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[Eye Plus] Puzzling together pieces of the past

By Lim Jae-seong

Published : Feb. 11, 2023 - 16:01

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Yang Hye-min moves her hand carefully as she gathers and assembles scattered parts of the past, working tirelessly to regain the appearance it once had hundreds of years ago.

"A relic that has survived the test of time will inspire future generations " said Yang, who majors in Conservation Science at Korea National University of Cultural Heritage, as she explained why she chose her major.

"I want to find the best way to preserve relics for the next generation so they can further develop and make use of them, Yang added.

As part of her course, Yang not only learns and appreciates theories about the functions and historical context of culturally significant relics, she also participates in the conservation process itself.

“Holding the old artifacts in my hands makes me feel quite nervous,” she said.

Dealing with relics in a hands-on environment is a thrilling experience for the would-be conservation master.

However, the fear of damaging any cultural heritages during the conservation process makes her think much about “the best way to handle them," she says.

Yang feels a heavy sense of responsibility, as the conservation process of cultural heritage largely depends on a conservation master’s competence.

According to Yang, the worker has to have an in-depth understanding of the artifacts, from basic features such as size, usage and material nature, to the chemical relations between the material and any contaminants on the artifact, as well as the cleaning formula.

These important factors can be determined by a broad investigation of the artifact’s history of damage and contamination.

The worker’s role does not end even after the conservation process is finished.

“We need to store (the artifact) in a proper environment and record all the processes so that those who (later) work with the artifact can take these into consideration,” Yang explained.

“I have learnt so much about the diverse sides of cultural heritage and artifacts, which are things I could not have learnt outside of this major.”

“This is a rare opportunity, and why I love to do this work,” Yang added.

Photos by Lee Sang-sub

Written by Lee Sang-sub, Lim Jae-seong