Mosaics are one of the defining artistic media of classical antiquity. Composed of small pieces of colored marble, stone, glass, and shell, floor mosaics were integral parts of Greek and Roman houses, baths, and other structures. Today they are found in two distinctly different contexts: archaeological sites and museums. Current practice recommends that mosaics uncovered during excavation remain part of the place for which they were intended, or in situ. However, archaeological practice during the 19th and much of the 20th century dictated that mosaics discovered during excavation be removed to museums for safekeeping.

Dionysus mosaic, El Jem Museum
 
The care and preservation of thousands of mosaics across the Mediterranean present enormous challenges. Mosaics left in situ are often unsheltered and untended, suffering deterioration from exposure to the elements. Many mosaics now in museums were harmed during the process of removal, stored improperly, or subjected to damaging conservation techniques such as reinforced concrete backing. Although these challenges exist to some degree in every country of the Mediterranean, the problems are particularly acute in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, which also contain some of the region's most extraordinary mosaics.

In 2009, the Getty Foundation and the Getty Conservation Institute joined forces with two external partners—the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome and the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM)—to launch MOSAIKON, an initiative to improve the care and presentation of mosaics of classical antiquity in museums and in situ throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Building on this commitment, the MOSAIKON partners identified an opportunity to make a meaningful and substantial contribution toward improving the conservation of mosaics in the region. Following extensive research and consultation with experts in the field, efforts focused on three strategies: improving the skills of technicians, restorers, and decision-makers charged with caring for mosaics in situ and in museums; strengthening regional networks for practitioners; and developing locally sustainable conservation materials and methods.

For its part, the Foundation focused on identifying and supporting training programs for individuals who worked with lifted mosaics and on strengthening the professional network of mosaics conservation specialists across the Mediterranean Basin. Now many years and projects later, the trainees who participated in the initiative benefit from a growing international network supporting their work. MOSAIKON has helped translate into Arabic written resources on the conservation of mosaics and worked to build professional capacity in the Mediterranean, so that the site managers, technicians, and restorers responsible for mosaics now have the knowledge and tools they need to protect this endangered inheritance, which is a part of our collective human history.

Watch the MOSAIKON Overview Video
produced by our partners at the Getty Conservation Institute



MOSAIKON training workshop organized by CCA
Above: Participants in ICCROM's MOSAIKON training course visit the Madaba Archaeological Museum in Jordan. Photo: ICCROM
Top Right:Conservators of DGAM Syria consolidating a mosaic. Photo: DGAM, Syria