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"The Safeguard of the Nile Valley Monuments, as seen through ICCROM's Archives": an ICCROM CD-ROM Exhibit

Background

Construction of the monuments of the Egyptian Empire along the Nile Valley was spread over more than three millennia, until the introduction of Christianity in the fourth century AD.

As a result of this very long development, the many dynasties which they record and celebrate, and the evolving religious thinking expressed in their sculptural and pictorial decorations, these monuments are a unique ensemble which has, since the period of the Enlightenment, fascinated scholars worldwide.

In addition to extensive archaeological studies, great attention has been paid to the conservation problems of this unique heritage.

The project launched by the government of Egypt in the 1950s to build the Aswan High Dam raised the problem of conserving at least the most important of the many monuments and sites that would be covered by the reservoir.

This exceptional situation called for a combined effort to find technical solutions and economic support to rescue the endangered monuments, and one major result was UNESCO's launch of the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia, in which many countries eagerly participated.

ICCROM and the campaign

From the very beginning, ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) worked very closely with UNESCO, providing expertise, advice and technical support, especially concerning the conservation of stone and mural paintings.

Dr Harold J. Plenderleith, ICCROM's first director, was for at least two decades among the main actors in this cooperation effort, both while Director of ICCROM and later as Director Emeritus. ICCROM's technical staff and experts from collaborating institutions participated in several projects under his coordination.

ICCROM's archives are therefore rich in material, both published and unpublished: technical reports, photographs, radio interviews, results of scientific investigations, letters and even hand-written exchanges of opinions among experts.

These documents, thanks to the importance of the topics covered and of their authors, can be considered now as a precious source of information for the history of conservation in general and the conservation of the remains of the ancient Egyptian civilization in particular.

Where necessary, documents have been obtained from other institutions in order to fill gaps in ICCROM's archives on specific topics. Relevant published papers have also been included to show the general development of initiatives and activities for safeguarding the Nile Valley monuments.

Treatment of the documents

Most of the written texts were scanned electronically for acquisition in the CD-ROM. Where the originals were of poor quality (hand-written letters, old photocopies, etc.), they were faithfully transcribed. During this process, typing mistakes and minor grammatical errors were corrected in order to improve readability, but nothing of substance has been changed.

For some technical reports, the cover and the initial pages, with titles and authors' names, have been condensed in just one page, to avoid empty spaces on the video screen. As a result, the page numbering in the CD-ROM does not always correspond to that of the original document. Given the enormous volume of material, in some cases only the summary or table of contents have been provided.

What is included

The documents mainly focus on the monuments of Egyptian and Sudanese Nubia; several other monuments in Lower, Middle and Upper Egypt have been included as well, because of their importance and the richness of the available documentation.

A special case history covers the preliminary study and the proposals for interventions on the painted decoration of the tomb of Nefertari, which has recently been restored by an international team in a joint project of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization and the Getty Conservation Institute.

The sample of the exhibit is included below contains a collection of rare archival materials stemming from the role of ICCROM in the UNESCO campaign to save the Nile Valley monuments from submersion after the building of the Aswan High Dam in the early 1960s. The mostly unpublished documents are a unique source of information about the history of conservation, as well as the conservation of ancient Egyptian monuments.

Thirty-four of these monuments are studied in depth, with related reports, correspondence, illustrations and background information. Included are four original background papers, 46 mission and technical reports, 275 letters, some 1000 photos, radio interviews, a virtual reconstruction based on period photos, and more than 200 bibliographic references. The documents cover 14 sites, 34 monuments and 13 expert missions or meetings; information on the people and organizations involved is also given.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Thanks to the quality and quantity of the topics covered and to the structured information provided, the CD-ROM can be considered as the result of scientific/archival research. It is the first produced by ICCROM for general distribution, and has also been conceived as an educational tool, to help raise public awareness of the importance of conserving our cultural heritage.

Acknowledgements

ICCROM gratefully acknowledges all those institutions and individuals who contributed to the production of this CD-ROM by allowing the use of copyright or private material.

Special thanks go to UNESCO, Paris, for providing important documents not available in ICCROM's archives, and to the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (ICR), Rome, for much graphic and photographic documentation and for collaboration in the scientific investigations. 

The ICCROM team is grateful for the valuable collaboration of: Diana Adami, Margarita Alonso Campoy, Domenico Artioli, Beth Blosser, Jens Boel, Giancarlo Buzzanca, Elisabeth Giansiracusa, Paolo Gusso, Nicholas Holman, Marisa Martínez, Hanan Nairouz Fahmy, Caterina Pileggi, Rosetta Scavizzi, Ingo Schöter. 

The ICCROM team: Ernesto Borrelli, Monica Garcia, Elisabetta Giorgi, Jukka Jokilehto, Marc Laenen, Marisa Laurenzi Tabasso, Jef Malliet, Maria Mata Caravaca (fellowship holder of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science), Liliana Rizzo Vecchio, Cynthia Rockwell, Marie Christine Uginet.

Consultants: Sergio Donadoni, Paolo Mora, Laura Sbordoni Mora.

Translator: Marie Therese Lams.


Editorial consultants: Robert Flood, Thorgeir Lawrence.

Software development: Ipermedia S.a.s., Rome

For further information about this project please contact: image@iccrom.org

The CD-ROM is available for sale at ICCROM: Publications@iccrom.org




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