Dialogues with the Past: Documenting Heritage in the UAE (Workshop – by invitation only)

October 4-5, 2016

NYUAD Conference Centre, NYUAD campus, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Convened by:
Robert Parthesius Director of CIE, Centre for International Heritage Activities; Visiting Professor of Heritage and Museum Studies, NYUAD

Hosted by:
NYU Abu Dhabi Institute

Heritage and national identity are closely connected. In order to appreciate the process of heritage production we have to understand how the past is documented and used. The focus of this workshop is the UAE, a country which has gone through 45 years of rapid development while still very much engaged in connecting its past to its present and future.

This workshop explores how the UAE’s heritage has been documented so far and puts into conversation new avenues for the path forward. Academics, heritage managers, architects, curators, archaeologists, and artists working in the UAE are invited to come together to discuss their roles in heritage recording and preservation and how each practitioner’s work informs the work of others. Public awareness and support are key elements for the preservation and protection of heritage. Therefore, this workshop will also explore the ways the cultural heritage of the UAE is presented.

Speakers and participants include those working on the documentation and preservation of tangible heritage, such as archaeological sites, historic buildings and collections, and intangible heritage, such as traditions, practices and memory. This workshop will discuss both established documentation systems and the role of new high tech methods, such as 3D scanning, drones, visualization techniques and new interactive media to see how best to preserve and present heritage for scholarly and wider audiences.

Day One

The first day of the workshop will be dedicated to understanding the practices of documenting heritage in the UAE. Though separated thematically into four sessions, these themes are united in respect to how intangible and tangible heritage are viewed as interlinked. Furthermore, one session will focus primarily on the question of how technologies are able to bridge this link and provide new and interesting ways of engaging the audience. Keynote speakers will open the sessions, after which different presenters will discuss heritage preservation in their specialization. The first day will conclude with a round table discussion.

9.00-9.30 AM – Registration

9.30-10.00 AM – Opening Address

10.00-11.30 AM – Panel 1. Uses of Tangible Heritage Recording and Preservation in the UAE (Moderator: Tim Power, Zayed University)

In this session we look at the development of heritage documentation and presentation in archaeology to date, taking into account the UAE’s strong grounding in both the heritage of the sea and the desert. Using examples of past and current projects the panel explores the practices in the UAE (and Gulf Region at large). The panel will address the complexity of regional specific heritage management issues such as heritage sites and their living roles in education, tourism and national identity, and the role of the international community in developing documentation systems

Mark Beech (TCA Abu Dhabi – Historic Environment Department) – New techniques for the documentation of Palaeontological sites in Abu Dhabi

Rashad Bukhash (Director of Architectural Heritage Department, Dubai Municipality) –Documentation of the Saruq al Hadid archaeological site

Ahmed Hilal (National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah) – Documenting the coastal town of Jazirat Al Hamra, Ras Al-Khaimah

Aqeel Aqeel (TCA Abu Dhabi – Historic building conservator) – Documentation of historic buildings and sites in Abu Dhabi

11.30-11.45 AM – Break and Refreshments

11.45AM-1.15PM – Panel 2. Uses of Intangible Heritage Recording and Preservation in UAE (Moderator: Nathalie Peutz, NYUAD)

A great deal of what comprises the heritage that is lived and experienced from day to day in the UAE is contained within the traditions and oral histories of its people. Dependent on the intimate and sometimes fragile process of transmission between one generation and the next, the documentation of intangible heritage requires a certain level of urgency as well as sensitivity and personal respect to preserve its value and continuity.  In this session we investigate what constitutes intangible heritage and what does not?  How is it best preserved and how is it shared with the community.  How has intangible heritage been preserved to date in the UAE, and how has it been of value in terms of locating, preserving, and orienting the heritage process in the UAE and the region as a whole?

Aisha Bilkhair Abdulla (National Archive, Abu Dhabi) – Oral history of the UAE and the National Archives

Jane Bristol-Rhys – OR James Redman (Zayed University) – Bedouin life and Majlis Culture

Ismail Al Fihail (TCA Abu Dhabi – Intangible Heritage Department) – Documenting and inscribing UAE Heritage onto the UNESCO List of Intangible World Heritage

Alia Yunis & Student (Zayed University, Abu Dhabi) – Film as a Chronicler of the Past and the Future Past

1.15-2.00 PM – Lunch

2.00-3.30 PM – PANEL 3: Recovering the Past in the Future (Moderator: Mark Beech, TCA Abu Dhabi)

This session will look at where new technologies and ideas can lead us in both tangible and intangible heritage. This panel will help to build arguments for the round table discussion on how the future of new frameworks, new media and technologies will affect understandings of the past

Amel Chabbi (TCA Abu Dhabi – Historic Environment Department) – Mobile documentation system for recording the Modern Heritage of Abu Dhabi

Robert Parthesius & Dhakira (NYUAD) – Inter disciplinary legacy research sites NYUAD in UAE

Michele Bambling (Sheikha Salama Foundation, Abu Dhabi) – Lest We Forget and new future projects

3.30-4.00 PM – Break and Refreshments

4.00-5.00 PM – PANEL 4. Round Table Discussion: the way forward (Moderator: Rashad Bukash (Dubai Municipality)

The panelists will all give a short introduction to highlight aspects/arguments for the discussion about the way forward reflecting on discussions and presentations from the previous sessions.  

The UAE’s special capacities and resources provide it with a unique opportunity to strengthen its position as an influential beacon of cultural heritage management practices. In this session we explore whether it is possible to develop a regional and local tradition of heritage management within the context of a globalizing world?  How does the UAE compare in the management of its heritage (regionally and globally) and how does it move ahead.  What have been the UAE’s strengths and weaknesses in heritage management?

Zaki Aslan (ICCROM-ATHAR, Sharjah)
Mark Beech (TCA Abu Dhabi – Historic Environment Department)
Peter Hellyer (National Media Council)
Sabah Jasim (or Eissa Yusuf) (Directorate of Antiquities, Sharjah)
Robert Parthesius (NYUAD)

7.00 PM – Dinner

Day Two  (Case Study: Saadiyat Island)

8.00-8.30 AM – Registration

8.30-9.15 AM – Introduction Case Study – Strategies for recording, preservation and presentation of the heritage sites on Saadiyat Island

Mark Beech (TCA Abu Dhabi) – Previous surveys of the cultural heritage sites of Saadiyat Island
Tim Power (Zayed University) – The Saadiyat Oral History Project
Dhakira Heritage Lab group (NYUAD) – Explaining the fieldwork and case study

9.30-12.30 PM – Field Trip

1.00-2.00 PM – Lunch

2.00-3.30 PM – Discussing the Fieldwork results

3.30-3.45 PM – Break and Refreshments

4.00-6.00 PM – Excursion to Warehouse 421

6.30 PM – Dinner