ICCROM-Sharjah hosts “Protecting the Past 2018″ conference in the United Arab Emirates

 Under the patronage and with the presence of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, “Protecting the Past 2018″ conference, entitled “From Digital Documentation to Heritage Management in the Middle East and North Africa” was opened in the premises of ICCROM’s Regional Centre of in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

The conference, which was held during the period from 4-6 December 2018, was jointly organised by ICCROM-Sharjah Regional Conservation Centre, the Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project, Art Jameel and the Global Heritage Fund (GHF), with the additional support of Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Barakat Trust and Bonzai Agency. The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of these entities and the Director General of ICCROM, Dr. Webber Ndoro.


The patron of the conference, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, delivered a special speech at the end of the opening ceremony, in which he welcomed the participants and the audience. He expressed his pleasure to host in Sharjah this conference and this group of experts and specialists in the field of cultural heritage conservation in the world.

Protecting the Past 2018 in Sharjah focused on how digital documentation is becoming embedded in the heritage management practices of the MENA region. It addressed 5 main themes, including: digital documentation as a preparedness and preventive tool; digital documentation and post-disaster heritage recovery; new documentation technology; capacity building in the region; and finally donor perspective. Over three days, presentations and round tables have seen the participation of over 50 international and regional speakers.

On the second day, the conference witnessed a special session that brought together representatives of several international funding institutions, in which participants addressed donor priorities particularly in funding cultural heritage documentation projects in the MENA region. The session included several presentations delivered by Maja Kominko (Arcadia), Amy Eastwood (British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund), France Desmarais (ALIPH Fund) and Richard Cuttler (Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi).

In the final day of the conference, a roundtable session was devoted to discuss the most urgent topics and trends during the next phase, which were discussed during the conference in light of the five main themes highlighted by the organizers. Several representatives from a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa region attended the session.

In the context of current threats facing the cultural heritage in the Middle East and North Africa, participants discussed the difficulty of developing cultural heritage sites, especially in areas of conflict; the luck of follow-up and supervision; risks mismanagement; theft of monuments, especially during periods of conflict; and the tremendous destruction that has been summarized in many of the presentations and lectures that were presented during the conference”. Also, they discussed the importance of documentation in light of the serious threats mentioned previously, especially at the current stage, which witnesses the loss and theft of many cultural heritage treasures within the Middle East and North Africa.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to meeting a broad range of experts and professionals, representing a number of donors, educational institutions, international organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations, private sector and individuals, that are involved in the issues of heritage and digital heritage documentation with the aim to share experiences, research, knowledge and in-depth details about projects in the Middle East and North Africa.

During the closing of the conference, Dr. Aslan outlined the strategies that ICCROM-Sharjah will continue to work in with all regional and international partners as follow: to address the threats facing the cultural heritage in the region; to enhance the integration of cultural heritage with social and economic development; and finally to implement activities in the field of training and education.