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From the Nile to the Potomac: International Cooperations Continue in Documenting Cultural Heritage

September 12, 2018

During the week of September 10, 2018, seven Egyptian archaeological experts—including museum curators, archeologists, and archivists—traveled to Washington D.C. through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) under the theme “Documenting Cultural Heritage.” The Antiquities Coalition and its initiative with the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), the Digital Library of the Middle East (DLME), were pleased to host the delegates and have an engaging conversation on our ongoing efforts to implement practical solutions to document and preserve Egypt’s rich cultural patrimony. They were joined by the SmartWater Foundation, a not-for-profit company focused on utilizing cutting-edge forensic technologies to protect the World’s cultural heritage, that is at risk of being stolen.

The delegates were very engaged with information on DLME and in particular, the use of 3D imagery. The experts agreed that there is a growing need for more detailed archiving of collections as well as a need for a centralized location of provenance information. The DLME is setting a high bar for record keeping and is a natural partner for institutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The DLME aims to create an internationally shared digital inventory of cultural artifacts, to include detailed and culturally nuanced descriptions, and confirm objects’ appearance and provenance. Records from the DLME would be made publicly available to encourage scholarly discoveries and a greater appreciation of the region’s rich heritage and living peoples while helping to safeguard fundamentally important expressions of our cultural commonwealth and shared humanity. Learn more about the DLME here.

The delegates then learned about SmartWater, an odorless, colorless liquid that when applied to an object is invisible to the naked eye but can be detected under UV light. After hearing about the successes that SmartWater has had with protecting objects in Syria, the delegates were eager to take the information on this new technology to their home institutions.

As a part of its mission, the Antiquities Coalition encourages international cooperation and the implementation of innovative and practical solutions. Convening archaeological experts with those from the world of technology and forensics has, once again, made for a productive meeting and created new potential partnerships for cultural heritage protection.

About the IVLP

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States. You can learn more about the IVLP program here.