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Edinburgh World Heritage/International/Protecting the past to build a better future

Protecting the past to build a better future

11th February 2019

Gaby Laing

The KORU Project is working in Turkey to develop the local capacity to protect the rich heritage in the southern cities of Mardin and Antakya (formerly known as Antioch). The project is run with local partners Kültürel Mirası Koruma Derneği (Association for the Protection of Cultural Heritage) and funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund. To complement the activities in Mardin, we welcomed a large group of Turkish heritage students and professionals to a week-long Heritage Leadership School in Edinburgh this past December.

Continuing our desire to train our Turkish colleagues in the most bitterly cold weather possible, we welcomed a small group of highly skilled stonemasons from the Museum of Mardin, south-eastern Turkey, to Edinburgh during the last week of January. The group had come to take part in dedicated training for stonemasons as part of the KORU project. The aim was for the group to learn how stone conservation is undertaken in Scotland, develop new skills, learn about new technology, as well as see how the trade is taught at college.

The masons spent two days at St Mary’s Cathedral Workshop, learning about our approach to health and safety, and using the state-of-the-art machinery on offer. A real high point of the trip was a chance to go up the cathedral tower and enjoy the magnificent views from the top.

Getting to work at St Mary’s

Maggie Tennant, St Mary’s Cathedral Workshop Manager commented that their visit was, “a fascinating exchange of knowledge, skills and culture. We were delighted to have the Turkish stonemasons as part of the KORU project and look forward to welcoming Team Two later in the year.”

The next day included a series of site visits to Stirling and the surrounds. Stephen Townsend of Forth Valley College welcomed the group and gave them a taste of what it’s like to be an apprentice in Scotland, as well as introducing innovative 3D printing techniques alongside the use of medieval plumb lines. Some things truly do stand the test of time.

A quick hop down the road took us to the Engine Shed, Scotland’s centre for traditional building conservation. Ian Walker took us around the facilities, highlighting the various new technologies involved in modern stone conservation, as well as taking us through the current exhibition ‘The Scots Who Built the White House’, the fascinating story of the seven Scottish masons who went to Washington DC to help built the presidential residence.

Finally, we arrived at Tradstocks Natural Stone Suppliers quarry and yard where we were met by Mark Freedman. Mark showed us the various machinery involved in stone supply and production, including some very impressive saws that would give even the hardiest horror fan nightmares!

A mesmerising saw…

Krzysztof Chuchra, International Project Manager said, “The best results of international development occur when everyone involved builds their capacity while implementing project activities. Implementation of KORU’s four capacity building pillars reflect that philosophy. Bringing KORU stonemasons from South East Anatolia to Scotland gave them an experience of a lifetime through engagement with our local partners. Building understanding of the importance of the trade’s health and safety at St Mary’s workshop, understanding the international value of their skills at the Engine Shed and Forth Valley College. I must admit that visiting Tradstocks and seeing modern masonry machines in action was one their favourite moments.”

Hot stone on a VERY cold day

Leadership in heritage is not confined to the boardroom or the council office. It is also found in the care and attention of conservation skills in the workshop and on-site, in every chisel mark and mallet throw. Neil Ogilvy, International Project Officer, said, “It was great to see the masons’ genuine, warmhearted enthusiasm for the different activities throughout the week. We are very grateful to all those who helped make this trip possible, for sharing their skills and stories, and for ensuring our group could take home lots of inspiring experiences to pass on to the next generation of stonemasons.”

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