Digitisation of northern Thai manuscripts (Thailand)

Thanks to the digitisation of northern Thai manuscripts as part of the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office, valuable historical documents have been preserved and made available to the public via the internet.

 

The cultural and literary traditions of northern Thailand have made an essential contribution to the development of related cultures throughout the region. However, northern Thailand’s rich manuscript collections have remained severely under-researched due to a lack of accessibility. The database of northern Thai literature is therefore an important milestone in efforts to preserve Thailand’s cultural heritage. The texts, which span more than 500 years, address cultural and local traditions, astrology, mythology, legal interpretations, social relations and everyday life; they are not only part of the country’s cultural heritage, but also strengthen the Thai people’s cultural identity.

The Federal Foreign Office already between 1987 and 1992 supported the creation of a microfilm record of northern Thai manuscripts. This microfilm collection was later digitised with funds from the Cultural Preservation Programme. Since March 2016 it is publicly available on the internet, free of charge. In 2017, selected manuscripts from 22 temples in Lamphun, Lampang, Phayao and Chiang Rai were directly digitised, thereby completing the online collection.

The manuscripts are being digitised in northern Thailand by a photographer and a handwriting expert. Their work is supported by local volunteers and supervised by the project leader and the technical coordinator. All work is performed directly at each temple, in coordination with the local abbot. Once the digitisation is completed, each manuscript is carefully wrapped in its piece of cloth and returned to where it was originally stored.

Historic palm leaf manuscripts at Wat Pa Sak Noi Temple in Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand | © David Wharton
 

Just prior to being photographed, each manuscript is cleaned and examined. Some leaves are wiped with high-grade alcohol to make them more easily readable. The project staff and local monks involved in the project are offered training to show them how to properly clean and arrange the individual palm leaves.

A digital single-lens reflex camera is highly portable and takes high-quality photos that can be archived and viewed on the internet. The photos are later added to the Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts, along with the respective inventory data in English and Thai.

To round out the manuscript website, photos are uploaded of temples, libraries, manuscript boxes, scribes and the direct digitisation process.

 

Image: A manuscript at Wat Pa Sak Noi Temple | © 2015 David Wharton, Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office

 

 

 

 

 

Restoration of the National Museum in Cherchell (Algeria)

The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has been involved in refurbishing the National Archaeological Museum in Cherchell since 2008 using funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.

 

As the seat of the Kings of Mauritania and the provincial capital in Roman times, Cherchell was home to flourishing culture stretching into the late Antique period. This cultural heyday is reflected in the impressive buildings and lavish embellishments dotted around the city in the form of magnificent statues and colourful mosaics. The museum, a listed building which opened in the early 20th century, was given the title of National Museum by the Algerian Culture Ministry in 2009. It is well known for the high artistic quality of its collection of some 400 sculptures dating back to the Monarchy and Roman Imperial era, a collection which is unique in northern Africa.
The German Archaeological Institute has been involved in work on the museum since 2008 using funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.

The aim is to complete the museum’s permanent exhibition. Alongside work to restore mosaics and sculptures together with Algerian staff, displays for the sculptures which were damaged during earthquakes in the 1980s have now been made earthquake-proof. The project is at the same time designed to heighten the local population’s interest in the museum significantly but also to increase the number of people visiting the museum itself and the museum website.

 

The facade of the museum| © DAI, Ralf Bockmann.
 

Following a decision taken jointly with the museum, the signs in the individual rooms as well as on all the exhibits are now in both French and Arabic. Other languages are to be available using QR codes. The educational concept was drawn up giving due consideration to the interests of the local population. Alongside the classic exhibition concept, the museum is to be open to virtual visitors via the internet.

Alongside basic and further training for regional specialists in statue restoration and display, the museum’s educational concept was also enhanced. As a result, the level of competence has increased both regarding the exhibits themselves and their historical and cultural importance as part of Algeria’s culture heritage.

The project is being implemented in close cooperation between the Cherchell National Archaeological Museum, the Ministry of Culture in Algiers and the Roman Department of the German Archaeological Institute.

 

 

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Image: The refurbished Museum Gallery | © DAI, Ulla Kreilinger.

Conservation work on the temples at Bagan (Myanmar)

Thanks to the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office, the temples of Bagan, an important cultural heritage site and tourist attraction, are being preserved, both as important testimony to the culture of Myanmar and for the benefit of future generations. In August 2016, a severe earthquake damaged a number of the temples in the former royal city of Bagan. Funding provided by the Cultural Preservation Programme is enabling the reconstruction and conservation of the ancient temples.

