Teaching glass conservation in Dubrovnik

Jasmina Vučković is Subject Tutor on the Ceramics and Related Materials pathway for the MA and Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies programmes. Since completing her MA in Conservation Studies at West Dean College in 2010, Jasmina has been working at the Sarah Peek Conservation studio in Brighton, and returned to West Dean College as Subject Tutor in 2018. Here, she talks about sharing her knowledge and experience in glass conservation with students in Dubrovnik on a recent trip. 

It is easy to talk to people you already know when attending a conference. But if you believe that continual professional development and networking go hand in hand, you want to make the most of the opportunity to talk to as many people as possible. You never know where it could take you! It took me to one of the most beautiful towns in Europe - Dubrovnik.  

Three years ago, at the joint ICON and ICOM-CC Glass and Ceramics group conference at the British Museum, I met a group of students and their professor Kristina Kojan Goluža from the University of Dubrovnik, Croatia. We shared not only the passion for ceramics and glass, but also the language. I learned about their department where they worked mostly with archaeological ceramics, and they were interested to learn more about conservation of porcelain and other high fired ceramics. We exchanged contacts and at the beginning of 2020 I was invited to their university to deliver a week-long workshop on conservation and restoration of porcelain. 

This year, fittingly declared as international year of glass by the United Nations, I was invited again to deliver a short course on conservation and restoration of glass - another material they don’t regularly work with at the University. During the week-long trip, we stayed in the Rupe Ethnographic Museum and the students from several different conservation disciplines attended. The Museum is situated in a 16th century building which served as the Granary for Dubrovnik Republic (the word Rupe means ‘holes where the grain was stored’). While this posed initial challenges, mainly in setting up conditions required for delicate work such as glass conservation, it was a great learning and team building experience.  Each student had a chance to work on a couple of glass pieces - one modern, and another historic object; testing different techniques for bonding and filling in losses. I was impressed at the speed they picked up new skills as many of them were from unrelated conservation disciplines such as wood, paper, and metal.  

The experience involved essential advocation for the conservation profession. A lot of people are not aware that glass can be sympathetically restored, and this caught the attention of the general public during the week. Throughout the week we had curious visitors including tourists, a group of school children and even a cat! While this sounds like a conservator’s risk assessment nightmare, we handled the questions at a safe distance from our workstations and luckily the cat, who made a guest appearance for Halloween only, was the least interested in the glass conservation.   

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit this lovely town once again, continue to learn about its history and collections at their museums and share my knowledge and skills. I hope that their staff and students whose interest in glass conservation got sparked will visit us at West Dean College too and that we will continue to foster further collaborations and friendships.  

Many thanks to the people who contributed to the success of this workshop: Professor Kristina Kojan Goluža, curatorial staff from Dubrovnik Museums, Ivica Kipre, Marina Filipović and Bruno Bijađija; students Antonia Kunjašić and Gloria Loborec and my two bosses Sarah Peek and Lorna Calcutt.  

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