There are many cultural World Heritage Sites in Libya and Tunisia. Both countries are rich in the remains from Carthaginian to early Islamic civilisations. The Training in Action project, run by Durham University's Department of Archaeology in partnership with the Department of Antiquities of Libya and the Institut National du Patrimoine de Tunisie, intends to serve as a replicable model for Libyan and Tunisian heritage professionals to train new staff in documentation techniques and preventative conservation.
In this interview, Durham University's Dr Anna Leone tells us more about the challenges and rewards of the project and what advice she would give to others looking to apply for a Cultural Protection Fund grant.
Please could you tell us a little bit about your project?
The project is training staff from respective Libyan and Tunisian national heritage organisations in documentation techniques, and preventative conservation. It also supports the development of outreach activities involving schools and the public at a number of heritage sites and museums.
Durham University has developed a new app HeDAP (Heritage Documentation and Protection) and associate database for the recording of objects in museum storerooms and heritage sites to create a National Museum Database. This project has the full support (and developed in conversation with) Interpol and the EU Counter Terrorism Centre. The database is now fully working and has recorded around 6000 objects in several museums across the two countries.
The second aspect of the project is to support the progressive creation of a Geographic Information System as a management tool for the recording of heritage sites. Libyan and Tunisian archaeologists have been trained in building recording techniques (survey, GPS, Geophysic survey, photogrammetry, drones, GIS) specifically targeting the creation of data records of sites, to identify the buffer zone, map threats and destruction in order to protect the heritage in the landscape.
Lastly, the project is involving local communities and increasing the awareness of cultural heritage and the need to protect it.
Could you tell us about any particular favourite moments whilst working on the project?
At the beginning of the project, the trainees were all doing exactly what they were taught. The best moment, for me, was when half the way through the project they started to realise how everything fitted together and how they could use what they had learnt. At this moment their understanding of their job, or what actually protecting heritage means, changed. They got it, they saw why they were learning these skills, they saw what they could do with their own work, and this was a great satisfaction.
The best moment, for me, was when half the way through the project they started to realise how everything fitted together and how they could use what they had learnt.
What have you found the most rewarding about working on your project?
Seeing our Tunisian female trainees growing in confidence! Although women were often outnumbered by men, they were very often taking the lead and making some very strong statements and opinions. It's also been rewarding to see the trainees, who at the beginning feared public speaking, grow so much in confidence and who are now very capable of presenting to the public. In January 2019 we had an event in Tunis where all of our advanced trainees presented their mini projects and it was wonderful to see how they were so capable at presenting their own work.
It was also rewarding to see our trainees, especially in Libya who were working in very difficult conditions due to the conflicts, carry out their mini projects and face every day danger and difficulties. We have also had several events with local people and it was interesting to see how much they cared about their heritage and how well they responded to our work.
Have you had any challenges along the way that you could tell us about?
The drone training, as a building recording technique, has been a challenge. It has been very difficult to import the drones into the two countries and to obtain the relevant permits to do the training. We only managed once so far to do the drone training. Importing equipment into the countries, in general, has been a challenge.
Importing equipment into the countries, in general, has been a challenge.
Do you have any future plans for your project?
We are now planning to expand the HeDAP app and the National Museum Database to Iraq and then we hope other countries across the Middle East and North Africa will begin to use it. For the recording of heritage sites, we have already started to do some work on the rescuing of buildings, from recording to conserving them. In the future, we believe that our trainees will be capable of working totally independently and lead recording units to manage their heritage.
In the future, we believe that our trainees will be capable of working totally independently and lead recording units to manage their heritage.
What advice would you give to someone looking to apply for funding?
Invest a lot of time talking to your partner institutions and design your projects in total agreement with local institutions. Make sure to continue talks with them during every phase of the project and agree on everything in advance. Ultimately, it is those people who are going to benefit the most from the programme and they know what is needed the most.
Invest a lot of time talking to your partner institutions and design your projects in total agreement with local institutions