Inara Bula (Art scholar)
do you know
In the Latvian Radio 3 cycle “Did you know?” cultural researchers, historians and other experts explain many different terms, tell about interesting artifacts and unusual ideas.
The restoration methodology in Latvia was borrowed from the schools ruling in the Soviet Union. Latvian restorers could do internships in Russian workshops. The practice of restorers was oriented towards the St. Petersburg and Moscow schools and applied the methods of both in their practical work. Although analytical and synthetic methods were mutually contradictory, they were often used in parallel in the restoration of monumental art objects.
The 1960s in the restoration industry was a time of reorganization, restoration work, methodology research and recognition. One of the first complex objects that was purposefully restored over several decades was Mežotne Castle.
The owner of the object – the management of the Mežotne experimental and breeding station – in a letter of June 25, 1958, asked the Architecture and Construction Committee of the Council of Ministers of the LPSR (Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic) to develop a project for the restoration of the castle, and within half a year, financial resources were allocated to start the restoration work.
The castle, damaged during the war and technically in poor condition, was transformed into an apartment building for breeding station employees, an educational institution and an international agricultural laboratory. On September 10, 1959, the task of repairing and restoring the palace was approved. The division of functions by floor provided for the creation of administrative rooms, representative rooms and apartments.
The principles of starting, researching and restoring the Mežotne Palace repair-restoration works were applied to more and more monuments. In Soviet Latvia, several objects important to the cultural space of Latvia were restored (or restoration was started), for example Rundāle Palace, Riga St. Peter’s Church, Ungurmuiž, Nogale Manor, Riga St. Peter’s and Paul’s churches, Firks manor residential buildings in Talsos, etc.
The restoration and renovation processes of Rundāle Castle initiated a professional restoration of monumental art and architecture.
As the political system changed in the 1990s, changes in general restoration settings proceeded rather inertly in Latvia. In the previous time period, Latvian restorers carried out practical work, feeling only small breezes from the European political and practical framework and working methods, trusting the knowledge and intuition inherited from the masters and not thinking about the principles set by the conventions. 21st century in the first decade, more and more specialists had to follow developments in Europe, because professionals in post-Soviet countries, such as Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, were hungry for changes not only in the materials used in restoration, but also in the choice of concepts. It also led to a change in the perception of terms such as authenticity, conservation, restoration, reconstruction.