UCL News


Enterprising attempt to tackle international heritage skills gap

11 May 2011

Press Release Heritage Without Borders (HWB) is a unique social enterprise which will build heritage skills in developing countries, helping to preserve important cultural objects that could otherwise be damaged or lost forever.

HeritageWithoutBorders Launching today (11th May) as a spinout from UCL and funded by an HE Social Entrepreneurship Catalyst Award from UnLtd, it will support heritage projects in situations of poverty and in the aftermath of conflict and disaster, closing the gap in heritage skills between the developed and developing world.

HWB will match teams of UK-based professional volunteers with international projects that require specific expertise and training in areas as diverse as artefact conservation, security, exhibition and public outreach. The host communities will be able to tap into valuable skills that would otherwise be too difficult - or too expensive - to obtain, while volunteers will gain life and professional skills which improve their future employment opportunities.

HWB has lined-up two initial projects for summer 2011 - one in Merv, Turkmenistan, and the second in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Merv project will help train the local community and heritage professionals in preventative conservation and carrying out basic remedial work at the archaeological site. Further details on both these projects and the associated benefits and volunteer opportunities can be found at www.heritagewithoutborders.org/volunteers/vacancies

HWB is co-directed by a team of three people with experience of working and running training programmes in the heritage sector. Sally MacDonald is the Director of Museums and Collections at UCL. Sally has worked with the British Council on several professional development training sessions for Gulf museum staff. Through UNESCO she has advised the Palestinian National Authority on museum development strategy, and played a leading role in establishing UCL's cultural heritage-based campus in Qatar. The two other co-directors are:

· Melina Smirniou, MA MSc - A conservator at the British Museum and co-founder of Conservators Without Borders; and

· Dominica D'Arcangelo, MA MSc - An archaeological conservator and co-founder of Conservators Without Borders

The genesis of HWB can be traced back to the fact that over the years Sally, Melina and Dominica became aware of many projects, particularly in the developing world, where conservation and heritage skills were needed but people could not access or afford them. Recent graduates and heritage professionals were keen to help but had no means of getting involved.

Melina and Dominica previously ran 'Conservators Without Borders' which - with the help of a small grant from UCL - ran a series of small projects in Jordan, Greece and Peru where they worked with local communities, training them in basic conservation techniques. The archaeological conservation work there provided a blueprint for how a new organisation could grow to meet the demand.

HWB will work with museums, historic buildings, collections and archaeological sites internationally. By removing the barrier of 'cost', HWB will provide access to professionals who can help to improve the levels of heritage provision.

"For several years, I have been focused on making a practical difference to people who want to find out more about conservation," says HWB Co-Director, Dominica D'Arcangelo. "The whole team is tremendously excited about the opportunity to transfer skills to people who are enthusiastic about maintaining and promoting access to their cultural heritage."

HWB launches with the help of a £3,120 grant and mentorship provided by UnLtd, a charity supporting social entrepreneurs.

Media contact: Dave Weston