Lotta Möller, 26, is in her third year of the programme in Conservation of Cultural Heritage Objects. She specialises in paper conservation and is currently completing a placement at ICRCPAL in Rome.
How did you end up in Rome?
‘My programme has a one-semester placement in the third year. I was initially planning on doing it in France since I speak French, but last year during a trip to Rome and changed my mind. So here I am for three months, living in a converted pasta factory with three Italians.’
You are doing you placement at ICRCPAL. What is it and what brought you there?
‘ICRCPAL is a national conservation institute for state archives and libraries. It’s very research-oriented and has several different departments working with chemical, physical and technical analyses of both conservation materials and original materials. The specialists who work there are incredibly good at what they do, so there is a lot to learn. Since my supervisor is a book conservation specialist and I really didn’t know much about that type of work, it’s like I’m getting personal training in bookbinding. The institute is beautifully situated in the Monti district. It’s built on the site of an old botanical garden, and many of the exotic trees are still there.’
Can you describe a typical day?
‘When I visited the chemistry department the other week, I helped measure DP, or degree of polymerisation, or more exactly the length of the cellulose molecule in artificially aged paper. The measurements are part of a project where a number of aspects of about 40 different types of paper used in conservation are analysed before and after the ageing process. I really enjoyed being part of it.’
Fifteen minutes before our meeting, you e-mailed me and asked if we could do the interview 30 minutes later. What happened?
‘It was partly a public transport issue. It always takes longer than expected to go places here. But I also ran into a colleague from the institute who was interested in Swedish literature and our use of the second personal singular pronouns ”du” and ”ni”, and we had a good time talking about it. Italians are very open and curious. The country’s difficult situation, economically and politically, is noticeable, but there is still a very positive atmosphere wherever you go.’
Any advice you would like to share with other students who are interested in a placement in Italy?
‘Learn to speak Italian! Not surprisingly, it’s really useful. I took a course before leaving Sweden, and now I’m in a class once a week.’