文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

Workshop on textile conservation at the History Museum of Armenia

Workshop on textile conservation at the History Museum of Armenia

The Japan Foundation

Armenia

Textile Heritage in Armenia

2011-2013 Human Resource Development,Conservation and Restoration
01/04/2014
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BACKGROUND

Textile heritage protected by Armenia’s embroidery and carpet making technique.

Armenia

The Republic of Armenia is an inland country situated in the South Caucasus region, bordered on the west by Turkey, on the north by Georgia, on the east by Azerbaijan, and on the south by Iran. Armenia attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Mount Ararat in the Armenian highlands is famous for the legend as the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. Armenia was the first in the world to declare Christianity as the official religion of its country in 301, and allowed the Armenian Orthodox Church to develop its own doctrines and architecture. Moreover, the Armenian Orthodox Church in Echmiatsin, which is the headquarters of the Armenian Church, and church buildings in the surrounding area dating from the 7th century have been designated as World Heritage Sites. In their treasure rooms lie numerous vestments designed with elaborate embroidery, and offer a glimpse of the textile culture that speak deeply of the relationship between Christianity and embroidery in Armenia.

Conservation of historic textiles at the History Museum of Armenia

The History Museum of Armenia stands facing the Republic Square in the capital city of Yerevan. It showcases the history of Armenia from the Stone Age to the present, and has exhibition rooms for ethnic costumes, embroidery and carpets. Because Armenia was ruled by Mongolia, Turkey and Persia during the Middle Ages, garments show the influence of the round-neck Mongolian attire that is worn left over right, and Persian printed cotton. They are characteristically decorated with elaborate embroidery, and in particular with needle lace called ”janyak”, in which connecting circles are created by looping thread with a needle. The carpets on display feature patterns related to Armenian myths and religion made with skillful sophistication. Among the textiles is a leather shoe and wool fabrics dating from 3500BC. Textiles in the museum have been restored using embroidery and carpet making techniques by a textile conservator who received training during the Soviet era, and a carpet restorer under her guidance. After the end of the Soviet era, there was nowhere to learn conservation, and these two staff are actually the very few in all of Armenia who are capable of conserving ethnic costumes and carpets as cultural properties. The training of conservation experts is thus a pressing issue in the continuity of Armenia’s historical textile heritage.

Noah’s Ark produced by janyak(needle lace)

Embroidery and carpet market

ACTIVITIES

Sponsoring of a workshop on conservation of historic textiles at the History Museum of Armenia

Japan has supported Armenia’s cultural heritage through provision of equipment to the Matenadaran Archives and the National Gallery of Armenia. The Armenian Ministry of Culture sought further assistance from Japan, hence the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (hereafter referred to as JCIC) implemented a status survey in 2011 and identified the need for assistance in the conservation historic textiles. To formulate a detailed assistance plan, the project leaders received funding from the Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum in April 2010 and investigated major museums near the capital city with the cooperation of the Agency of Museums in the Armenian Ministry of Culture. As a result, the History Museum of Armenia was selected to be the host institution and human resource development workshops intended for the staff of the History Museum and other museums were decided to be implemented. In October 2010, the first workshop was held jointly with the History Museum of Armenia as a cultural cooperation (sponsorship) project of the Japan Foundation, to be continued until fiscal 2013.
The Armenian side sought difficult-to-obtain information on conservation, rather than conservation and restoration techniques, so an Armenian textbook (with English translation) was translated from Japanese. Using the textbook, existing knowledge and new information were systematized, and a workshop was held that provided a hands-on approach to conservation and restoration technologies.
Lecturers on the Japanese side included Mie Ishii (visiting researcher at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo; expert in textile conservation), Makoto Arimura (associate professor of Western Asian archaeology at Kanazawa University); and Midori Yokoyama (embroidery instructor at NHK Culture Center). The participants on the Armenian side were a group of 8 to 12 curators, ethnologists, archive managers, and conservation and restoration experts of textiles, manuscripts, and archaeological artifacts from the History Museum of Armenia, the Matenadaran Archives, the Echmiatsin Armenian Orthodox Church, the National Museum of Armenian Ethnography and History of Liberal Struggle, and the National Gallery of Armenia.

Opening ceremony held in the ethnic costume exhibition room

Training in dyeing

Study of a fabric using a microscope

RESULTS

Transmission of technique via workshops and future issues

Workshops featuring lectures and hands-on training were held twice a year, over a period of about ten days each. Through continuous participation, the participants from various museums deepened their understanding of conservation and restoration concepts and improved their skills. Conservators of textile at the History Museum of Armenia, in particular, readily applied their newly acquired knowledge to their actual work and exhibited observable changes in their approach to the conservation and display of the museum’s collections.
The workshops were a forum that brought together the staff of major museums in Armenia who engage in the conservation of Armenia’s textile heritage, and have been appreciated as providing an opportunity for network building. The project has been designated a “20th anniversary project commemorating the establishment of diplomatic relationship between Armenia and Japan,” and through the Armenian Ministry of Culture, the workshops have been introduced on the ministry’s website, national TV and newspapers, to raise awareness among the general public about the significance of international exchanges between the two countries through cultural heritage protection. The project will end this fiscal year, but the workshop textbook will be re-edited and distributed, conservation projects will be displayed in the History of Museum of Armenia, the project results between Armenia and Japan related to the protection of Armenia’s textile heritage will be made public.
This exchange project has begun to strengthen awareness on the Armenian side regarding the protection of textile heritage and the training of experts. As ties with Japan have also deepened, it is necessary to create a long-term support framework in preservation of cultural heritage in Armenia.

Carpet exhibition room in the National Museum of Armenian Ethnography and History of Liberal Struggle(left)、Carpet restoration(right)

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