What They Do Not Teach in Conservation Schools - Benny Kuriakose
This is the recording of the talk Dr. Benny Kuriakose gave on 4th July on the above topic. The meeting was organised under the new initiative Mentoring Heritage Conservators Initiative Facilitated by Sanjay Dhar, the famous art conservator. Sreekumar Menon, the famous art conservator is the host.
The conservation practice can be different from what many learn in schools. There is a proverb in Malayalam which says that the "cow in the book will not eat grass". In the talk, I am not talking about the bookish knowledge, but about the experience I have gained from the numerous projects done during the last 35 years. At the beginning of the career, everybody makes mistakes, but it is important that the mistakes are not repeated. I took my Masters Degree in Conservation Studies from the University of York and at that time, there was no course in India in this subject which one can opt for. When I came back from the United Kingdom in 1987, architectural conservation was not given any importance and the general thought was that only the monuments such as the Taj Mahal or Red Fort were to be conserved. There were hardly any examples to be followed. I did some of the earlier INTACH projects, but they were mostly in the form of reports.
Compared with the design of new buildings, conservation requires a higher level of knowledge. The traditional knowledge of the craftsmen becomes very important in this case. They do not realize that many of the things they know as of any great importance or part of the knowledge system. All these years, I learnt a lot from the craftsmen I worked with and this is very different from the bookish knowledge. You need to develop an intuition in you and it comes with experience. There is no need to know the complex calculations in structural engineering etc., but the basic principles and knowledge about materials and techniques are required.