02.07.2016 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

Follow-up Training on Emergency Recording and Archiving

Participants during a field exercise in Beirut © UNESCO Beirut 2016

With the ongoing conflict in Syria, historic monuments and archeological sites are at significant risk of being destroyed or lost forever. To protect precious monuments, precise documentation is critical for their conservation and potential restoration. In order to create architectural drawings and accurate 3D models of important sites, UNESCO, in partnership with ICOMOS (International Committee on Monuments and Sites) and CyArk, continues to train Syrian engineers and architects to build capacity and capture as many sites as possible.

For five days, a hands-on training in data capture, processing, and the creation of conservation material was held at UNESCO’s office in Beirut for 15 participants from the DGAM (Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums) and other official institutions. The training was carried out by CyArk, a nonprofit organization with the mission of using new technologies to create a free, 3D online library of the world’s cultural heritage for preservation and education.

“This was an important step as the teams now have the skills to take future data and create really practical deliverables for heritage management,” said the workshop’s trainer and a field manager at CyArk, Ross Davison.

Through on-site activities and practical exercises, participants were trained to use a variety of techniques including terrestrial LiDAR (a surveying technology that uses laser light to measure distances), photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs), and panoramic photography. Part of the training took place at the Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum in Beirut to provide the trainees with practical training in an architectural environment.

This is the second workshop on emergency recording and archiving held in Beirut this year. The first training took place in January with a group of five engineers and architects. Trainees were then provided with equipment to conduct the first field documentation work on several heritage sites at theAncient City of Damascus.

The follow-up training was an important opportunity to assess the quality of the data collected and to provide further technical support to the teams. In addition, the focus moved from data capturing to data processing. While the data collection will now be managed locally, CyArk will continue to support the teams by storing backup copies of all the data. These services are donated by Iron Mountain, a data management and archival company in Boston, US.

“There are many sites in Damascus and other parts of Syria that need to be documented,” said Muad Ghanem, an expert from the historic sites division at the DGAM. Using regular and panoramic camera, Ghanem used the techniques that he learned in the first training to document the historic school of Biarestan, Hamam al-Nuri and Khan Assaad Basha in the Ancient City of Damascus.

“The training is essential in helping with the maintenance and restoration of damaged sites,” he said.

The trainees also spoke about the many challenges they face in their day to day work.

“We didn’t have enough advanced equipment and know-how to carry out extensive field documentation work,” said Lamis Bakjaji, an expert from the division of museums at the DGAM. Syria is an active war zone and this work is dangerous. Bakjaji also cited the lack of funding and access to good equipment as two other major challenges they face.

The training was part of the “Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage” project, a pioneering initiative funded by the European Union with the support of the Flemish Government and Austria in partnership with the ICCROM and ICOMOS. The project focuses on building technical capacities of Syrian experts and institutions and strengthening local, regional and international coordination to develop efficient responses.

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