This summer I had the amazing privilege of being able to participate in an Archaeological Conservation Institute program in one of my favorite places on earth: Italy.
In May, I joined a group of students from Randolph College led by Dr. Susan Stevens and the adventure began. Before going on this trip, my ideas about what conservation or archaeology actually looked like in practice were extremely vague, so it was an eye-opening experience and a great chance to work with material culture first hand. We spent the first two weeks in the beautiful mountain village of Belmonte in a restored convent that is now the home of our program host, Roberto Nardi, and his team of conservators.
The most exciting part of my day was opening up boxes of archaeological finds from a first-century Roman villa in Sardinia and learning how to clean and prepare fresco and marble pieces for display. I was always surprised that I was actually allowed to touch something I had never seen outside of a museum.
After a fantastic two weeks of conservation, we made our way to Alghero on the coast of Sardinia for the second half of the program and helped with the excavation of a Middle Bronze age Nuragic village (the indigenous culture of Sardinia). I gained a personal knowledge of archaeology through excavating, record keeping, and sorting ancient pottery. The entire trip not only provided me with a solid introduction to archaeology and conservation, but it broadened my perspective on what I could do with my history degree.
One of the most amazing aspects of the program was working with Italians who are experts in their field and learning about conservation and archaeology through hands-on participation in their work. Instead of practice sessions set up purely for students, we took part in ongoing projects that have real historical significance. It was also a chance to experience Italian culture in a unique way.
The entire trip was spent living and working with Italians, and we were able to step outside of the tourist crowd and experience the rhythm of everyday life in Italy. Some of my favorite memories of the trip are delicious Italian pasta and gelato, weekends in Rome touring museums with other extremely passionate students, spending every evening on the beach in Alghero, and soccer matches on ancient ruins with local Sardinian college students. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
— Cara Christenberry