Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Youths Learn To Preserve Cultural Heritage

From the Jerusalem Post:

Alongside their photographs of the standard red rock scenery, the youngsters are also busy snapping close-ups of antique stones eroded by a mix of ecological elements, plant growth, air pollution, human hands and numerous other factors over thousands of years.

“It’s important that we see these places with our own eyes and take photos before it’s too late,” comments 17- year-old Lorna Cassar, who says she is most impressed with the intricate hand carvings on the outside of the instantly recognizable Petra treasury. “All these sites will eventually vanish because they are all under threat either from humans or biological factors; we must do our best to preserve them.”

While Cassar and the other nine Maltese students are only at the start of their journey to understanding how to preserve, conserve and protect such sites for future generations to enjoy, this growing appreciation for cultural heritage is exactly the premise of ELAICH (Educational Linkage Approach in Cultural Heritage), a regional project focused on the Mediterranean basin and funded primarily by the European Union’s Euromed Heritage 4 Program. The project’s central goal is to instill in young people an awareness of the importance of cultural heritage preservation.

“We do not expect them to become professionals in the fields of preservation, conservation, archeology or architecture, but we hope this course will give them basic theoretical knowledge so they can understand and appreciate what exactly cultural heritage is,” explains Dr. Anna Lobovikov-Katz, a senior lecturer and researcher in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and the brain behind ELAICH.

Lobovikov-Katz, who now coordinates the far-reaching, multifaceted project, has pulled together some of the region’s most renowned conservationists, archeologists, historical architects and other experts to share their detailed knowledge with young people from Israel, Turkey and Greece, as well as Malta and Jordan.

She notes that while the knowledge and tools used to preserve cultural heritage have greatly improved in recent years, public awareness of the importance of historical sites is still very low.

In a region rich with historic monuments that shed light on the secrets of past civilizations, failure to address this ignorance, especially in the next generation, could lead to cultural heritage sites disappearing along with the communities that originally built them.

“History is very fragile,” observes Roberta De Angelis, a trained conservationist based at the University of Malta, who worked with the Maltese students earlier this year to study a local parish church in Valletta as part of the ELAICH course there.

“As conservationists, we are very frustrated,” she says, as we make our way through the shaded gorge that leads visitors to and from Petra’s ruins. “People do not understand that we need to preserve these sites for future generations, and they think that because they cannot always see the erosion, there is nothing to worry about.”

The full story is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer



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