Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Helping to conserve Albania's cultural heritage

Heritage Without Borders (HWB), a newly established social enterprise founded at UCL (University College London) adopts an innovative approach to capacity building where communities require help and support to conserve their cultural heritage.

Following the success of HWB’s recent international projects in Turkmenistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina it has now been awarded £25,000 by the Headley Trust to run a conservation summer school in Albania.

HWB matches museum and conservation professionals with people who need help to conserve, interpret and use their heritage. Through HWB communities in countries lacking heritage resources can tap into specialist skills and practical training that would otherwise be impossible to obtain due to financial and geographical constraints. Meanwhile, qualified volunteers from the UK engage in an active collaboration with their hosts which leads to an exciting exchange of ideas. This experience gives HWB volunteers an experience that radically changes their outlook and transforms their future employment opportunities.

Sarajevo summer school

In September 2011, HWB ran a conservation summer school at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. There were 26 attendees from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Serbia, including students from the local Institute of Archaeology. The course was run by three skilled HWB volunteers, including a professional conservator (Dominica D’Arcangelo) and two conservation students from the UCL Institute of Archaeology (Nicola Harrison and Carmen Vida).

The week long course in Sarajevo gave participants the opportunity to learn about how preventive conservation is relevant to their daily work and provided practical solutions to their issues around collections care with funding and space shortages. Participants said they valued the experience of being able to meet and talk with other colleagues facing similar challenges. Likewise, HWB volunteers expressed how much they learned through their first-hand interaction with other museum professionals and university students from the participating countries.

Funding from the Headley Trust

The Headley Trust was so impressed with the success of the project in Sarajevo that they have agreed to give Heritage Without Borders funding to carry out a further summer school in Albania in 2012. This support will allow HWB to pay for accommodation, travel and subsistence for all local participants as well as for the HWB volunteer team. In addition, it is planned that additional follow-up projects will be run in regional museums. Long-term mentoring and support will also be provided through the programme.

‘Heritage Without Borders operates a unique model where collaborative problem solving, communication and cooperation provides the key to long-term sustainable solutions,” said Dominica D’Arcangelo, HWB Co-Director. “In Sarajevo we learned first-hand how building a professional network extends benefits beyond the immediate group of project participants. It has also become apparent in HWB’s first projects that students and heritage professionals who are early in their careers value the opportunity HWB gives them to build their confidence and skills.”

Comments from summer school participants in Sarajevo Included:

“On the first day I saw how this can help me in my work… The most fun thing during this school was packing [museum objects] and using some things that I didn’t know could be used…I will also try to organise collective education for my colleagues and I hope that my knowledge that I learned here can pass to my friends and colleagues from my museum…” Stevan Salatic, regional museum in Trebijne

“It is nice now that we [participants from the course] are close. We can collaborate more – we can exchange ideas and help each other.” Tatjana Mijatovic, National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Past Horizons. 2012. "Helping to conserve Albania's cultural heritage". Past Horizons. Posted: February 4, 2012. Available online: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/02/2012/helping-to-conserve-albanias-cultural-heritage

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