CHALLENGES, STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAINING IN TECHNOLOGY FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE CONSERVATION
Keywords: Technology education, training, capacity building, cultural heritage, conservation, preservation education, International Digital Divide
Abstract. Technology to document and investigate cultural heritage sites is rapidly advancing – multispectral and high dynamic range imaging, spherical high resolution photography, three-dimensional laser scanning and unmanned aerial vehicles are only a few of the new technologies available to heritage conservation professionals to record monuments, buildings, city centres and landscapes. These advanced tools are giving architects, engineers and conservation professionals’ new insights and additional information which helps to make better informed decisions.
But this technology and the knowledge about its correct use are extremely unevenly distributed across the world. The Digital Divide is present and growing in the field of cultural heritage preservation (Letellier, 2001). Many of those responsible for the management, maintenance and care of some of the world's most significant cultural heritage sites do not have access to or information about the latest technologies. They are also confronted with an overwhelming assortment of new technologies and consultants or developers that promote them and therefore must allocate their limited budgets with limited information.
What is to be done about bridging this gap? Obviously cost and accessibility are issues. However one of the most important challenges to be addressed is education. As the base knowledge of these technologies is very uneven this leads to further questions: Are there strategies or methodologies for teaching this technology? How to combine and balance different professional backgrounds from different and so unevenly distributed places around the world and provide them all with useful information to make good documentation and conservation decisions?
This paper will describe the methodology developed over the last ten years in teaching documentation technologies to diverse groups of cultural heritage professionals and students from Côte d'Ivoire, Germany, Belgium, Kosovo, Albania, Nigeria, Egypt, Japan, Iraq, Jordan, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, United States of America and around 20 other countries. These strategies deal with establishing methodologies and guiding principles for the selection of technologies, highlighting successful illustrated examples, levelling uneven educational bases and gaining access to expertise. The authors have developed these strategies and techniques to appeal, engage and succeed with such diverse groups – to encourage the participants to cooperate on a common goal and overcome specific challenges while embracing the technology and thinking critically about its appropriate application for the conservation of cultural heritage in their home countries. Other strategies include setting norms that respect the various cultures and differing levels of technology education, offering voluntary sessions for more advanced and ambitious participants, finding and then adopting natural leaders as co-instructors and offering a mix of sessions including standard lectures combined with field and laboratory exercises and distance learning. This methodology and strategies have proven to be successful as the participants have provided positive evaluations months and/or years after the courses, implemented their own courses using the materials and methods and have established a strong, sustainable network related to this topic.