Historic works ‘come to life’ in Ankara lab

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At the Ankara Regional Restoration and Conservation Laboratory affiliated to the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, thousands of cultural goods and historical artefacts are maintained and restored every year, which are then added to museum inventories across the country. The director of the Ankara Regional Restoration and Conservation Laboratory, Cengiz Özduygulu, said he worked on 6,000 works in 2021 with a 25-person team of restorers and conservators.

Director of the Ankara Regional Restoration and Conservation Laboratory, Cengiz Özduygulu, is seen with a restored piece, Ankara, Turkey, January 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)

The maintenance and repair of thousands of artifacts listed in the inventory of museums are carried out at the Ankara Regional Restoration and Conservation Laboratory in accordance with scientific criteria. Small artifacts visualized in detail on the centre’s X-ray machine are then examined under a microscope. While scalpels primarily used by doctors in surgery are used to correct certain artifacts, dental tools are also used to separate delicate objects, such as threads of tissue. The lab ranks second among the 10 largest such facilities in Turkey in terms of size.

“It can last from a day to a year”

Özduygulu noted that 12 provinces are in their area of ​​responsibility since it is a regional laboratory. He said artifacts from dig sites are brought to the lab and they first create a record describing the condition of the artifact. “While maintaining a room takes between a day and a week, restoring wooden or textile objects on which a few people work can take several years. Metal objects are analyzed in detail on the device X-rays. We put pieces back together that were separated under the microscope,” he said.

Özduygulu said they avoid the use of chemicals as much as possible while extending the life of the artifacts. “We use scalpels, commonly known as surgical knives, when working on metal artifacts. We don’t want to use too many chemicals or substances. They can also have negative effects. For this reason, we prefer mechanical methods. Following the mechanical restoration work on a metal artifact, we complete the processes using chemicals for protection,” he explained.

“For paper artifacts, we also work with organic chemicals that will completely protect and preserve the fibers, texturize and strengthen them. The restoration work for each piece differs based on its own uniqueness. There is a map in “It’s a piece of paper. The work has fabric as a support on the back. To fix the paper, you first have to separate it from the textile,” he explained.

An 18th century sanjak flag

Özduygulu said he has started the restoration of an 18th century flag from the Amasya Museum. “At its textual state, it has lost its textile integrity and has been reduced to threads. These will be laid out and then made transportable with backing fabrics behind them. The fabrics we use are made with backing fabrics similar according to the work’s own. We will take the artifact, restore it to a state where it can be displayed, and then return it to the museum,” he explained.

Özduygulu explained that currently two people are working on the flag and it should be completed in a year, but there are no time constraints on the restoration work. “Our priority is to protect the state of the work and extend its life. Therefore, all the processes that the work needs are carried out comprehensively,” he said.

Özduygulu said the feeling they felt after delivering a part was indescribable and said:

“When the restoration of a piece is complete and something visual emerges, we cannot replace that pleasure with anything because the work we are restoring is not a contemporary object. You are making contributions to a object from thousands of years ago trying to experience the feelings of the craftsman at that time. After the process is completed, that feeling is amazing,” he said.

But he also warned: “People are very fond of ancient artifacts, but while making contributions to them, they can also do harmful things. If they do this process with our support and information, they will not damage the artifact. I believe people shouldn’t be so careless about it.”


Director of the Ankara Regional Restoration and Conservation Laboratory, Cengiz Özduygulu, poses with a restored piece, Ankara, Turkey, January 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)
Director of the Ankara Regional Restoration and Conservation Laboratory, Cengiz Özduygulu, poses with a restored piece, Ankara, Turkey, January 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)

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