New Projects Mellon and GHS 2018

New Projects in Cooperation with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Gerda Henkel Foundation

The Interactive Heritage Map of Syria

In 2018 and 2019 the Mellon Foundation will support the Museum of Islamic Art (National Museums in Berlin/SMB-SPK) with a participative project for the archiving and communication of Syrian cultural heritage: the Interactive Heritage Map of Syria.

Innovative and participative approaches are consistently pursued: two scientists and two bloggers are setting up an Interactive Heritage Map of Syria. Personal recollections and experiences of Syrian inhabitants and local traditional knowledge – also on immaterial heritage – are linked with the material heritage displayed in the database. With that a direct connection between the user community and the archived material is established.

This project is based on the Syrian Heritage Archive Project, in the course of which Syrian and German experts (in cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and funded by the German Foreign Office) have compiled more than 300,000 digital files in a digital archive and transferred the location-based data into a Geographical Information System (GIS).

Cultural heritage is relevant for everyone and not restricted to specialists only, and so here Syrian people are writing their own history in a “community archive”, while at the same time they acquire knowledge about their own cultural history. Accordingly, one of the two bloggers who collect and communicate these reports is a guide in the project Multaka: Museum as Meeting Point – Refugees as Guides in Berlin Museums.

Multaka’s participative approach is the linking factor between the Interactive Heritage Map and the following projects concerning Aleppo. The successful practical experience from four museums in Berlin, gathered in the Multaka project, is transferred to preservational issues.


Participative Project Focusing on Aleppo

Since mid-2017, the Gerda Henkel Foundation has supported the sub-project on Aleppo, in which the destruction there is documented in detail. This is achieved by extending the previous database of the Syrian Heritage Archive Project at the Museum of Islamic Art. Furthermore, an online catalogue is provided to portray some of the important public buildings and their art-historical and historical aspects. In addition, short films are created in which inhabitants of Aleppo have the opportunity to tell their personal memories associated with these buildings.

Cultural heritage is thus not an abstract concept conceived by a few experts. All Syrians with different backgrounds are invited to express themselves and decide for themselves how they wish to define their connection to these monuments and sites and which memories are important to them.

In both of the projects presented people from Syria tell their own stories, which are then related to the material and immaterial heritage on the basis of scientific knowledge.


Relevant to it: Press release (german) by the Museum of Islamic Art