Joint project of Berlin’s Museum für Islamische Kunst and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut:
Syrian Heritage Archive Project
The quantity and quality of Syria’s historical monuments make this region one of the most impressive cultural landscapes worldwide. Many basic features of modern societies, such as agriculture and urbanisation, can be traced back to early developments in this region. With archaeological and historical monuments spanning all eras, from the beginning of human activity about one million years ago to the Ottoman period, Syria’s archive of culture is one of the most important in the world.
Recent developments in Syria pose a great threat to this unique cultural heritage, a large part of which has not yet even been fully documented. The destruction of the old cities and widespread plundering of significant archaeological sites illustrate the dynamic of a process which may result in the most important testaments to Syria’s past being irretrievably lost.
Even though this problem is not the focus of daily media coverage, it is an important aspect of the current situation in Syria, however, at present, one that can only be monitored from afar. To enable further research on Syrian monuments, it is crucial to first systematically archive and evaluate existing documentation on the different categories of archaeological contexts and finds.
Thanks to extensive research projects conducted over the past decades by foreign missions in conjunction with the Syrian General Directorate for Antiquities and Museums, there are numerous records available for many of the important archaeological and historical sites in Syria. Much of this research, however, is only available in analogue form as digital records only really began to be kept on a large scale in archaeology and building research towards the end of the 1990s. The complete digitisation of older archives is therefore essential to ensure that the data can be used in the future and meaningfully integrated in larger database projects to provide a basis for the subsequent evaluation of data on the current status of Syria’s cultural heritage.
The Museum für Islamische Kunst Berlin and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut thus decided to launch a joint project in November 2013 with the aim of digitising their extensive data archives, compiled over many years of working in Syria. A further goal of the initiative is to create an international network with similar projects focussing on the long-term documentation of Syria’s cultural assets.
The project ‘Erstellung digitaler Kulturgüterregister für Syrien/Syrian Heritage Archive Project’ is being generously funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany with the active support of the Friends of the Museum für Islamische Kunst.
The Museum für Islamische Kunst presents its unique objects at the Pergamonmuseum on the Museumsinsel Berlin.
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