Study Tour: Albanian Delegation visits Rome and Pompeii
In the framework of the MDG-F Joint Programme “Culture and Heritage for Social and Economic Development”, UNESCO and the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities co-organized a one-week study tour for ten managers and experts from Albanian archaeological parks. This study tour took place from 4-10 April 2011 in Rome and Pompeii. It introduced participants to important archaeological sites including the Forum Romanum, Ostia Antica, Via Appia, Vulci National Park, and the archaeological area of Pompeii. The objective of this activity was to stimulate discussion on best practices in archaeological park management, conservation, security, and promotion.
Albania is a country of rich archaeological heritage stemming from the Greek, Roman, Venetian and Albanian periods. UNESCO seeks to contribute to the preservation of this important cultural heritage and to promote professionalization processes in the administration, maintenance, and sustainable utilization of archaeological sites. To this end, a study tour to prominent archaeological sites in Italy was conceived, which would provide a platform for discussion on best practices, facilitate knowledge sharing, and strengthen institutional relations between Italian and Albanian park managers. The organizers selected a range of different archaeological sites to illustrate the diversity of challenges arising from archaeological heritage administration in a specific geographic and political context.
On their arrival in Rome, participants were welcomed by the Director General of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Members of the directorate were present throughout the day to discuss the legal framework of Italy’s archaeological park system, its financial and fiscal management, as well as its conservation and restoration techniques. The first day also included a visit to the Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation, where means of data management of archaeological finds were presented and discussed.
The following two days were dedicated to the archaeological sites of Via Appia, one of the most important Roman trade roads, and Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient harbor. The Albanian delegation enjoyed an in-depth tour of these sites while discussing protection practices, land acquisition, valorization of archaeological areas, and site maintenance. In the context of Via Appia, participants reflected on risk management and security issues, both in terms of natural disasters and damage inflicted by humans, for instance, through theft or vandalism. At Ostia Antica, emphasis was given to educational programming and community outreach that can strengthen the links between archaeological sites and local community as well as spark new interest in cultural heritage.
A visit to the archaeological park of Vulci, on the Fiora River about 80 km northwest of Rome, was particularly well received by the Albanian delegation. Debate here centered on shared management responsibilities with local entities and the private sector as well as communication and marketing tools for archaeological parks. On the following day, participants visited the Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill, which, as archaeological sites at the heart of Rome, attract millions of tourists every year. Discussion hence focused on visitor management, protection practices, and maintenance.
The last two days of the study tour were entirely dedicated to the unique archaeological area of Pompeii. A highly popular site for visitors, participants discussed the need for balancing conservation with access to tourists. The Albanian delegation also had time to discover the minutiae of restoration and excavation works: Pompeii’s rich mosaics, its delicate frescos, its abundance of ceramics. Due to the exceptional history of being conserved for centuries under the ash and lava of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii remains an archaeological treasure chest, but one that requires constant work and safeguarding that can only be delivered by a collective of public and private players.
At the end of the study tour, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire and reflect on their experience. Most feedback is highly positive and provides evidence of the processes of comparison between Albanian and Italian site administration, which the organizers had hoped to bring about. For example, a representative from Butrint National Archaeological Park noted the “perfect cooperation of state administration in the managing and monitoring role and private enterprises which administrate the park”, and felt that qualified private partners were still difficult to find in Albania. Other participants found praise for the computerized cataloguing systems of archaeological finds and noted that their parks could introduce electronic ticketing systems just like their Italian counterparts.
“I am very happy with the outcome of the study tour to Rome and Pompeii”, says Wally Merotto, co-organizer and Operations Coordination Officer at UNESCO Venice Office, “because I believe that it can contribute to a lasting and mutually beneficial contact between Albanian and Italian park managers. Albania has the wonderful chance to develop its archaeological park management systems from scratch and to embrace new opportunities that are much harder to implement in an established bureaucratic setting. We at UNESCO are looking forward to further accompany our Albanian partners along that route.”
The MDG-F Joint Programme ”Culture and Heritage for Social and Economic Development” is financed by the Spanish Fund for the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and is being implemented by the Albanian Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports and the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with UNDP and UNESCO.