The British Council and DCMS have announced the latest projects to be awarded protection grants through the Cultural Protection Fund. The Fund supports projects working in conflict-affected countries across the Middle East and North Africa. It seeks to protect both tangible and intangible heritage alike.
The Cultural Protection Fund can now ensure that in Egypt the heritage of the Coptic communities will be preserved. In Sudan, King’s College London will conserve and digitise a range of written and photographic material held in archives, while training local staff and volunteers with the view to building digitisation and conservation capacity in the future.
The Grant will also focus on restoring important buildings in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, and ensure historic homes in Lebanon, many of which are inhabited by refugees, are restored and conserved. Finally, the British Museum is being supported to counteract illegal trafficking in Egypt and Sudan.
Other than supporting efforts to keep cultural heritage sites and objects safe, as well as the recording, conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, the £30million fund is also used to provide opportunities to local communities for training and education purposes. This can help enable and empower them in the long term to value, care for and benefit from their cultural heritage.
For example, a Syrian stonemasonry training scheme project has been awarded £536,000 to provide a group of Syrian and Jordanian trainees with traditional stonemasonry skills. This will mean that the expertise required to repair conflict-affected heritage buildings will already be present in the country when the war is over and peace comes to Syria.
Protection and preservation are also a key focus for a scheme being funded in the Gaza Strip. Here archaeological sites have been awarded £1.75 million to rehabilitate the Saint Hilarion Monastery and a Byzantine Church in Jabaliyah.
The Saint Hilarion Monastery is one of the oldest and largest monasteries in the Middle East of which substantial remains still survive. It is also one of the few cultural heritage resources in the Gaza Strip to be regularly used by local people. The large Byzantine Church at Jabaliyah was first uncovered in 1996 and has been damaged by airstrikes and the passage of tanks across its remarkable mosaic pavements in recent years.
In Iraq, the Basrah Museum project has been awarded £530,000. This project sees the completion of three remaining galleries in the newly opened Basrah Museum.
The old Basrah Museum was looted in the 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars and was closed in 2003. The new museum is housed in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. The initial conversion was undertaken by the British Army in 2008 and the first gallery was opened to the public in September 2016, funded by the Friends of Basrah Museum.
The new museum will showcase the rich cultural heritage of Iraq, from 3000 BC to the early 20th century
The three remaining galleries will display important cultural heritage that have been in store in Baghdad since 2003, and tell the story of the most important eras in Iraq’s history.
On the intangible side of things, the fund has awarded £65,000 to protecting minority languages in Afghanistan. These minority languages will be preserved and protected through the documentation of folktales, rites of passage, music, and traditional beliefs.
For more information, please see the Cultural Protection Fund website here: https://www.britishcouncil.org/arts/culture-development/cultural-protection-fund