Since launching in March 2011, Global Heritage Network has helped conservators monitor threats to hundreds of cultural heritage sites across the developing world.
When GHF launched Global Heritage Network (GHN) in 2011, its goal was to create not only a geospatial database using Google Earth, high-resolution satellite imagery and detailed mapping of the developing world’s most significant cultural heritage sites, but to pair it with an online community of conservators, archaeologists, local communities, government officials, donors and volunteers, whose insights and observations are critical to monitoring these sites.
Today, nearing the end of a second calendar year, the GHN Community has grown to feature 1,148 members representing nearly 100 countries. From participating in discussions focused on specific sites, themes, conservation techniques, and more, to contributing up-to-date documentation of threats and conservation efforts, this industrious community is helping to protect, preserve and sustain cultural heritage sites across the developing world.
Among the most impressive contributions to GHN in 2012 was Emma Cunliffe’s 51-page report titled “Damage to the Soul: Syria’s Cultural Heritage in Conflict.” The report, which documented the war-related destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage sites, became a popular source for media outlets reporting on the conflict, including the Wall Street Journal and National Geographic. Last month, Cunliffe, a PhD candidate at the UK’s Durham University, wrote a second report for GHN, in which she updated the status of Syria’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Reports like Cunliffe’s have increased GHN’s profile as a growing online multimedia platform, as has its reputation among conservators as a necessary tool for facilitating collaboration. In June, the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) featured GHN in its newsletter and added an in-depth GHN page to its website with descriptions and links to the network’s Sites, Community and Library sections.
As of September, GHN had added 179 new high resolution satellite images from DigitalGlobe, bringing the total to 444, covering 285 sites, with a goal of having high resolution multi-date imagery for all 650+ sites in the GHN database by the end of 2013. Profiles for these sites are created by Site Coordinators who are responsible for compiling and posting all relevant documentation, including conservation reports, management plans and maps, along with an overview of the site, its history, threats, photographs and videos.
The GHN Library features more than 800 documents related to heritage site management and conservation, as well as 800-plus news articles and other documents in support of the Saving Our Vanishing Heritage study prepared by GHF in 2010. Members can also submit documents to be added to the GHN Library, including dissertations and theses which otherwise might be largely inaccessible to the majority of heritage professionals.
“Already, Global Heritage Network has proven itself a critical tool for conservators around the world,” said Jeff Morgan, GHF’s Executive Director. “In less than two years, we’ve seen more than a thousand conservation experts join our community to monitor threats, discuss solutions, and collaborate to conserve the developing world’s vanishing heritage. Just as we’ve seen the potential of cultural heritage sites to stimulate local economic growth and improve lives, we’re seeing the power of GHN to help facilitate these positive changes.”