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Latin America, World Leader in Metallic Heritage
Spurs, 19th Century. Museo Nacional de Historia. Silver. Photo: Hector Montano/INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- Metallic heritage in Latin America outnumbers European and North American heaps, but lack of information about its proper treatment has provoked loss of pieces or unsuccessful restoration, declared Johanna Thelle, specialist from Universidad de Chile and president of International Council of Museums- Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC), organism part of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organism (UNESCO) at the inauguration of 3rd Latin American Congress of Metal Restoration taking place in Mexico City from September 1st to 4th 2009.

Restoration of metallic goods is made manually, so it develops slowly. “Our work is delicate because metal is very unstable, so restoration takes a lot of time and results expensive”.

This was mentioned by the expert at the international encounter organized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and the Latin American Group for Metal Restoration of ICOM-CC, inaugurated by Luis Ignacio Sainz, INAH Secretary, and Liliana Giorguli Chavez, director of the INAH National School of Restoration, Conservation and Museography (ENCRyM), seat of the event.

More than 200 experts from Cuba USA, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Central American countries, among others, attend the meeting, where Pilar Tapia, coordinator, mentioned that information regarding metallic pieces is still scarce, which endangers heritage in Latin America.

“People have a misconception regarding metal, thinking it is a very resistant material, when it is among most unstable ones. Lack of information has led to terrible restoration mistakes, by ignoring chemical reaction to certain substances.

“An example of this can be observed at street sculptures, most of them painted, when a patina protects them better. We have received pieces at ENCRyM workshop that cannot be saved, so we just document them”.

Metallic heritage is immense, including Prehispanic jewelry, silver objects, monumental and small sculptures, and popular crafts such as Ex votos (votive offerings painted on metallic sheets); Pilar Tapia expressed that the objective of the congress is to create a communication, expression, debate and actualization space.

The academic meeting will include debates regarding technical studies, conservation research, corrosion treatments, intervention criteria and case studies.

Acknowledged specialists participating include Dr. Jose Luis Ruvalcaba, from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), Joaquin Barrio Martin, archaeologist at Universidad de Madrid, Spain, chemist engineer Nestor Gonzalez, from Uruguay, and Dr. Ana Cepero, Cuban researcher at Getty Conservation Institute.

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