Conservation Field Campaigns

The Foundation runs two conservation campaigns a year, in April-May and November-December, in which a team of conservators from a number of specialisms from different institutions spend three-four weeks at the monastery working intensely at the conservation of selected manuscripts. This represents a major expense for the Foundation and so any donations are very welcome.

30 April - 25 May 2019 Conservation Field Campaign, Deir al-Surian library

Conservation field campaign at the Deir al-Surian Library funded by the British Council Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will take place from 30th – 25th May. The aim of the campaign is to conserve the earliest historically most important manuscripts outstanding from earlier campaigns. Manuscripts selected for conservation will be digitally documented before, during and after treatment and data saved in a bespoke Deir al-Surian database.  The conservation work will be led by Elizabeth Sobczynski, CEO The Levantine Foundation with Francois Vinourd, Atelier du Livre, Conservation-Restoration, Avignon, assistance and participation of Maria Laura Riccardi, Marta Filippini and Giovanni Pagani, conservators from public and private sector in Rome. The new librarian Fr. Amoon will be present throughout the campaign and directly involved in preparation for and follow up to the campaign, as well as in outreach activities. The project will introduce him to conservation methods, manuscript handling, record keeping and care of collection. Librarians from other collections will be invited to visit during the campaign. Three novices/local interns selected in collaboration with the Monastery will receive training throughout the campaign in aspects of conservation, including making archival boxes for vulnerable codices.


