Keeping trace of cultural heritage
The inventories and archives of cultural property in Syrian museums continue to be digitized to simplify the identification and registration of any missing artefacts. Testimonies, images and videos from the Syrian public, and from national and international archaeological missions, assist in completing the digitized database. All this collated information will facilitate a more effective response against the illicit trafficking of cultural property out of Syria.
By compiling, to the extent possible, a comprehensive inventory, Syria is adopting an effective preventative measure to reduce the risk of illicit trafficking of cultural property. A number of provisions in the 1970 UNESCO Convention clearly state that cultural property that has been documented as appertaining to the inventory of a museum is better protected against trafficking. Furthermore, if a stolen cultural item is identified, restitution provisions between State Parties (States that have ratified the Convention) may be applied, facilitating the return of the item.
Many museums in Syria have taken measures to reduce the risk of theft of moveable heritage since the beginning of the conflict. In particular, museums that have suffered structural damage, have moved their archaeological artefacts to safe and secure areas. Security has also been enhanced by installing additional burglar alarms and increasing the number of security guards and patrols of the perimeters.
At the national level, a team of experts is also designing and developing a digital map, based on geographic information system (GIS) technology, to detail the endangered and damaged cultural patrimony of on the ground. This technology will allow experts to determine priorities in the urgent maintenance and restoration of archaeological sites and museums damaged in the conflict. The system is compatible with international standards and will improve coordination between national and international organisations in the post-conflict rehabilitation of Syria’s historic sites and museums.