During a preparatory trip in May 2017, the two German conservation experts Prof. Hans Leisen and Dr Esther von Plehwe Leisen, along with the German conservator restorer Andrea Teufel and in coordination with the Myanmar Department of Archaeology (DoA), determined which two temples the restoration work would focus on.
The damage has meanwhile been examined and analysed. Conservator restorers are being trained at both temples, and conservation work is underway. All measures are closely coordinated with the Department of Archaeology and carried out in cooperation with the Myanmar conservation team.

The Nanpaya sandstone temple is where stone conservation training is conducted by the Department of Archaeology, as well as where sample conservation work based on scientific research is done to protect against weather damage. In addition to preserving valuable decorations, the cultural preservation project gives DoA staff the opportunity to independently plan and properly carry out conservation work. Now that the samples taken in 2017 have been examined, and the required conservation material, tools and equipment procured, an initial on site campaign is being launched in 2018.

In addition to developing a conservation strategy, the project focuses on conducting conservation workshops with DoA staff on natural stone, documentation and investigation techniques, as well as the properties and production of conservation products.

 

Until now, no scientific strategy had been developed to ensure long‑term conservation and restoration of the murals. This project aims to do just that | © Andrea Teufel.
 

Like many other temples at Bagan, the interior walls of Narathihapatae Hpaya Temple (formerly Tayok Pye) are covered with ancient murals. Bagan is a unique cultural heritage site in terms of the concentration, number and quality of its ancient murals, which are between 400 and 900 years old. Although some have been lost, a great number have survived. Because there has been damage due to previous faulty renovation, better and more systematic conservation and restoration work is urgently needed.

To develop a scientific, long term and non damaging method for conserving the murals, samples were taken in 2017. The original materials and techniques were analysed, and different cleaning and conservation methods were tested on the samples and the results evaluated. In 2018, the conservation methods developed through these tests are being reconfirmed and further developed on site in Bagan, and sample areas are being prepared for the conservation and restoration effort. A key aim of the project is to provide basic and further training to the Myanmar staff in Bagan.

The Federal Foreign Office’s on site conservation and training programmes in Bagan promote scientific cooperation with Myanmar. By providing basic and further training to the Myanmar conservation team, the transfer of know how and sustainability is ensured.

 

Read more: The Golden Letter (Myanmar)

 

 

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office

 

 

Image: Narathihapatae Hpaya Temple (formerly Tayok Pye) is one of some 400 sacred buildings in Bagan with extant murals. © Andrea Teufel

Pergamon Resurrected! – New Exhibition on the 3D Reconstructions of an antique city (Turkey)

The exhibition “Pergamon Wiederbelebt! ” is shown from April 21 – July 15 2018 in Leipzig and presents 3D reconstructions of the ancient city of Pergamon. The official opening takes place on April 19 at 7 pm.

The focus of the exhibition in the Antikenmuseum der Universität Leipzig is on a new virtual 3D reconstruction of the antique city of Pergamon. The reconstruction was developed by the Chair of Design, Building Theory and Interior Design at the BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg in cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). The exhibition presents a modern, vivid image of antique city spaces to the visitors. At the same time, the displays invite the observer to reflect on his own urban environment. The city of Pergamon is located on the west coast of Turkey. As the center of the Hellenistic dynasty of the Attalids and as a Roman metropolis, Pergamon was one of the most prominent urban centers of the ancient world. Since 130 years archaeologists, led by the DAI, have investigated the urban structures of Pergamon as well as the necropolis and the surrounding area of the city.

Pergamon resurrected!

Different reconstructions, going back to the beginning of the excavations in Pergamon, are at display, resurrecting the ruins of the ancient city. The reconstructions help to gain a better understanding for antique architecture and its relationship to manmade living spaces and natural areas. At the beginning of the visit a film installation of the new 3D visualization of Pergamon illustrates the urban environment. A virtual tour leading to the Acropolis visualizes the urban organism of the city. The exhibition then focusses on central urban areas, where people used to live and work. The show also presents the archaeological research and scientific documents on which the reconstructions are based.

In conclusion, the exhibition aims to promote different media of visualization of ancient architecture. In addition to older drawings of single buildings, a print of the 360 ° panorama of the artist and architect Yadegar Asisi is shown. Reconstructions are not only important as a tool for visualization and as an instrument to collect further knowledge, but they also serve as a digital preservation of valuable cultural heritage.

