Artists and scientists rediscover ‘Amber Era’

The magical ‘gemstone’ of the Baltic coastal region – amber – is the subject of both a scientific conference and arts gallery exhibit this weekend in Riga.

On Friday the University of Latvia opened the international conference Baltic Amber Across Time and Borders, which is also simultaneously being streamed live from its Great Hall and Law Faculty Hall venues. The conference will continue Saturday with further lectures and discussion.

The conference covered the theme of amber in pre-history and later history, as well as in ethnography and folklore, drawing on findings in natural history and variety of approaches to the research in the field, including conservation and restoration of amber.

Scientists from 16 countries will participate in the conference, including – in addition to Latvia and other European countries – scientists from Jordan, the United States, and China. A total of 61 speakers will deliver lectures at the conference – 13 Latvians and 48 foreign experts, including the world’s leading amber researchers in various sciences: Morten Ramstad (Norway), Ilga Zagorska (Latvia), Lars Larsson (Sweden), Ilze Loze (Latvia), Nuccia Negroni Catacchio (Italy) and others.

The conference is organised by the University of Latvia in co-operation with the Riga 2014 foundation. The conference is run by the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Latvia and the Faculty’s Dean Dr. hist. Andris Šnē, as well as the Institute of Latvian History at the University of Latvia and the Director of the Institute, Dr. hist. Guntis Zemītis.

Meanwhile at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design an exhibit called the “Amber Era” opened to the public. Running until October 26, the show will examine the theme of amber from a variety of perspectives – as an object of art, as an element of design, as a trademark brand name, as part of the name of places and persons, as a souvenir, or an inspiration for literary works.

As curator Līga Turjanska told Latvian Radio, “we tried to draw a line from the past to today.”

“So we have various museum pieces as well as newly commissioned works,” she explained. “We allowed the artists to interpret amber as they see fit. It’s definitely not a classic exhibition, but I think people will enjoy it,” Turjanska said.

Not only will various artifacts, paintings, photographs and animated installations reflect differing perspectives on amber, but also household objects, song lyrics and other symbolic renderings will help explore this unique natural resource.

The curators have also tried to involve the public through a questionnaire about people’s associations with amber as a well-known symbol of all-things-Latvian.

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