Conservators and archaeologists from South-East Asia undergo training in conservation of underwater artefacts
26 take part in a joint workshop co-hosted by UNESCO Bangkok, SEAMEO SPAFA, the Fine Arts Department of the Thailand Ministry of Culture, and the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology
26 participants comprising material conservators and underwater archaeologists from across South-East Asia converged in Thailand for an 11-day course to learn conservation and preservation techniques for underwater archaeological objects, such as those commonly found in shipwrecks.
The course, ‘South-East Asian Sub-regional Introductory Course on Conservation and Restoration of Underwater Archaeological Finds’, commenced on 19 June at the SPAFA Building in Bangkok and was a collaboration between UNESCO, SEAMEO SPAFA, the Fine Arts Department under the Ministry of Culture Thailand, and the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology (a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO in Zadar, Croatia).
The course aimed to train professionals in the proper preservation and protection of the region’s rich underwater cultural heritage for current and future generations.
Archaeologist Mr Romeu Sores Da Silva, of the State Secretary for Art and Culture of Timor-Leste, and who was one of the course participants, remarked, 'I am excited to be able to participate in this course since Timor-Leste has so far not yet developed archaeological research related to underwater archaeology. Through participation in this introductory course, I will have the opportunity to learn from the experts and from other Southeast Asian country members on their policies and measures with regards to protection and preservation of underwater archaeological finds.'
In the case of conservators-restorers, such as Mr Sokha Tep, Chief of Analysis and Laboratory Office at the Department of Archaeology and Prehistory in Cambodia, the course provided them with the opportunity to delve into specific skills in treating archaeological finds retrieved from wet environments. As Mr Tep commented early on in the programme, 'I like to work on conservation and restoration of ceramics, but through this course, I hope to learn more on conservation and restoration of wood and metals so that I have the broader knowledge and skills to be able to properly conserve and protect a wider range of cultural heritage artefacts.'
The training sessions were held primarily at the National Museum Storage (Kanchanapisek Museum) grounds in Pathum Thani province, Thailand. As part of the comprehensive learning experience, participants also visited the National Maritime Museum in Chanthaburi Province and toured the Underwater Archaeology Division offices, and observed preservation techniques at the local Samed Ngam shipwreck.
Mr Manh Nguyen Huu, a participant from Viet Nam and a lecturer in the Archaeology Department of the Faculty of History at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, of Vietnam National University, Hanoi, said early on in the programme, 'Together with learning about underwater archaeological preservation techniques, I am also interested in visiting archaeological sites in Thailand to gain a better understanding of heritage management in Thailand. I hope to learn more about managing and promoting archaeological heritage, particularly underwater archaeology.'
The course culminated with a Closing Ceremony at UNESCO Bangkok on 29 June 2023 when all participants were awarded their official completion certificates. Closing remarks were given by Mr Khemchat Thepchai, Director of SEAMEO SPAFA; Dr Feng Jing, Chief of the Culture Unit, UNESCO Bangkok; and Mr Sathaporn Thiangtham, Deputy Director-General of the Fine Arts Department of the Thailand Ministry of Culture.
About SEAMEO SPAFA
SEAMEO SPAFA is a regional organization that advances research, training, and collaboration in archaeology and fine arts in Southeast Asia, strengthening member countries' capacity and preserving their cultural heritage.
About the Fine Arts Department
The Fine Arts Department, under the Ministry of Culture of Thailand, preserves, promotes, and develops Thailand's fine arts and cultural heritage, safeguarding its diverse artistic traditions.
UNESCO promotes international collaboration in education, science, culture, and communication to foster peace, sustainable development, and intercultural dialogue.
The International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar is a centre under the auspices of UNESCO in Croatia, focusing on educational activities and professional development in the fields of research, conservation and restoration and the promotion of underwater cultural heritage, in particular at the international level.