Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Partnering to Preserve the Past

Jambally Mohammed surveying by using GIS technology

I received an Alumni Professional Development Grant in 2015 to conduct a collaborative project to prepare Akre Citadel, an ancient fortress in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact that the site is a national Iraqi landmark, and yet has never been officially documented, inspired my team to conduct this research. This collaborative project was facilitated by frequent on-site visits to the citadel, participation in the Heritage and Technology Conference in Capri, Italy, and also by continuous close cooperation with the Center for Cultural Sustainability at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

In order to ready the Akre site for inclusion as a World Heritage Site, my team and I used Geographical Information System (GIS) standards for mapping, documenting, analyzing, and modeling it. As part of our research, the citadel’s historic and visual data was collected, an image-based list of historical attributes was generated and 2D models were created. Importantly, the on-site research followed international standards for creating inventories of architectural heritage sites.
The second aspect of our collaboration was writing and then presenting a paper on our restoration efforts at the “Heritage and Technology: Mind, Knowledge, and Experience Conference” in Capri, Italy from 11-13 June, 2015. The conference proved to be an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with international academics in the fields of GIS and archaeology, and also to meet with our mentor, UTSA faculty member Dr. Angela Lombardi, who was also in attendance.  Finally, as Italy is a country known for its expertise in preserving world heritage sites, my team took the opportunity to visit several historic areas in Rome in order to learn different restoration and management techniques.
Akre Citadel site in late afternoon
We were proud to conduct this entire research project in partnership with University of Texas at San Antonio. We worked closely with Dr. Lombardi, who is an internationally-recognized scholar in the field of architectural preservation. Her guidance and mentoring greatly contributed to the project’s success.  Furthermore, my study of GIS and community planning as a Fulbright student prepared me to conduct this research project. In fact, I largely depended on the skills that I learned through my master’s program in GIS and Community Studies at Texas Tech University. Moving forward, my team and I are planning to take the next steps toward applying for world heritage status, which include categorizing the site based on the International Standard for Documentation and Assessment, and also creating a standard coding system for the site’s attributes. 
Jambally graduated from Texas Tech University in 2011 with an M.A. in GIS and Community Studies. In the future, he plans to use the skills he learned from the Akre Citadel project to preserve other neglected historical sites in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.



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