ICCROM is very pleased to announce the launch of the Mora Samples Collection catalogue as an open access research resource.
The Mora samples collection is an extraordinary scientific scholarly resource comprising over 1 200 material samples that bears witness to the complexity and diversity of wall painting as a medium for cultural expression across different civilizations and time periods.
Now, for the first time it is possible to access and search the catalogue online, which contains a rich variety of information and photographic documentation concerning the samples and their provenance.
This catalogue is the result of a three-year project, carried out in collaboration with the HERCULES Laboratory of Évora University, Portugal. The project aim is to safeguard and enhance the use of the collection as a research resource, by cataloguing and rehousing the samples, and making the digital catalogue available online to scholars.
The majority of the samples available in the catalogue were collected from the 1960s to the 1980s by two internationally renowned conservators, Paolo and Laura Mora, with subsequent additions to the collection by ICCROM Laboratory staff and collaborators. While the core of the collection is devoted to wall paintings, other heritage materials are also present, such as ceramics, painted paper, textiles, stone, plaster, stucco, wood, and glass. The samples are diverse in format ranging from unmounted fragments to cross and thin sections.
Paolo and Laura Mora, who donated this collection to ICCROM in the late 1980s, were long-term ICCROM collaborators and played a major role in establishing modern conservation practices in the field. They undertook technical missions and conservation projects around the world, and cooperated in numerous training activities, such as ICCROM’s Mural Painting Course (MPC), which they helped to design and implement. This course was held in collaboration with the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (ICR), where they worked as staff.
The samples were collected for analysis to better understand the technology and condition of the wall paintings under study, and the type of conservation intervention required. In addition, they were collected to advance research on the materials and techniques used in the creation of wall paintings by different cultures around the world. They also served as a didactic tool for numerous ICCROM International Mural Painting Conservation Courses to illustrate different painting technologies. The specialist knowledge arising from these studies, combined with a wealth of fieldwork experience, formed the foundation of their book, co-authored with Paul Philippot (ICCROM Director-General, 1971-1977): The Conservation of Wall Paintings, which although first published in 1977 still remains the central reference for the field.
The project is still on-going, and more samples will be added to the catalogue in the next project phase. In the meantime, we are happy to make available the catalogue entries for 942 samples, which come from objects and sites of cultural, historic and scientific significance from over 30 countries* including for example:
- Egypt: Nefertari Tomb, Abu Simbel Temples, Saqqara
- Greece: Knossos, Phaistos (Crete)
- Iran: Isfahan, Persepolis
- Israel: Masada, Ashkelon
- Italy: Agrigento, Assisi, Herculaneum, Padova, Pisa, Pompei, Rome (Catacombs, Domus Aurea, Pantheon, Palatine), Tarquinia Tombs
- Sri Lanka: Sigiriya
- Thailand: Ayutthaya, Chonburi
*Afghanistan, Belgium, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Ireland, Isra el, Italy, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Sultanate of Oman, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand, and Tunisia.
Heritage Samples Archives Initiative (HSAI)
The Mora Samples Collection project has highlighted many practical, technical, and philosophical challenges concerning the valorization and recognition, safeguarding, access and use of these types of archives. Recognizing that these issues similarly affect many other material sample archives held in cultural institutions throughout the world, in September 2020 ICCROM launched the Heritage Samples Archives Initiative (HSAI). The aim of the HSAI is to promote the long-term survival and use of these collections and to highlight their huge potential for future research and didactic purposes. Currently, more than 20 partners have adhered to the initiative.
To this end, a worldwide survey was launched to get a better picture on how samples collections are managed and used, and how their preservation and access might be enhanced. The survey is still open, so if you hold a material sample archive and would like to participate please do so here.
In addition, an International Workshop “Connecting Collections: Unlocking Values in Heritage Samples Archives”, is also planned to be organized and held in Évora in June 2022. More information on this and more will be coming soon via ICCROM website.