Under the patronage and in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Sharjah, the “Protecting the Past 2018” conference entitled “From Digital Documentation to Heritage Management in the MENA region” took place at the Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah (ICCROM- Sharjah) from 4 – 6 December 2018.
Protecting the Past 2018 in Sharjah explored how digital documentation is becoming embedded in the heritage management practices of the MENA region. Academics, national heritage stakeholders, professionals, and NGOs were invited to share their research, experience, and views on how digital documentation has changed or should change heritage management in the MENA and adjacent regions.
The conference was jointly organized by Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah (ICCROM-Sharjah), the Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project, Art Jameel and the Global Heritage Fund, with the additional support of Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Barakat Trust and Bonzai Agency.
ICCROM’s Director-General Dr Webber Ndoro, opening the conference, expressed his deep thanks to His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council member and ruler of Sharjah, for his constant sponsorship of ICCROM as well of his support of projects to preserve the cultural heritage of the Arab world.
صاحب السمو الشيخ الدكتور سلطان بن محمد القاسمي، عضو المجلس الأعلى حاكم الشارقة، كان في مقدمة
الضيوف والمشاركين في حفل افتتاح مؤتمر حماية الماضي 2018. #ptp18 #protectingthepast pic.twitter.com/mlreD0bLjE
— إيكروم-الشارقة (@ICCROM_ATHAR) December 4, 2018
The Protecting the Past 2018 conference addressed five main themes, including digital documentation as a preparedness and preventive tool; digital documentation and post-disaster heritage recovery; new documentation technology; capacity building in the region; and donor perspectives. Over three days, presentations and round tables saw the participation of 42 international and regional speakers from Belgium, Egypt, France, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. Speakers came from a range of organizations including UNESCO, UNOSAT, universities from Europe, the MENA region and North America, and NGOs.
Dr Sheikh Sultan, for his part, shared the story of the planned demolition of the fort in Sharjah while he was studying in Egypt. He recounted how he managed to stop the demolition, maintain large parts of the fort, and bring it back to its former self to stand in the Heart of Sharjah. The Sheikh's narrative underlined the importance of maintaining historic buildings in Arab countries, and was an illustration of his keenness and commitment to preserving heritage at all times and in all circumstances.
A special session of the conference brought together representatives of cultural heritage funders, including the Arcadia Fund, the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH) Fund, and Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism to discuss donor priorities in funding cultural heritage documentation projects in the MENA region.
Protecting the Past is an annual international conference and workshop series organized by the Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project at the Universities of Oxford, Leicester and Durham, in collaboration with partners in the field of cultural heritage. Since 2015, Protecting the Past has been held in Amman, Sulaimaniyeh, and Tunis, before coming to Sharjah for its 2018 edition.
The purpose of Protecting the Past is to move beyond describing the threats facing the cultural heritage in the Middle East and North Africa region and focus on understanding them through new approaches for heritage protection. Protecting the Past promotes debate and discussion on the range of threats to cultural heritage sites, facilitates communication between different groups, and enhances understanding of the issues and their regional significance. The series aims to facilitate opportunities for different stakeholders to formulate strategies aimed at preserving cultural heritage sites and developing long-lasting partnerships within the MENA region.
Conference hashtags: #ptp18 #protectingthepast