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Conservation Institute Organizes Conference in Abomey

Los Angeles, CA -- The Getty Conservation Institute has co-organized an international conference in Abomey, Benin, from September 22 through 26, to discuss recent conservation work at the Royal Palaces of Abomey and to propose measures that can be taken to ensure the continued preservation of such sites for future generations. The conference will gather specialists from 10 countries--Benin, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, France, Belgium, Italy, and the United States--all of whom are experienced in dealing with the complex issues involved in the management of Africa's cultural heritage sites.

The Conservation Institute and the West African Republic of Benin's Department of Cultural Patrimony have been working together since 1993 to conserve 50 seriously damaged bas-reliefs that once adorned the Adjalala of King Glele (Hall of Multiple Openings) in the Musée Historique at the Royal Palaces of Abomey. The reliefs are thought to be among the oldest surviving elements of the Royal Palaces, a group of earthen structures built by the Fon people between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries. This joint project systematically documented and preserved the polychrome earthen panels, each one approximately three feet square, weighing approximately 500 pounds, and depicting battle scenes and allegorical symbols of the power of the kings of Dahomey. The project also provided local Benin museum professionals with training in conservation, photo documentation, and long-term care of the bas-reliefs.

The five-day conference will mark the simultaneous completion of projects by two international institutions working in Abomey and grew out of plans, originally, for two separate conferences. The Getty Conservation Institute had planned for discussions on the history of the bas-reliefs from the Adjalala of King Glele (Hall of Multiple Openings); and the Rome-based International Center for the Preservation of Cultural Property/ Prevention in Museums in Africa (known as ICCROM-PREMA, working with the International Center for Research of Earthen Architecture in the School of Architecture, Grenoble) had planned a closing seminar for its own architectural and museological project in Abomey. Now a joint collaboration between the Department of Cultural Patrimony, the Getty Conservation Institute, and ICCROM, the conference has broadened its scope to also address issues of site management, which will be useful to managers, in neighboring West African countries, of sites similar to the Royal Palaces of Abomey.

The invitational conference will begin with a guided tour of Abomey and its cultural sites and a presentation of the new exhibit of the collections in the Musée Historique d'Abomey on the first day, followed by three days of presentations in Abomey (held entirely in French) and a final day and a half of guided site visits to the cities of Ouidah and Porto Novo and their sites.

Conference: "Past, Present and Future of the Royal Palaces and Sites of Abomey"
Location: Grande Salle de Conférences, Motel d'Abomey, in Abomey, Republic of Benin, West Africa
Date: Monday, September 22 through Friday, September 26, 1997
Organizers:

The Getty Conservation Institute
Republic of Benin, Department of Cultural Patrimony
International Center for the Preservation of Cultural Property
Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Note to Editors:
Bas-relief photographs and interviews with conference organizers available through Public Affairs at the J. Paul Getty Trust, (310)440-6474.

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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The Getty Conservation Institute works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts-broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the world's cultural heritage. To learn more, subscribe to the GCI's E-Bulletin by visiting http://www.getty.edu/subscribe/gci_bulletin/.