2016 Winter Conservation Field Campaign: 23 November- 15 December
Conservation of four manuscripts was generously supported by: [see 2016 summer campaign below for details]  
1. The London Art History Society  
2. John Osborn 
3. Nigel Pilkington
Planning, structural direction and documentation – Elizabeth Sobczynski
Advisor- Abuna Amoon, Librarian Deir al-Surian
In an effort to facilitate electronic access to the uniquely important historical collection of manuscripts the Foundation has begun working towards digitisation by setting up in 2015, pre-digitising condition assessment.  To date, 600 manuscripts have been assessed for their suitability for digitising while the remaining manuscripts will be assessed during the next field campaign planned for spring 2017. 
Five manuscripts have been selected for conservation from the Syriac collection during the previous campaign as part of the pre-digitising project. The selection was based on a priority list drawn by Professor Lucas van Rompay and Dr. Sebastian Brock, who divided the Syriac collection into Top Priority; High Priority; Important but Less High Priority; and Least Priority. 
Three book conservators were invited to participate in the campaign and were managed by Elizabeth Sobczynski, who also advised on appropriate methods and treatment.  
The selected manuscripts were:   
1. Syr. Ms.10 [MK12], 510 AD, conservator Monika Stokowiec 
2. Syr. Ms. 28 [MK2], 6th/7th century, conservator Monika Stokowiec
3. Syr. Ms. 30 [MK23] 9th/10th century, conservator Flavio Marzo
4. Syr. Ms. 20, 6th/7th century, conservator Antonios Petras 
5. Syr. Ms. 2 [21], 6th century, conservator Antonios Petras 
We were pleased to facilitate access to the collection for Dr. Yury Arzhanov, Syriac scholar from Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany to carry out research into translations of scientific and philosophical texts from Greek into Syriac.    
The campaign overlapped with a visit by Professor Stephen Davies from Yale University, who continued his cataloguing work of the Coptic, the Bilingual and the Christian Arabic manuscripts. Professor Davis advised Elizabeth Sobczynski on the selection of manuscripts for conservation treatment during the next campaign in 2017. Nine biblical manuscripts dating back to the 13th century have been selected on the basis of their historical importance and documented in writing and digitally in preparation for the next campaign. 
Conservation of the Syr. Ms.30 [MK23] is going to continue together with other manuscripts from the Syriac Top Priority list.     
2016 Summer Conservation Field Campaign: 4 - 28 May
Planning, structural direction and documentation – Elizabeth Sobczynski
Adviser- Father Bigoul el Souriany 
The principal objective of the campaign was to continue the pre-digitising conservation assessment, to analyse the data and prioritise manuscripts in the most urgent need of conservation attention. The other objectives were to complete conservation and restoration of the 13th century Coptic Ms. 22, Four Gospels on paper, and to make a new leather binding for the 11th century Coptic Ms. 647 “Consecration of the New Churches” on parchment.  
The campaign was supervised by Elizabeth Sobczynski. Elizabeth also carried out the pre-digitising conservation assessment and analysed the data.
Conservation of Coptic Ms. 22 text block was carried out by Anna Thommee and Marzena Szczerkowska. Restoration of the 18th century binding and making of a new binding for Coptic Ms. 647 was carried out by Marzena Szczerkowska under the guidance of Father Bigoul, librarian of Deir al-Surian. 
Anna Thommee undertook parchment repairs on Syr. Ms. 1 [MK 21], and Syr. Ms. 28[MK 2].  
Dominika Popiolek, MA graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun worked as a volunteer assisting with various conservation tasks. Her main task was to make phase-boxes for manuscripts without covers. She made thirty two boxes and rehoused the manuscripts. 
John Osborn who so generously sponsored conservation of the Syr. Ms. 11 [MK6] visited the library together with Nigel Pilkington, Chairman of the foundation. Having seen the excellent conservation results on the fully conserved manuscript in 2010, John pledged his support for the 9th/10th century Syr. Ms. 30 [MK23] containing Lections, Psalms, Mimre and hagiography of the desert fathers.  
Nigel Pilkington pledged a donation towards the conservation of Syr. Ms.28 [MK2], containing Admonitions and Demonstrations of the Holy Fathers, and Philosophical Definitions.   
The London Art History Society gave a donation for the conservation of the Syr. Ms. 10 [MK12], Four, Gospels, the earliest dated gospels in existence, and the 6th/7th century Syr.Ms.20, containing homilies by John Chrysostom. 
The library and the conservation studio was visited by John Casson, HM Ambassador to Egypt. 
Other visitors included Dr. Paolo Sabbatini KC, Cultural Attaché of the Italian Embassy; Dr. Tomasz Waliszewski, Head of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw and Dr. ArturObluski, Director of the Polish Archaeological Centre in Cairo.  
2015 Winter Conservation Field Campaign: 18 November- 11 December
The campaign was cancelled due to heavy rainfall and flooding of Wadi el-Natrun where the Deir al-Surian is located.  The monastery have suffered huge damage to the ancient Church dome, the 10th century wall and monks’ old cells.
2015 Summer Conservation Field Campaign: 22 May – 7 June 
The campaign was generously funded by The Mercers Company, London, England. 
Planning, structural direction and documentation – Elizabeth Sobczynski
Adviser- Father Bigoul el Souriany
After a period of political unrest in Egypt, the foundation resumed its activities in May 2015 continuing its efforts to preserve and conserve the manuscripts from the Deir al-Surian library. The three week field campaign took place in the new well equipped conservation studio in the new library built with the foundation’s financial support which opened in 2013. Book specialists Anna Thommee and Marzena Szczerkowska worked collectively on the conservation of the 13th century Coptic Ms. 22 “Four Gospels” on paper conserving and restoring its much damaged text block. Elizabeth Sobczynski and Michal Sofer carried out pre-digitising condition assessment of the Syriac, Coptic, Copto-Arabic, Ethiopic and Arabic manuscripts recording its unique data, current condition and conservation needs. Total of 560 items were examined and assessed for the conservation needs. 
Twenty four manuscripts from the Arabic, Coptic and Copto- Arabic collection were stabilised.   
The campaign was supervised by Elizabeth Sobczynski, CEO, The Levantine Foundation, and Father Bigoul el Souriany, librarian of Deir al-Surian.
The campaign overlapped with a visit of Professor Stephen Davis from Yale University, USA who is cataloguing the Coptic, Copto-Arabic and Christian Arabic collection. Professor Davies was assisted by Professor Mark Swanson and Dr. Youhana Nessim Youssef. 
2010 Winter Conservation Field Campaign: 19 November- 10 December 
2010 Summer Conservation Field Campaign: 11 April -8 May 
The campaign was partially funded by The Association for Cultural Exchange LTD and the Eranda Foundation.
Conservation of Coptic Ms. 21 was partially funded by Mr & Mrs. Robert John 
Conservation of Syr. Ms 11 [MK6] was fully funded by Mr. John Osborn 
Planning, structural direction and documentation – Elizabeth Sobczynski
Adviser- Father Bigoul el Souriany, librarian
Campaign leader – Marzena Szczerkowska 
Conservation work which begun in 2009 continued during the two field campaign in 2010. One of the highlights was conservation of a beautifully illuminated 13th century Coptic Ms.21, Four Gospels on paper, and the 5th century Syriac Ms.11[MK6] Four Gospels on parchment, which is the earliest bound manuscript in the collection and possibly the earliest existing gospel manuscript in the world. Text block of the 12th century, Coptic Ms. 647 on parchment “Consecration of the New Churches” underwent full conservation treatment, three other codices were bound in new bindings and sixteen codices from the Coptic and Christian Arabic collection were stabilised (see Newsletter No.4 for details).   
The campaign was supervised by Elizabeth Sobczynski. Book and paper conservators participating in the campaign included: Theresa Lupi, Anna Thommee, Julie Somerfield, Roderick Lane, Flavio Marzo and Antonios Petras. 
2009 Winter Conservation Field Campaign
Conservation of Coptic Ms. 21 was partially funded by Mr & Mrs. Robert John 
Conservation of Syr. Ms 11 [MK6] was funded by Mr. John Osborn
Planning, structural direction and documentation – Elizabeth Sobczynski
Adviser- Father Bigoul el Souriany, librarian
The winter conservation field campaign at the Deir al Surian took place from 20th November – 12th December 2009. A team of nine book and paper conservators from Italy, Poland, Portugal and the UK worked under the guidance of Fr. Bigoul, librarian of the El-Surian and Elizabeth Sobczynski, CEO, The Levantine Foundation who structured and planned the work. The work focused on the conservation of the fifth century Syriac Ms.11”Four Gospels”, on parchment; the 11th century Coptic Ms. 23 “Gospel of St. John”, also on parchment; the 13th century Coptic Ms.21 “Four Gospels”, on paper and the restoration of the 18th century leather cover for the 13th century Coptic Ms. 28 “The Acts of the Apostles” which was conserved during the previous campaigns. 
In addition, as part of an ongoing refurbishment project sixty manuscripts from the Coptic and Arabic collection had their text block and bindings stabilised.  
The Levantine Foundation registered in England 4506398, in The Arab Republic of Egypt under Law No 84 (2002). Registered charity number 1094436.