On November the 13th the Explorers group visited the IAMM to get a look behind the scenes of the Conservation Centre as well as a tour of the Islamic Book Binding exhibition.
The Conservation Centre is not normally open to the general public so we were all very excited to see behind the scenes. Our tour was led by the Head of the Conservation Centre, Mr. Zinc himself. He is a very interesting, knowledgeable man and talked to us not only about the work they do, but also a little about historical globalisation and Islamic art history.
As the IAMM states it “acts as the custodian and educator of Islamic art for the general public”. Art objects become damaged and degraded due to time and conditions and so it was necessary for the museum to build a conservation centre. The centre’s role is to conserve, restore and preserve the museum’s collection of objects. They also offer their facilities and advice to other national and international museums and institutions, as well as private individuals.
Planning of the conservation centre began in 2000. In 2002 Mr. Zinc was employed to supervise the building of the laboratories and employ staff. The conservation centre opened in 2003.
The Conservation Centre consists of five different laboratories: The Conservation Laboratory for Organic Materials, The Conservation Laboratory for Inorganic Material, The Wet Laboratory (for cleaning), The Analytical Laboratory, and the Photographic Laboratory and Studio. The labs have controlled environments and air filters to help prevent further damage to the objects. As well as being repaired, all objects are cleaned before leaving the labs.
The centre has a staff of 12 people with diverse backgrounds ranging from art and design to science, art and craft, photography and computer animation. The staff all hold degrees but currently there is no degree in art conservation in Malaysia. As a result all staff get in-house training in art conservation and restoration. The staff also share their knowledge with each other. The centre liaises with other museums and institutions so that they can learn from each other. The training is applied science, with about 40% theory and 60% practical work. Each staff member is an expert in at least two different fields e.g. ceramics and metals.
While we were at the centre we saw staff working in the labs. We saw amongst other things, two paintings that were being restored for an upcoming exhibition on orientalism at the British Museum. It is a joint exhibition between the two museums.
Next we were given a tour of the Islamic Book Binding Exhibition by its curator Amira. Amira is a lovely lady who is also a font of knowledge about Islamic art. There are around 70 books/folios from different Islamic countries in the exhibition. Amira explained how Islamic books are bound and how the materials used changed over the years, starting with wood and then moving onto leather and eventually paper. She also showed us the different styles of decoration employed by different countries to decorate the books. She also explained religious books are decorated differently to secular books.
I would like to thank again Mr. Zinc and Amira for giving us their time and answering all our questions. I highly recommend a visit to the IAMM if you have not already been there.
After we had finished at the museum a few of us continued onto the Hornbill restaurant at the Bird Park. Everyone enjoyed their meal and was entertained by the resident hornbill.
Write up and photos by Cindy Rowlands