In 1959 ICCROM was established as a Centre for studying and promoting diverse approaches to conservation in the heritage field, including mural paintings. In this area, the collaboration of ICCROM with conservators Paolo and Laura Mora was particularly profitable. Both participated in conservation missions all over the world (Italy, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Moldavia Montenegro, etc.) and they also cooperated in numerous training activities, such as ICCROM’s Mural Painting’s Course (MPC), which they helped to design and implement. The course was held in collaboration with the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (ICR), currently Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro (ISCR).
The Mora Sample Collection is an important part of their legacy; it includes over 1 200 samples collected by the couple, between the 1960s and 1980s, during worldwide technical missions and conservation projects undertaken on behalf of ICCROM and used by both for teaching purposes and research. In fact, their main goal was to investigate the different mural painting techniques used by different cultures in their artistic expression.
The historical and scientific importance of this unique collection is ensured by the fact that, many of its samples (mural painting fragments) are from extremely important heritage places such as the Nefertari Tomb, where sampling is no longer allowed. Nevertheless, until recently this collection was at risk of loss and dissociation, as the samples lacked proper description, labeling and storage measures.
Therefore, in 2018, in collaboration with the Hercules Laboratory of the University of Évora, Portugal, ICCROM launched the Mora Sample Collection Project, to safeguard the collection, by documenting, cataloguing and rehousing the fragile and delicate materials it comprises, and to make it available both physically and online for present and future scholars.
Thanks to non-destructive analysis techniques, together with contextual information available in the ICCROM Archives, the project team is currently identifying the provenance of each sample, and is conducting additional investigations in order to enhance the knowledge of their sites of origin and to determine the techniques used for their creation.
Once the re-organization phase has been completed, the results will be shared through an online catalogue with the global audience of scholars, conservators and researchers. Moreover, our aim is to create follow-up activities that will raise awareness of the challenges that sample collections present. A three-day international workshop is foreseen to be held in Évora, Portugal, in 2021, with the aim of addressing issues pertaining to the preservation, access and use of the material samples kept in the archives. The workshop, which will be organized by ICCROM, the University of Évora and other partners, will highlight the value and vulnerability of these collections, and seek concrete ways in which to safeguard and share the knowledge they contain.
This 2018 video clip offers a glimpse inside the ICCROM Mora Sample Collection and shows the project team at work.