UTSA architecture faculty help rebuild Iraq’s cultural heritage

By Jesus Chavez
Public Affairs Specialist

(January 10, 2014) -- For several years, Iraqi and Kurdish conservationists have struggled to protect Iraq's more than 10,000 cultural heritage sites amidst the turmoil of armed conflicts in the region. Bombardments, theft and damage from military occupations have harmed many of the region's cultural sites.

Over the last year, the Center for Cultural Sustainability (CCS) in the UTSA College of Architecture and other organizations have worked with the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to train Iraq's historic conservationists.

Pictured at right: World Monuments Fund conservation site in Iraq

Recently, the first class of conservationists graduated from WMF's Heritage Management Training Program in a private ceremony at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, Iraq.

San Antonio Conservation Society Endowed UTSA Professor and CCS Director William Dupont, FAIA, and UTSA architecture professor and CCS researcher Angela Lombardi were among the instructors invited to participate in the program, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Between the two of them, they provided five weeks of intensive training in three visits.

"We were honored to offer our expertise to the highly motivated professionals in our classes during our time in Iraq," said Dupont. "I'm happy to report the value of cultural heritage conservation is universally acknowledged."

The training covered many heritage management topics including historic preservation techniques, the value of a World Heritage Site nomination, and guidelines from the International Council on Monuments and Sites. The classes frequently visited and studied surrounding sites, conducted preservation exercises, and attended seminars and workshops.

The success of the course led WMF to offer a similar training in Erbil later this year with UTSA and other organizations.

Since 2007, WMF has worked extensively to support the preservation of cultural preservation in Iraq, particularly in Babylon.

"We are delighted at the success of this program," said Lisa Ackerman, executive vice president of WMF. "Training a new generation of heritage specialists in Iraq will increase the capacity for proper management of historic sites in the country. We look forward to the 2014 program."

The UTSA Center for Cultural Sustainability explores the continuity of the cultural systems of human existence. For more information, visit the UTSA College of Architecture website.

Related Feature: From the Missions to the Mideast: UTSA professors teaching historical preservation in Kurdistan

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World Monuments Fund in Iraq
The World Monuments Fund has worked in Iraq since 2007. With support from the U.S. State Department's Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, and in collaboration with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, WMF is nearing completion of a site management and conservation plan for Babylon, one of the world's most important archaeological sites.

In 2013, as a continuation of its commitment to working in Iraq, WMF developed the archaeological site management and historic preservation program to engage U.S. university faculty with local Iraqi and Kurdish professionals, and to frame their work and knowledge within an Iraqi preservation context.

World Monuments Fund
The World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization devoted to saving the world's most treasured places. For nearly 50 years, working in 100 countries, its highly skilled experts have applied proven and effective techniques to preserve important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the globe.

Through partnerships with local communities, funders and governments, WMF inspires an enduring commitment to stewardship for future generations. Headquartered in New York, WMF has offices and affiliates worldwide. Connect online with WMF on Twitter and Facebook.