First Work Week!

After a long weekend and a brief party celebration of Purim on a rooftop in Haifa, our first week of practicum began in Akko! We got our hands dirty working on pointing the Ottoman aqueduct and Khan el-Shwarda, had some serious reading regarding the philosophy of conservation, and began our first practical project on the International Conservation Center! Also, we finally got internet in our apartments today! Woo hoo! Now I can finally catch me up on some Walking Dead! Let's check out some photos, shall we?

I do not have any images of us actually working on the aqueduct. I was silly and didn't think about snatching my camera out of my bag. I was too excited to dig in! We mixed together lime mortar and set to work cleaning out the dirt and growth from the sides of the walls. Then we dug in, trowels and spatulas in hand, and filled in the missing mortar! We were severely short on tools and mortar so we ended up having to share tools. Turns out sharing tools can actually bring folks closer together and teaches some good team work when people are willing!

Here are some images from Khan el-Shwarda. A khan is an Ottoman inn. There would be a central courtyard and the bottom level would be designated for the animals and shops. Then there would be an upper story for people to spend the night. There are three khans in Akko, all in pretty bad condition. We were the first people this season to set to work on el-Shwarda! We're pretty much renewing the work from a couple years ago. I will show you some of the work done to the khan before and images of what we were doing this week!

Vaulted ceiling 
Here is part of the khan that has already been restored. They stabilized the pillars because the outside were starting to pull away from the inside. Notice that they had to do some extensive amounts of filling in along the crack in the vault where the two walls were separating. They also used beams to support the two sides of the vault.

Here's Yvonne chipping away at a particularly difficult piece of concrete mortar!
So here's how things start. During the British Mandate, the Brits thought concrete was an excellent choice for refilling (pointing) the mortar between the stones, which are made of sandstone. Unfortunately, the harder concrete actually prevented water from escaping out of the mortar and instead the water decided to wash out the stones themselves. The new preservation plan is to remove the concrete mortar and replace it with lime mortar, which is softer than the sandstone and cheaper to replace. This way the water will instead run through the mortar.

Courtney took a good crack it all too. Actually, we all took turns chipping out the concrete with a chisel and hammer!
Michael was our professional water cleaner guy. That's the official title, by the way. ha!
Once the concrete is removed, we use pressurized water to wash out the dirt and moisten the stones. By wetting the stones, the mortar is more likely to stick to the stones and slows down its setting process. 

Mikhail is peeking out behind the pillar...
 Yay! Clean! The bottom course of stones was repointed some time in the near past and the upper course still has the British concrete. The center course is where we removed the icky concrete! 

Rikka is having some fun pointing!
Then comes the next fun part: filling in the mortar! Notice the blue tubing. When the pillars were built, the stones only formed an outside structure and inside was open. They would fill in the open area, which actually made the pillar stronger. So when we remove the concrete, sometimes we'll see that no original mortar remains further back and only a completely empty space remains. When we find this, a tube is placed in the hole and mortared around. They will do this on each side of the pillar at each course of stone, or at least every other course. After the entire pillar is repointed, they will pump water into the pillar to clean out all the dirt, remove the tubing, and fill in the holes.

Once we finish pointing the stones, we take a brush and stipple the mortar. Not only is this pleasing and looks more "authentic", it also aerates the mortar more and allows for extra areas for the water to seep in, further encouraging the water to wash away the mortar rather than the sandstone.

Ah, a beautiful finished project!
This same day we were given our practical exercise for the ICC building. It's set in an Ottoman rebuild on top of a Crusader ruin that was reused as hostel, another floor added on, and then purchased, abandoned, and repurchased before the Old Acre Development Company got a hold of it and reappropriated it as the headquarters for the International Conservation Center! Part of its purpose is to be used as a teaching laboratory for its students, so we were each given a part of the building that has some serious issues or special interests! I have been given a section affectionately referred to as "Shelley's corner", because it just so happens to be the area hovering over the director's head in the offices. It is looking like everyone's projects have a single point of issue: water damage, most likely coming from the roof! We are all so excited to get into the projects! We did an initial survey of the damage this week and outlined a basic conservation plan! Over the next few weeks we will be adding to our plan and will then execute the plan in the months to come.

Lastly, I'd like to update a new recruit to our little program. His name is Nutters and he followed someone home one day.

King in da castle!
For some reason he really likes our bathroom...
...and sitting on laps and playing!
We've decided to adopt him and our landlord, Nizar, is absolutely thrilled. He told us how he had a cat when he was growing up and seemed excited to have a little kitty running around again in his home. Yvonne doesn't much care for a dirty cat in the house, but he is an adorable little tyke!

For the future, we all have some serious questions to ask ourselves in our relationship to conservation. Allow me to lay them out for you all here. I came up with these while writing up our first weekly abstract. Everyone will take it in turns to do this, and I was the lucky one to draw first straw. Fantastically, Shelley loved my abstract, so I am confident in sharing my conclusions with you all here now:

How do we decide what is significant enough to be conserved? Where is the balance between conservation and restoration? What is too much and what is not enough? How do we preserve, or should we preserve, the past without implanting our own modern concepts into the original meaning? How can we even know what the original meaning was? These, and questions that will arise in the future, are the building blocks to creating our own personal relationship with conservation.

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