Summit Outcomes

A. Principles of Collaboration for Syrian Cultural Heritage Projects

Representatives of the organizations attending the conference unanimously agreed to abide by this set of principles:

  1. We have undertaken our respective projects because we care deeply for the people of Syria. We work with Syrians to protect and preserve their cultural heritage, which is the shared heritage of all humankind. For the purposes of this set of principles, we are concerned with tangible and intangible cultural heritage defined in broad terms—including, but not limited to, museums, sites, urban heritage, landscapes, artifacts, music, art, language, religious practices, collections, libraries, archives, ethnographic materials, and historic structures and monuments.
  2. We are committed to active dialogue that will lead to a series of collaborative initiatives, as appropriate within the mission of each organization, so that all of our projects can better achieve their common goals in order to maximize our collective effort.
  3. We agree to share explanations of our projects (e.g., goals, objectives, descriptions of metadata or datasets, experts, advice, timelines, action priorities, and other information as appropriate), with the aim of fostering better coordination of efforts and better division of labor, as appropriate to the goals and mission of each project and organization.
  4. We agree to be vigilant and proactive in our work by exploring practical activities that will facilitate sharing and maximizing impact. To facilitate sharing and discussion, we agree to explore a variety of practical approaches. These may include (but are not limited to) the following: memoranda of understanding (MoUs); secure websites to share ideas and updates; shared digital platforms and the use of common data standards; a secure list-serve covering topics of importance to our experts; calendars of events and symposia on related topics, and fundraising for collaborative projects.
  5. To facilitate the above, we will meet for regular communication updates. Such meetings may be by periodic conference calls, virtual meetings online, or (as funding allows) in-person meetings. Because this is truly a crisis, we will agree upon target dates for furthering the objectives articulated above and for sharing our progress publicly, as appropriate to the mission and goals of each project and organization.

Both the AIA and ASOR will work with the groups to facilitate their collaborative efforts.

B. Breakout Group Discussion Summary

1. As a practical step toward collaboration, groups suggested the establishment of a secure web site with:

  • Contact information for participants
  • Project grid (includes project descriptions; type—geospatial, capacity-building, etc.; goals; base of operations). The grid will help to identify areas where projects overlap.
  • Database of all projects working in this area (not just those represented at the Summit)
  • Database of rules and regulations controlling data sharing
  • Forum for exchange of ideas
  • Calendar of opportunities to meet and promote projects

The conference co-organizers will seek support for this secure, web-based interface, which will launch early in 2016.

2. Participants also agreed to look actively for such collaborative opportunities as:

  • Sharing data, as safe and appropriate
  • Viewing and vetting others’ data
  • Using the same data management platform and the same standards for data collection
  • Sharing best practices
  • Sharing experts
  • Providing training in data standards
  • Helping the people of Syria and other conflict zones who work on the ground
  • Developing models that protect cultural heritage in any conflict zones.

3. Groups recognized the need to prioritize. These were some key questions that arose:

  • How can project data help law enforcement to stop trafficking in illicit antiquities?
  • How can our projects help the people in Syria and other conflict zones who are working on the ground?
  • What areas are most at risk for attack and destruction? How can our projects help to protect these areas?

The web interface described in 1 above, and the Cooperation Mini-grants described in C below will help to facilitate such collaborative efforts.

4. Finally, groups agreed that it was important to let others in the world know about their work. Some ideas for this included:

  • Conference presentations and workshops
  • Articles
  • Promote on web sites and social media
  • Dispatches section in ARCHAEOLOGY magazine (AIA)

C. Cooperation Grants

There is a pool of $40,000 available for mini-grants to enable collaborating groups to meet and plan ($25,000 from an anonymous donor and $15,000 from NGS). The Summit organizers have developed a request for proposals for these grants, which will be released early in 2016. The organizers will also seek additional funds for Cooperation Grants.

Top Image Original Photograph: Umm Hartaine - Church of St John the Baptist (Maarat an-Numan Museum)
Credit: Sean Leatherbury/Manar al-Athar