz Notfallverbund to meet and learn about the KulturGutRetter mechanism.
Featured photos description (clockwise): 1. Tents and workstations; 2. Documenting with QField and ID cards; 3. Dry cleaning station © C.Nitzsche-LEIZA
(1) See article “KulturGutRetter (KGR): technical characteristics of a cultural heritage response unit” in the PROCULTHER-NET Project. Technical Bulletin N. 1, March 2023
(2) The “Notfallverbünde” – or emergency response associations – bring together several cultural organizations from a city or region, which share resources and training in the field of Disaster Risk Management. There are over 50 Notfallverbünde in Germany.
(3) See article “Providing first aid to cultural heritage: a modular table system” in the PROCULTHER-NET Project. Technical Bulletin N. 1, March 2023
(4) See article “Data acquisition and data management for the emergency rescue of cultural heritage” in the PROCULTHER-NET Project. Technical Bulletin N. 2, June 2023