 

When: 21. April – 15. Juli 2018, opened tuesday thursday, saturday and sunday (12-5 pm).

Where: Aula der Alten Nikolaischule, Nikolaikirchhof 2, 04109 Leipzig.

Entry fee: 3 euro, 1.50 euro (reduced)

Mare Nostrum-Project: Cultural Center in Umm al Jimal (Jordan)

Considering the massive destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East, as well as the refugee movements, the Gerda Henkel Foundation set up a “temporary funding priority for endangered and fled scientists from crisis areas” in autumn 2015. In spring of 2016, an “emergency aid program for Syria” was added. Aim of the initiatives: to give scientists the opportunity to continue their research and to initiate archaeological and historical projects in Syria and neighboring countries, involving local actors.

One of the first funding measures was the support of the “Mare Nostrum” project – a network of several independent subprojects in Jordan. The country has received a large number of Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in huge camps as well as in cities and towns. The archaeologist Prof. Dr. Thomas Maria Weber-Karyotakis (German Jordanian University, Amman) developed the project and took over the coordination. The idea behind “Mare Nostrum” was to involve Jordanian and Syrian scientists, craftsmen and workers from the Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps, Jordanian and Syrian students from the Amman universities and the local population alike.

In the northern municipality of Umm al-Jimal, a cultural center for Syrian and Jordanian children and teenager was established in close cooperation with the local women’s cooperative. The aim of the three-month courses for about 20 girls and boys was to teach the participants and their parents, cultural and historical traditions as well as the importance of the cultural heritage. The courses were given jointly by a Jordanian and a Syrian scientist in Arabic.

 

Source: Gerda Henkell Stiftung (Press release)

Image: Children and teenager of the cultural center holding their certificates (© Thomas M. Weber-Karyotakis)

Preserving architecture in the World Cultural Heritage site of Uruk (Iraq)

The German Archaeological Institute project presented here is supported by the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office. It helps to preserve architecture in Uruk, facilitates the protection of outstanding monuments and improves tourism infrastructure.

 

Parts of the highly diverse and outstanding cultural heritage in Iraq have been destroyed as a result of war and political instability. The archaeological site of Uruk is one of the most important ruined cities in Iraq in terms of cultural history.

As far as is currently known, the ancient Near Eastern city was the birthplace of major developments in the history of humankind around 4500 B.C. In 2016, Uruk and other sites in southern Iraq were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as “The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities”. The German Archaeological Institute has led excavations in Uruk since 1954 and also carries out conservation measures.

The German Archaeological Institute project presented here is supported by the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office. It helps to preserve architecture in Uruk, facilitates the protection of outstanding monuments and improves tourism infrastructure. The aim is to establish local structures to preserve archaeological sites in line with UNESCO standards and to guide the process involving the key excavation site in order to strengthen cultural identity among the population.

Young Iraqi academics and the local population are specifically included in the planning and preservation, so that they will be able to carry out the work that will repeatedly be needed to conserve archaeological architecture in the future.

Examining damage and planning conservation measures at the Gareus Temple (second century B.C.)© M. van Ess, DAI
 

The focus is on drawing up a detailed conservation plan for endangered archaeological buildings that will become increasingly important tourist destinations in the future. These buildings are made of brick, mud brick, rammed clay, chalk stone and cast stone. Some of them are in good condition and can be shown to the public.

In such cases, conservation work is particularly important as regards halting decay in parts of the building that have already been excavated. Conservation concepts adapted to the buildings’ location in the site are often needed.

In these cases, a decision must be made on whether it is better to present the original structure or to develop alternative concepts (such as a 3D presentation). Conservation projects involving archaeological monumental architecture and its subsequent preservation create apprenticeships and jobs in the cultural sector and are also a prerequisite for further planning in the tourism sector, which could develop into a significant source of revenue for the region.

This cultural preservation project fosters collaboration between German and Iraqi experts and the inclusion of young Iraqi archaeologists. It is linked to the work of the Archaeological Heritage Network (ArcHerNet) and the further training course, Iraqi-German Expert Forum on Cultural Heritage, as part of the German Archaeological Institute project, Stunde Null – A Future for the Time after the Crisis.

 

Read more:

Visualisation of White Temple in Uruk (Irak)

 

 

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

 

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office

 

 

 

 

Image: Ground salts are destroying the famous stone building dating from around 4500 B.C. at the foot of the Anu Ziggurat. The aim of the first emergency conservation measures is to make the walls more stable. © M. van Ess, DAI