Weeks 9 & 10: Literally “Saving the Stones”!!! …and writing up reports.
After a much needed break during the week of Pesach (Passover), we jumped right into a week long intensive course on stone conservation with Jacques Nageur, Head of Art Conservation for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and his team. Our week with Jacques was highly anticipated, as it had been built up by the Saving the Stones staff, and it definitely did not disappoint. Plus, the course was open to other conservators so we got to meet some new people, including people who work the grounds at the Ba’hai Gardens in Haifa and students from the conservation program at Western Galilee College here in Akko.
Before jumping into practical work on the city walls and the roof of Akko Prison, Jacques made sure we knew what we were doing and why. The first 2.5 days were spent in the classroom discussing mineralogy, how to assess risks to the stone, deterioration patterns, cleaning and treatment processes, practical considerations, and many case studies.
On the third day, we split our time between the classroom and two trouble-shooting workshops. We visited both the tombs of Al-Jazaar Mosque and the archway to a local courtyard in order to examine their states of preservation and assess the risks to these structures. Of course the typical causes of deterioration were evident: climate, water, and human intervention. We also tried our hand at cleaning a section of graffiti across the street from the ICC, which we returned to later in the week.
On day four, we went to jail. The roof of Akko Prison (which we visited on week 6) is part ofa museum which is now owned and operated by the Israel Ministry of Defense. The Museum of Underground Prisoners in Akkotells the story of Jewish rebel inmates who defied the British through a grand escape in 1948. While the prison was in operation, convicts spent part of their time on the roof where there is nothing to do except take in the panoramic view of Akko and the coastline. Oh yeah – and scratch your name into the floor and walls.
These inscriptions are part of the museum’s maintenance plan and an attraction for tourists. The wind was particularly strong that day, so we couldn’t use many of the chemicals we planned, but we were able to remove weeds (which formally fall into category “bio attack”) from a section of the roof using herbicides and a pressure washer.
On our final day with Jacques and his team, we learned about sandblasting, aluminum blasting, and plastic blasting. We applied these cleaning techniques to the graffiti we worked on early in the week – only to find it repainted the next morning! Jacques told us that graffiti removal is a booming business and now we see why. Well, at least we don’t have to worry about running out of work here in Akko!
Week 10 opened with a lecture titled The Construction of Built Heritage in Israel: Status and Assessment from Raz Efron, Head of Planning in the IAA’s conservation department. Raz gave us an extremely helpful overview of the global, national, and local organizations that are responsible for conservation in Israel. His main point was that, by and large, conservation happens because the local people want it. It is up to local bodies to organize, plan, fund, and execute the work. Raz’s lecture didn’t go in this direction, but it connects to what I talked about at length before – tangible and intangible heritage. I won’t repeat myself here (because you can read all about it in my entry on week 4 🙂 ), but the conservation of a live city mustbe a joint effort between the locals, conservators, and authorities. Afterall, all of our work has people in mind.
We spent the rest of the week formally documenting the work we did at Hatzeva (week 7) and in our time with Jacques and his team (week 9). Next week, off to Jerusalem!