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Heritage agency-run school to help Egypt’s cultural preservation efforts

By Choi Si-young

Published : Feb. 13, 2024 - 15:44

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The Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of King Ramses II, in southern Egypt. (CHA) The Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of King Ramses II, in southern Egypt. (CHA)

The Korea National University of Cultural Heritage, run by the Cultural Heritage Administration, plans to help Egypt preserve its cultural heritage, starting by digitizing records as part of a five-year project the school started last year.

Through December, KNUCH will finish setting up a center within the Manial Palace Museum in Cairo that will keep digital replicas of key pieces of cultural heritage currently housed in six state-run institutions in the Egyptian capital. The antiquities to be digitized include papyrus, maps and books, according to KNUCH on Tuesday.

“Basically, objects of importance that need to be stored for a long time will be digitized,” a KNUCH official said, adding the same process will take place for artifacts held at the Luxor Museum, known for its archaeological collections connected to Egyptian pharaohs.

“There are many historical artifacts related to the royal tombs,” the official added, saying discussions are soon to follow over what to digitize.

A total of 5.2 billion won ($3.9 million) is earmarked for KNUCH to run the project this year, as part of the CHA’s official development assistance.

What’s different this year, the KNUCH official noted, is that the school will employ locals to help with the project.

“This is our second year going in there and we intend to take advantage of local expertise as well,” the official said, noting a team of nine Korean professors, joined by 15 researchers, will enlist help to accelerate the five-year project.

“It’s too premature to say if this entire effort will be done in five years. That I can’t be sure of for now,” the official added, suggesting the project could last longer than scheduled.

The school also runs a similar project in Cambodia, a program that trains locals in preserving cultural heritage. That program began in 2018 and is expected to be completed by June this year.

“We definitely have something to give them, our special expertise in preserving cultural heritage. We had sent over our teams and also invited Cambodians to Korea, for a hands-on experience,” the KNUCH official said.

Four such trips have been made to Cambodia with one- or two-member Korean teams flying there for either two months or two weeks.

“It’s all about raising awareness about preserving cultural heritage,” the KNUCH official added. “In the process, we get to train our researchers too, who by the way, are unaccustomed to dealing with foreign antiquities. So yes, I’d say the whole project is a win-win.”