News / Architecture


Modern Heritage Observatory – Second Network Meeting



Following the success of the first introductory meeting where Lebanese cultural heritage actors got together to discuss their common concerns and needs, the Arab Image Foundation hosted the second Networking Meeting at its premises on the 11th of June.


As participants in the first meeting had filled an online survey detailing their strengths, perceived threats, institutional needs and expectations from the Modern Heritage Observatory, the meeting opened with a presentation of the needs assessment survey, with the AIF proposing to address the perceived opportunities in the course of the two coming year.
Building on the first meeting’s discussion as well as on the results of the survey, the meeting’s agenda focused on emergency preparedness and planning. The methodology and practice of emergency planning for archives was presented by the Fouad Debbas collection representative, Yasmine Chemali, while Giorgio Tarraf’s, of Save Beirut Heritage shared his field experience on emergency related issues. The presentations were followed by a discussion on practical approaches to create working groups of institutions committed to establish collective emergency preparedness plans and build a network that would be mobilized in cases of emergencies and/or disasters.
The final part of the meeting was an opportunity to introduce the soon-to-be launched Modern Heritage online platform. The website will be designed with the project’s goals and objectives in mind, serving as an interactive resource and advocacy hub for displaying cultural heritage under threat, publicizing urgent needs for intervention, reviewing relevant laws and regulations and centralizing regional news and resources related to cultural heritage.
A third networking meeting will be held in the fall of 2012.
Needs assessment survey, Rima Mokaiesh [Arab Image Foundation]
The first networking meeting participants filled an online survey in an attempt to assess cultural heritage actors’ common needs and the potential areas for collaboration. The survey included questions on institutions’ archives, needs, staff, strengths, opportunities and threats to their viability. According to the results the most pressing need is securing more funds, followed by “engaging with the public”. Existing threats include lack of legislation, lack of visibility, lack of funds and lack of technical knowledge. The Modern Heritage Observatory represents an opportunity for the participant institutions to work together for lobbying and pushing for new laws that would protect modern cultural heritage, in addition to forming an emergency coalition. Other potential collaborative actions according to the results of the survey included planning joint events, having collective fundraising efforts, and creating a common communication strategy that would increase visibility of cultural heritage actors. Finally, the three trainings that had the highest scores for the institutions’ “training needs” included preservation and digitization, fundraising and PR, with financial sustainability having the highest priority.
Yasmine Chemali on emergency planning [Fouad Debbas Collection]
Yasmine Chemali highlighted the importance of having an emergency plan as forward planning would avoid confusion at the very moment of disaster and save a considerable amount of time. The first step towards creating an emergency plan is “readiness”. This entails “knowing your risks” and “prioritizing” the content of the collection. Stefan Michalski’s method was discussed as a standardized protocol to measure the probabilities of the risks and the significance of their effects on the different objects within the collections. In addition it also offers a scale to prioritize the content of the collection according to value, taking into consideration that there is no definitive classification. The second step for creating the emergency plan is “response”. This step is ongoing, as it requires training of staff through discussion groups, presentations by experts, and a way to store the collection with the emergency plan in mind. Last but not least, the third step of the emergency plan is “recovery” that means restoring damaged records and facilities to their “normal” condition. This will be discussed more in details in the following meetings and workshops. The Fouad Debbas Collection manager, Yasmine Chemali’s proposal for creating an emergency coalition, involves targeting collections of the same needs, size and type of media, trainings for prioritization and risk assessment, having emergency contacts including civil protection bodies as well as suppliers for requested materials, and finally an alternative storage space.
Giorgio Tarraf on Save Beirut Heritage’s experience in emergency action
Dealing with old buildings having architectural and cultural values, Save Beirut Heritage’s work is inherently emergency-based. Working on a city scale, their tasks are seldom easy, with demolition permits being unrightfully given on a daily basis and with an unclear set of laws and policies that are constantly being overruled by people in power. Giorgio Tarraf shared nostalgic stories of Beirut told through a collection of buildings of aesthetical and cultural significance, some gone to oblivion and some triumphantly saved.
The MOHO Virtual platform presented by Maral Mikirditsian [Arab Image Foundation]
The Modern Heritage Observatory virtual platform is conceived as an interactive resource and advocacy hub for displaying cultural heritage under threat, publicizing urgent needs for intervention, reviewing relevant laws and regulations, and centralizing regional news and resources related to cultural heritage. It will function as a platform for further exchange between and with other cultural heritage organizations, and present relevant information on the heritage sector that is comprehensive and attractive for members of the public. The platform will include a homepage and eight main sections:
1. About
The About section of the platform will include the project statement of the MoHO initiative, information on the partners, funders and associates, as well as entry points to each of their websites.
2. News
This section will post news related to cultural heritage and its preservation.
3. Resources
The users will be provided here with a database of publications, articles, papers and information on workshops, courses and grants related to the preservation of modern cultural heritage.
4. Directory
The users can find out the key institutions, associations, research organizations, programs and national bodies that work for the preservation of modern cultural heritage, both in the MENA region and internationally.
5. Collections
A selection of the Modern Heritage Observatory partners and associates will be displayed in this section.
6. Share with us
This section invites users to share their suggestions for new material for the platform.
7. Press
Articles about MoHO and information for the press will be posted in this section.
8. Contact
Users will be able to contact MoHO in this section.
Several issues related to emergency planning were briefly discussed
A- Forming a Network
As building an emergency-preparedness plan is a pressing need for all institutions possessing archives, forming a network is the optimal way for them to join forces, share expertise and take action in case of emergency.
Institutions interested in taking part in this initiative will be identified by the AIF who will continue the discussion through emails. Those identified will be further categorized into working groups according to specialty, relative size of the institution, and type of media.
B- Inviting experts in emergency planning
The invitation of international and regional experts on emergency planning was suggested as a first step towards the making of the network, to acquire the skills needed to embark on such a venture.
Suggested experts
Bouclier Bleu
Director of the IFPO library
The preparation of a full-day conference was proposed where several modules on emergency preparedness can be presented by experts. A concern about ways to finance such a conference was raised, leading to the following point.
C- Forming committees within the network
In order to organize the work in the most efficient manner, it was suggested that the institutions be divided into committees each one handling a specific task (fundraising committee, speakers/experts, committee etc.). Those committees would begin working on the full-day conference on emergency preparedness but would remain formed for future collective actions.
The AIF will submit a new survey to participants with the goals to:
1. Identify individuals and institutions interested to join the emergency planning network and split them into working groups
2. Identify individuals and institutions interested to be part of the committees and propose a working plan for the achievement of the full-day conference on emergency preparedness

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