Immersion in the profession and historical heritage of St. Petersburg: ETU "LETI" course on how to preserve culture in the 21st century
The international summer school Heritage Science, dedicated to science in preserving the cultural and historical heritage, took place at ETU "LETI" for the first time.
In the classes of the Heritage Science school, organized by the Department of Photonics from July 1 to 13, students learned how to use engineering and humanitarian knowledge to preserve monuments of architecture, historical buildings, and museum collections. Ten students from France, Algeria, Syria, Argentina, Afghanistan, China, Mexico, and Russia took part in the school.
During the course, students got acquainted with the history of art, the basic principles of restoration, storage and exhibiting of artworks, as well as with the basic physical, chemical, laser and optoelectronic techniques and methods used in this field. Leading lecturers of the Department of Photonics of ETU “LETI,” specialists from leading museums and institutes of St. Petersburg conducted the classes, as well as Professor Gabriele Ferrini from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy), who gave a lecture on atomic force microscopy and its application in the study of artworks.
“The trial launch of this summer school is an attempt to qualitatively approach the organization of a short-term program and, using its example, to analyze the prospects of this area at the level of master's programs. During the school, the work of several organizations was well coordinated: ETU “LETI”, the Museum of Urban Sculpture, the Russian Museum, the Academy of Arts, etc. Such well-coordinated work and enthusiasm of employees of various institutions speak of good prospects for creating a full-fledged joint high-level educational program. Also, we see the interest of international scientists in such projects, where they can share their experience and knowledge with a wide range of participants from different countries.”
The course program also included visits to the restoration laboratories of the State Russian Museum, Repin St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture and the State Museum of Urban Sculpture, where the participants of the summer school were able to see the work of the restorer, to understand its specificity and difficulties encountered by museum specialists.
“This year the school opened for the first time and has already received positive feedback from students, which shows the need to continue the work of the school, and in the case of steady interest among international students, an English-language master's program in this area may appear at ETU "LETI."
Heritage Science is a new, rapidly developing field related to the research, restoration, and documentation of artworks using the latest achievements of science and technology. “The modern tasks of restoration and research of historical and cultural monuments can be solved only by the widespread use of chemistry and physics, including laser and optoelectronic methods and techniques. However, restoration specialists and curators of museum collections cannot independently work with such complex equipment. At the same time, engineers do not know the specifics of museum work. Therefore, there is the task to train engineers for solving problems in preservation of cultural and historical heritage,” Vadim Parfyonov, program coordinator, associate professor of the Department of Photonics, said.
“Only a few universities in the world are involved in training specialists in the field of Heritage Science. There are no such educational programs in Russia. Therefore, the summer school has become a kind of trial balloon, which could show the relevance of the corresponding master's program in ETU "LETI.”
The school aroused great interest among both international students and Russian restoration specialists who wanted to improve their professional level. All students gave positive feedback about the summer school, and Aida Menouer, a graduate student at the University of Turin, studying in a similar area, noted the versatile nature of classes and the emphasis on practical classes, which differs from teaching at her home university.
A participant from a school from Mexico Jeniffer Arlett Ponce Fernandez also shared her impressions.
"I definitely would recommend it. It is a great place to meet new people from other parts of the world. It may be a short course, but it is very interesting not only for knowing the city but to get deeper into your specific area. For me especially interesting was the visit to the Russian Museum, because we could see from very close the restoration and conservation labs. We could ask some questions directly and see how they work, so that was a very valuable experience."