Nine projects announced as part of overseas Cultural Protection Fund

Main Image: Mound and 18th Century castle, Qala Shirwana. © Sirwan Regional Project

The UK Heritage Minister has announced the Cultural Protection Fund will allocate £30m in funds between 2016 and 2020 to support conservation of international cultural heritage sites threatened by conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

The Cultural Protection Fund, established by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the British Council in 2016, is designed to safeguard heritage threatened by conflict in countries across the Middle East and North Africa and will fund nine major projects in its latest round of funding.

Included in the latest funding is a project led by the University of Glasgow to preserve unique archaeological sites in the Garmian region of Iraqi Kurdistan dating back up to 10,000 years. The region was part of the front line during the Iran-Iraq War, suffered damage under Saddam Hussein’s repression of the Kurds in the 1990s and is only kilometres away from ISIS’ 2014 front line. The recent conflicts have led to the damage and destruction of sites containing key information and artefacts from ancient Mesopotamia’s civilisations.

Tragically we have seen some of the world’s greatest cultural treasures destroyed in recent years. It is important, and right, that we share our expertise and support communities around the world to help preserve art, culture and heritage of global significance.

Michael Ellis, UK Minister for Heritage

The University of Glasgow has experience in the area as part of an intenational collaboration called the Sirwan Regional Project (pictured), which explores the archaeological landscape in and around the river known in Kurdish as the Sirwa. As part of the new project funded by the Cultural Protection Fund the university is currently constructing a team to document and monitor the damage in Garmian using satellite and aerial imaging, before recommending how the site can be best preserved. The team, which has received more than £300,000 from the Cultural Protection Fund, will also train local archaeologists and work with school teachers in the area to highlight cultural heritage in their classrooms.

“Our project is unique in Iraq and the Middle East in its approach to cultural heritage protection,” said Dr archaeologist Claudia Glatz, who is leading The University of Glasgow team is led by. “We combine research-led archaeological practice as part of the ongoing survey and excavations of the Sirwan Regional Project with knowledge-exchange, capacity building in both practical skills and the social and political implications of interpretation and cultural narrative, and the creation of inclusive museum and community-driven educational resources.”

Since its launch, The Cultural Protection Fund has supported work on 41 projects to restore and protect heritage sites in each of the 12 countries it operates in.

Previous projects include the Protection and Preservation of Historical Archaeological sites in the Gaza Strip project, to conserve two heritage sites in the Gaza Strip: the Saint Hilarion Monastery and a Byzantine Church in Jabaliyah.

This latest round of funding will extend ongoing conservation work and offer training and employment to local people as well as education.

“Important cultural heritage – from archives of music to ancient archaeological sites – is at risk of significant degradation or simply being lost forever,” said Stephen Stenning, Head, Arts and Society at British Council. “British Council’s work managing the Cultural Protection Fund provides vital support to organisations on the ground working to protect and preserve heritage.”

The Nine Funded Projects

Action for Hope Music Schools for Refugees, Lebanon – £290,073

Led by Action for Hope (ASBL), this project aims to enhance the recognition of traditional Syrian music within a population of 20,000 refugee and host communities in Lebanon and Jordan.

Archaeological practice and heritage protection in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – £301,178

Led by University of Glasgow, this project will document and monitor site damage to the archaeological heritage of Garmian in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, as well as increasing the capacity of local heritage professionals through skills workshops and field training, and engaging local communities with their cultural heritage.

Community Museums of Western Sudan: Omdurman, El Obeid, Nyala, Sudan – £997,000

Led by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), this project will restore three museums after decades of conflict and provide for the educational and cultural needs of their communities, visitors and tourists.

An Ark for Iraq: Emergency response programme for the endangered watercraft heritage of Iraq – £99,246

Led by Safina Projects CIC, this year long project expands Safina Projects’ ongoing work to revitalise and document the endangered watercraft heritage of traditional boats in central and southern Iraq.

Planning the future of Amedi: building community capacity & management frameworks for the protection of the historic town, Iraq – £100,000

Led by World Monuments Fund Britain Ltd, this project aims to enhance and document built heritage in the historic town of Amedi in Iraq.

Assessing the condition of the Afghan national art collection, Afghanistan – £50,000

Led by the Foundation of Culture & Civil Society, this project will carry out a preliminary needs assessments and restoration work on 150 paintings within the Afghan National Collection, which were destroyed by the Taliban.

Building the capacity to protect Palestinian land and heritage through museology, Occupied Palestinian Territories – £94,650

Led by The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University, this project will document Palestinian ethnographic heritage, paying particular attention to agricultural practices along the cultural route of ‘Abraham’s path’ in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

 “The Life Jacket”: The Revitalisation and Development of Rural Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Territories – £1,018,470

Led by RIWAQ – Centre for Architectural Conservation, which will work with local communities and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to restore the historic centres of Al Jib, Qalandiya, Jaba’ and Kafr ‘Aqab

Preserving the Living Memory of the Pastoral Routes and Heritage of the Bedouin in Lebanon – £100,000

Led by The Institute for Heritage and Sustainable Human Development, this project will aim to collect, archive and share the skills and traditions of the Bekkaa Valleys Bedouins in the Lebanon. The Bedouin are a group of nomadic peoples who have traditionally inhabited areas of the Levant, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.