Under Raking Light: Prof. Dr Mandana Barkeshli

Under Raking Light shines its spotlight on Prof. Dr Mandana Barkeshli, from the International Islamic University, Malaysia.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am Associate Prof. Dr. Mandana Barkeshli, a conservation scientist, and for the last two decades I have been working on the material technology of Persian manuscripts, including paper fibres, dyes, sizings and pigments.

If not conservation/preservation, then what?
If I wasn’t a conservation scientist, I would probably be working as a fashion designer. I am already involved with a few fashion design projects, as my bachelor’s degree is in textile design.

Describe your current project.
At the moment I am working on a research project to reconstruct the dyes and sizings of Persian medieval manuscripts, based on historical treatises and recipes from the Taimurid (fifteenth century) to the Qajar (nineteenth century) periods. This could eventually evolve into a database to be used for further scientific analysis research.

Pinny or white lab coat?
Lab coat.

Tell us about your most memorable project, for better or worse.
It would probably be the time when I discovered that saffron was the secret behind stabilizing the green verdigris pigment used in Persian miniature painting.

Bone or Teflon?

When you tell people what you do for a living, they say…
Wow, it is so interesting… is there any money in it?

Hands-down best course you have attended?
Japanese Paper Conservation (JPC). I was among the first batch who attended and participated in this course in Japan in 1992.

Favourite conference or holiday destination (you choose)?
ICOM-CC Triennial Conference. Rome for holiday.

Who’s coming to dinner (three, living or dead) and what would be on the menu?
My late father, Prof. Dr. Mehdi Barkeshli; Mir Ali Heravi, a sixteenth-century calligraphy master; and Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. The menu would be barberry saffron rice with chicken for the main course, and for dessert sticky toffee pudding.

The gloves: on or off?

Where are you on the litmus scale?
A solid 7.

If you were to create a piece of art, what would the subject be?
Ballet dancers.

If you could give just one piece of advice to a new conservator, what would it be?
Be patient and be ready to travel.

What is your favourite museum, library or archive and why?
Reza Abbasi Museum and Malek Museum, both located in Tehran, for their Persian manuscript collections.

Please share the most interesting photo you have taken recently.
This photo was taken recently during the three-day workshop that I conducted jointly with Sadra Zekrgoo on Persian medieval dyes, sizings and inks at the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University.

IMG_20180517_095151 (3)

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
Sixteenth-century Persia, to visit a royal manuscript workshop (karkhaneh).

What are your hopes and fears for the future of conservation?
I hope the authorities – especially politicians – recognise the importance of preservation of cultural heritage and the big role of conservators, to make sure they have enough funds to carry on their jobs. My fear is for the next generation of conservators and whether they can survive this global financial crisis.

Mandana, we hope you can make some room at that dinner table for us! To the rest of our readers: think you or a colleague has an interesting story to tell? Let us share it with the world by putting you Under Raking Light.

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