In recent years the world has witnessed the devastating impacts of human conflict on the Syrian people and their treasured cultural sites, and WMF is eager to help renew community strength through ‘Building Conservation Capacity in Syria and Jordan,’ a new British-funded, Jordan-based heritage conservation training program for Syrian refugees and Jordanians. The project will also include innovative cultural education activities with public school students and teachers in order to build awareness of the value of cultural heritage to the daily lives of local communities.
World Monuments Fund has been committed to protecting and conserving heritage in conflict zones and strengthening communities around sustainable commitments to heritage for decades. WMF began work at Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia, in 1989, after the Khmer Rouge genocide decimated the local population, including those with the knowledge and skills to care for this remarkable heritage site. In the 1990s, at the end of the Balkan Wars, WMF partnered with UNESCO and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to address destruction of heritage sites, including the reconstruction of Stari Most in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. More recently, in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq, WMF launched programs in training, site management, and conservation skills at Babylon, in partnership with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. These projects helped reinforce WMF’s understanding of cultural heritage as a source of pride and identity for those displaced by war, and also as a very powerful tool for healing after conflict.
A pioneering project to provide valuable heritage conservation skills
Thanks to the generous support of the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, the project is addressing a significant need to assist displaced Syrians, many of them young and in search of a future, providing valuable skills essential to heritage conservation. Additionally, it recognizes the impact of such a large refugee population on the local Jordanian population, who share some of the same needs, and who are trained alongside the refugees. Both groups have the opportunity to attain valuable skills, develop relationships with professional colleagues, and reinforce their commitment to cultural heritage. Along with building capacity in masonry skills, which are essential to conservation programs and the larger construction trade, the program presents heritage sites as an inspiration and show connections between the history, architecture, and traditions of the region that can transcend contemporary national boundaries.
For the program's first round, World Monuments Fund and its British affiliate, World Monuments Fund Britain, worked with Petra National Trust in Jordan to create a training facility and recruit a catalyst group of qualified candidates who, once trained, would become mentors for subsequent trainees in the eighteen-month program. The project included training in stone cutting; manufacture of molds, templates, and models; repair of damaged masonry; stabilization of arches, vaults and domes; underpinning and reinforcement of foundations; hoisting and lifting of stone block; methodologies for grouting and pinning masonry surfaces; lime technologies; surveying; stone selection and quarrying; cleaning historic stone; mortar analysis; and other related masonry conservation skills.
Thanks to generous support from the British Council and in partnership with Petra National Trust, round two of the program began May 2019. Twenty of our most exemplary stonemasonry students from last year’s program will continue training and growth, including adding new modules to the course on letter carving, mortar work, and business planning. Round two of the program finished November 2019.