International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics

1st Conference: ICCROM, Rome, 1977

The five goals set at the end of the founding conference of the ICCM were the following:

  1. The publication, in French and English, of the proceedings of the symposium, a goal that was achieved the following year with the appearance of Mosaics No.1: Deterioration and Conservation (ICCROM, Rome 1978).
  2. The collection of suggestions for a future course on the conservation of mosaics with a view to establishing a programme.
  3. The establishment of an annual directory of people working on the conservation of mosaics.
  4. The recommendation, when a mosaic is going to be detached, that a complete cross section of its bedding foundation be preserved.
  5. The encouragement of the documentation of specific cases of destruction, salvage, and restoration.

3rd Conference: Soria, Spain, 1986

The Committee recognized that if a newly discovered mosaic is not given immediate protection it will rapidly become destroyed.

  1. The Committee recommended that:
    a) if a mosaic cannot be provided with adequate protection in situ then it should be reburied
    b) if permanent protection is provided in situ this should be accompanied by regular maintenance i.e. security, drainage, biological protection etc
    c) if neither of the above can be achieved then the mosaic should be transferred to an adequate store to prevent its destruction.
  2. The Committee recognized the importance of maintaining a mosaic in its original archaeological context and, aware of the difficulties in ensuring this, recommended that research should be carried out by scientists, conservators and archaeologists in the following areas:
    a) methods of recovery
    b) types of protection
    c) methods of drainage
    d) reinforcement of cements to avoid eruption
    e) biological methods.
  3. Finally, stimulus should be given to each country to the recording of data produced by mosaic conservation

6th Conference: Nicosia, Cyprus, 1996

The Committee, considering mosaics and ancient floors in general to be an essential part of an archaeological site, undertakes to make them known to a wider public and to ensure that, fragile as this heritage is, it can be passed onto future generations.

  1. It recommends that professionals quantify the area and state of preservation of mosaics on each site (mosaics in situ, uncovered, re-covered, lifted, on display in museum, etc.) in order to establish priorities in treatment.
  2. It acknowledges that mosaics of interest to the public should be preserved in situ whenever possible, which requires that directors of sites allocate them the requisite financial means and attention so as to ensure their maintenance and survival.
  3. It acknowledges that conservation in situ (without lifting) is the method that best respects the original context of the mosaics, and recommends the use of techniques compatible with the nature of ancient materials.

7th Conference: Saint-Romain-en-Gal and Arles, France, 1999

The Committee recommends that:

  1. Programmes for conserving and presenting mosaics should be designed according to a global project.
  2. This project should be based on the active co-operation of archaeologists, conservators, architects, administrators and the general public.
  3. The fundamental premise of the preservation of mosaics is conservation in situ and/or its context.
  4. The choice of the intervention must be based on: complete documentation prior to intervention; minimal intervention; a plan of long-term maintenance; documentation of all interventions; and maintenance operations.

The participants:

  1. Recognizing that the creation of ICCM in 1977 by ICCROM has encouraged the research and given inspiration to professionals (conservators, archaeologists, curators, researchers, etc) dealing with mosaics;
  2. Recognizing that the activities of the ICCM through the exchange of ideas, publications, conferences, etc, have contributed to the knowledge, understanding, study and safeguard of mosaics, as well as to the way mosaics are sheltered/ protected and exhibited to the public;
  3. Taking into account that for 25 years all this work has been done on a totally voluntary basis by a small group of professionals with no permanent base;
  4. Recognize the dedication and exceptional achievement of these professionals and, ask the ICCM Board to act promptly to find a way of establishing a permanent base for the committee, thus enabling it to be more active, to have a larger audience and influence, and to create an archive.

In this way the ICCM will be able to contribute further to the study and safeguard of these exceptional but endangered educational, cultural and artistic creations, characteristic of the Mediterranean region.

9th Conference: Hammamet, Tunisia, 2005

The participants:

  1. Taking into consideration the great need for maintenance of mosaics in situ, in the open air or under shelters, encourage the managers of archaeological sites to select pavements of a minimum surface of 100 sq.m., to systematically measure the cost of their maintenance for public presentation during the next three years, and to present the results at the next ICCM conference, in 2008.
  2. Recognizing the existence of numerous training programs in conservation in a number of countries, suggest that a feasibility study is carried out in order to identify the training needs specific to the Mediterranean, and to launch a coordinated effort for improving the level of professionals in the field of conservation.

Overview of reports of conference rapporteurs: 

On the final afternoon of the 2005 ICCM Conference, an overview was presented of the main messages that emerged during the thematic sessions. This overview was based on summary points -produced below- which were distilled from each session by conference rapporteurs.
1.   Evaluating Mosaic Practice

  • Evaluation of past interventions and practices is essential to improving current and future practices but is largely dependent on accurate and accessible documentation.
  • The practice of mosaic conservation has evolved from one of limited options (detachment), materials (cement), values (aesthetic), and stakeholders (professionals), to one involving complex decision-making and planning with a range of viable in situ options (both temporary and long-term), the use of scientific methods and compatible materials, and the recognition of multiple values and varied stakeholders.
  • Conservation interventions are sustainable only when there is a clear vision, an effective management structure and planning process in place, trained personnel, and regular maintenance and monitoring.
  • Decisions about how to treat a mosaic must be made on a case-by-case basis (there is no single formula that can be applied to all mosaics on a site). They are the result of thorough assessment and need to be based on defined criteria and guidelines.
  • An understanding of causes of deterioration of in situ mosaics requires recognition of unsolved problems, implementation of long-term and in-depth investigations, and wide dissemination of their results.

2. Caring for mosaics in Museums

  • Decisions need to be shared by curators and conservators in order to achieve successful and sustainable conservation solutions.
  • Previous conservation interventions can sometimes be detrimental to the condition of mosaics in museums; negative effects of past treatments (such as embedded iron rods) can often be mitigated or slowed through preventive conservation measures, such as the control of temperature and relative humidity in both gallery and storage conditions.
  • It is important to consider both the objects and the building that houses them in making conservation decisions about mosaics displayed in museums; poor storage conditions is a subject of increasing concern.
  • Where adequate documentation does not exist, analysis of past treatments and treatment materials may be necessary in order to develop appropriate conservation measures; historic photographs can also be useful in understanding the change in an object’s condition over time.
  • In some cases, past interventions have become important to the history of the object and merit conservation in their own right.
  • Interpretation and presentation to the public are important values in museum conservation; treatments carried out in full view of the public can be useful in increasing understanding of and support for conservation.

       3.  Documenting and Assessing Sites at Risk

  • Mosaic corpora that include conservation information and risk assessment strategies undertaken at national or regional levels can be significant tools for the conservation and management of the mosaic heritage.
  • It is important to establish systematic documentation standards and protocols to facilitate decision making and to improve practice.
  • Attention should be given to the development of documentation strategies that permit improved sharing of information, perhaps through more effective use of digital technologies and the Web.
  • Archaeologists and conservators must work together effectively on rescue excavations to ensure that decisions made are those that are best for the heritage at risk.