After ten weeks of intensive learning and exchange, we are wrapping up the Conservation of Built Heritage course (CBH), the first in-person ICCROM course in Rome since the pandemic. Conservation practitioners and decision-makers from 18 countries have spent countless hours in hands-on activities across Italy, from ancient Roman sites to visits in Florence, building their skills and devising ideas as they analyze the role of built heritage in sustainable development. 

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On Thursday, 1 June, participants presented their final proposal for conserving Rome's Santa Sabina archaeological area, the study and sampling of which has been a significant component of the course's exercises. They presented their findings and recommendations to students from Glenn Boornazian's concurrent summer school course, providing an excellent opportunity for interdisciplinary exchange.  

Following the presentations, we gathered with Rome's diplomatic community for a closing ceremony to celebrate the course participants and wish them farewell as they head home to put their skills into action.  

ICCROM Director-General Webber Ndoro opened the ceremony by reflecting on the significance of this course. "This afternoon is a celebration of both the successful completion of CBH and also the reopening of ICCROM's doors after the challenging times of the pandemic," he said. "Over the past couple of months, we have been delighted to host the 18 participants from 18 countries, who have invigorated our headquarters with their fresh perspectives, ideas, and enthusiasm for learning. This momentous occasion signifies our renewed commitment to being the sanctuary of knowledge and capacity building for heritage conservation professionals."

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The interdisciplinary course was designed to provide a well-rounded understanding of heritage conservation practices, namely the challenges and intricacies surrounding built heritage. Participants learned from on-the-ground experiences at famous sites in Italy, including Rome's Basilica of Santa Sabina and Angelicum and Florence's Villa Medicea di Castello. One of the programme's highlights was the visit to the Herculaneum Archaeological Park, guided by conservation and park management experts. The participants met with the Herculaneum community, which underlined that cultural heritage is a critical element of a community's social fabric and shared identity.  

Aside from site visits, CBH utilized the ICCROM lab. Participants observed and analyzed stone and brick materials, worked with wood decay, investigated salts, experimented with concrete and cement, explored the deterioration and alternation of materials, and tackled bio-deterioration processes. They even worked directly on the ICCROM building, which is part of the historic San Michele a Ripa Grande complex, applying 'poultice,' a pasty consistency, to the walls to clean and remove stains. 

 ​​​​CBH participants also checked out the Vatican Lab, where they learned about ongoing cutting-edge research and conservation practices. 

Lectures and guidance from experts – including David Odgers, Rand Eppich, Glenn Boornazian, Irene Matteini and Claudio Varagnoli, among others – provided deep immersion into theory, which often lit up roundtable discussions. They brought together their diverse cultural and professional perspectives to innovate fresh ideas. 

Building skills, sharing knowledge and creating a global network of professionals and partners is the heart and soul of ICCROM. We are proud that the CBH course has done all of the above. We congratulate the CBH23 participants and welcome them into the worldwide ICCROM Family.