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UAlbany Art History Professor in Serbia with U.S. Ambassador to Announce Mosaic Presentation from Roman Restoration Project

At right, foreground, UAlbany art history professor Michael Werner explains the details of preservation as U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby, at right, in background, inspects the restored Mercury Mosaic at close hand. (Photo, courtesy of Tourist Organization of Sremska Mitrovica)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 11, 2014) -- UAlbany Professor of Art and Art History Michael Werner is in Serbia with U.S. Ambassador Michael D. Kirby to present the restored and wall-mounted Mercury Mosaic and sections of the residential room geometric mosaic now undergoing conservation in the Roman-era Imperial Palace in the Sirmium Preservation Shelter. The Ambassador will also visit Sremska Mitrovica’s Mosaic Restoration Laboratory, which has hosted archaeology students and researchers from UAlbany in connection with the project.

Through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, the U.S. Embassy contributed $73,000 to the Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments for the restoration of ancient mosaics at the Roman Imperial Palace in Sirmium. The embassy’s support of the Sirmium project is part of a larger effort to help Serbia preserve and develop cultural heritage sites throughout the country, and encourage economic development through tourism.

Two University at Albany undergraduates, Jordan Scott and Lynne Merrihew, worked with Werner on restoring the Roman-era mosaic this past summer in a pilot internship. The wall-mounted mosaic being unveiled, of the Roman God Mercury, dates to the time of the Emperor Diocletian. The internship is expected to continue in summer 2015.

“Here we do restoration of elements which exist in the original,” said Professor Werner. The Mercury Mosaic was severely damaged by the Romans (probably during the Emperor Constantine’s residence in the palace) when a radiant heating system was installed in the room and a new mosaic in a geometric pattern was laid over the heating ducts. Therefore, the part of the Mercury Mosaic that has been restored is but a small part of what must have been an imposing collection of portraits of pagan gods and goddesses.

Through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, the U.S. has contributed more than $390,000 across Serbia, including projects at Felix Romuliana, the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, St. Ana Catholic Church in Bela Crkva, Studenica Monastery, the Roman Amphitheatre at Viminacium, the Altun Alem Mosque in Novi Pazar, the Orašac Memorial School, and Rakovica Monastery.

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