DAMAGE ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING OF CULTURAL HERITAGE PLACES IN A DISASTER AND POST-DISASTER EVENT – A CASE STUDY OF SYRIA
Keywords: Emergency Recording, Heritage Database and Inventory, Damage and Condition Assessment, Risk Preparedness, Syria, Cultural Heritage and Disaster
Abstract. In recent decades, and in response to an increased focus on disastrous events ranging from armed conflict to natural events that impact cultural heritage, there is a need for methodologies and approaches to better manage the effects of disaster on cultural heritage. This paper presents the approaches used in the development of a Historic Environment Record (HER) for Syria. It describes the requirements and methodologies used for systematic emergency recording and assessment of cultural heritage. It also presents the type of information needed to record in the aftermath of disaster to assess the scale of damage and destruction. Started as a project at Durham University, the database is now being developed as part of the EAMENA (Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa) project. The core dataset incorporates information and data from archaeological surveys undertaken in Syria by research projects in recent decades and began life as a development of the Shirīn initiative1.
The focus of this project is to provide a tool not only for the recording and inventory of sites and monuments, but also to record damage and threats, their causes, and assess their magnitude. It will also record and measure the significance in order to be able to prioritize emergency and preservation responses. The database aims to set procedures for carrying out systematic rapid condition assessment (to record damage) and risk assessment (to record threat and level of risk) of heritage places, on the basis of both on the ground and remote assessment. Given the large number of heritage properties damaged by conflict, the implementation of rapid assessment methods to quickly identify and record level of damage and condition is essential, as it will provide the evidence to support effective prioritization of efforts and resources, and decisions on the appropriate levels of intervention and methods of treatment. The predefined data entry categories, use of a data standard, and systematic methods of assessment will ensure that different users choose from the same prefixed data entry and measurement inputs in order to allow for consistent and comparable assessments across different sites and regions. Given the general lack of appropriate emergency response and assessment databases, this system could also be applied in other locations facing similar threats and damage from conflict or natural disasters.