Khun Notch cleaning the buddha image inside meru C3.
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Have You Ever Wondered Who a Conservator Is?

Khun Notch cleaning the buddha image inside meru C3.

In this blog post, Khun Notch talks about who a conservator is, what a conservator does, and what is the importance of conservation work for historic sites.

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I knew, in my country, there are archaeologists and organizations in charge of preserving historical monuments, but I never knew of conservators. Even though I even graduated with a history degree, I never knew what conservation was.

I wondered what conservators did daily, who they were, where they were from, and what they studied. I'm sure many people have these same questions. I asked around whether anyone knew of conservators or this occupation, whether it existed in Thailand, and what they thought conservators do. Most of the people answered that conservators are those who curate antiquities for displaying in museums or those who record and keep them at associated offices. Some replied that conservators visit historic sites to excavate remains of artifacts for public exhibition.

Listening to these answers, I kept wondering who conservators actually were. Funny as it is, I held some similar ideas mentioned above (though I never thought conservators excavate anything). However, since I started working at Wat Chaiwatthanaram as a conservator of World Monuments Fund’s project in collaboration with the Fine Arts Department, I've learned more of what this job is, what they really do, what they are responsible for in preserving historic objects, which I'm going to tell you briefly about.

Conservators like me work in teams (of course, who would be able to work alone?). Each team takes care of different tasks and my team is responsible for healing. If you don't get the picture, try imagining us as doctors. Doctors like us treat patients, which are the historic sites. We start by checking on their conditions, evaluating the seriousness level, and deciding on an appropriate cure. Then, we treat out patients based on their symptoms (beginning with cleaning like cleaning a wound). If the wound isn't too bad, we just prescribe some pills (using conservators' tools and solvents to clean materials). In a case of seriously ill patients, we treat them with surgery. No, I'm kidding, but we do work as if we’re operating. We give precedence to areas that need stabilization or gentle handling. For example, we use a needle to inject grout underneath materials— aren’t we just like doctors? In fact, we always place importance on our patients. After the treatment process, further actions are carried on by other teams (I'll tell you about this later).

Having said all above, I think both you and I now better understand how conservation works. These things are important because if I weren't a conservator, I wouldn't know how greatly Wat Chaiwatthanaram and other historic monuments need conservators, and Wat Chaiwatthanaram could become ruins without its beauty in the past.

Do you think so too?

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