The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) has begun conserving clothing worn by Genocide victims.
With the help of nearly $87,000 from the US Embassy’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, CNLG this week started preserving clothing worn by Genocide victims at the Nyamata Genocide memorial in Bugesera District.
The grant was given to Nyamata Memorial Centre to be used for training and artifact conservation.
The Genocide Artifact Conservation Project will conserve clothing from the remains of 45,000 Genocide victims at the Nyamata memorial site, and later other sites across the country.
During a tour, yesterday, CNLG Executive Secretary Jean-Damascène Bizimana and US Ambassador to Rwanda Erica Barks-Ruggles assessed the progress of the conservation activities.
The conservation and documentation process is complex and could take from six to 12 months, said Martin Umuhoza, the Genocide proof and testimonies conservation specialist at CNLG.
The first step is carried out by machines called “tumblers,” which gently remove the outer layers of soil and separate the items of clothing. This process removes large debris, dirt, embedded hunks of soil and bones from the clothing.
After tumbling, the clothes are vacuumed and treated to kill off microbes, preparing them for long-term storage.
The clothes are then put in a climate-controlled plastic box.
The clothes are packaged with chemical ‘drying beans,’ which last up to 20 years and reduce the level of humidity. The stored clothing will be monitored for the right level of humidity and for dust control, said Umuhoza.
At each step of the process, he said, workers document the artifacts by taking digital photos of each piece of clothing and storing them in a digital Nyamata Genocide Clothing Inventory.
Experts from the University of Pennsylvania, US, spent the last week training CNLG staff on artifact preservation methods, said Bizimana, who added that he was grateful for the support of the US embassy.
“This will help preserve the memory of Genocide,” he said.
Dr Bizimana said the artifact should last at least 60 years.
The process involves adding chemicals to protect the clothing from bacteria, insects, humidity and dust, which can degrade them; if the chemicals are applied regularly, the items should last even longer — up to 200 years.
Bizimana said another project is underway to conserve Genocide remains. The CNLG team is working with the University of Hamburg in Germany on training and support for this project, which will be tested at the Murambi Genocide memorial and involves different skills from those of preserving artifact.