J.M. Kaplan Fund awards ASOR $57,000 to expand its Syrian Heritage Initiative

ASOR Media Note—For Immediate Release
ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives
February 3, 2015


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On January 13, 2015, the J.M. Kaplan Fund awarded the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) $57,000 to expand its Syrian Heritage Initiative. The project is part of a $756,000 cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State to document, protect, and preserve the cultural heritage of war-torn Syria. The Kaplan funding will allow for an expansion in the scope and impact of the project in the areas of preservation planning and training.

Syria is a land of exceptional cultural heritage. Its art, architecture, languages, and religions have been shaped by the region’s major cultures, from the Hittites to the Ottomans, and further enriched by the legacy of its caravan routes connecting empires from China to the Mediterranean. Six Syrian cultural properties are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and another eleven properties are on UNESCO’s Tentative List. As of 2013, all six of the World Heritage Sites have been placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage In Danger. National and international bodies, including the Syrian Government and UNESCO, have called on the international community to engage in immediate actions to safeguard Syrian cultural heritage.

The ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative is a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State that was instituted to address this cultural crisis. The project has three primary goals:
     1) To produce comprehensive documentation of damage
     2) To increase global awareness of the ongoing crisis
     3) To plan emergency and post-war responses

In carrying out this work, ASOR has assembled an international team with combined expertise in conservation, risk preparedness, and cultural heritage management, as well as extensive experience working in areas of armed conflict. The Kaplan Grant will increase the capacity of ASOR contractors working in the Preservation Unit and thereby expand the activities in the third area listed above — emergency and post-war responses. Specific activities that will be supported include high-level input and feedback from international experts on documentation, emergency protection, condition assessment, and preservation issues, and in-depth planning for post-conflict documentation and large-scale mitigation projects.

The current threat to Syria’s heritage is real and could lead to the loss of irreplaceable cultural resources on a massive scale. The support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund will dramatically increase the impact of the ASOR-led international team in fighting against such an outcome.

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ASOR, founded in 1900 and currently located at Boston University, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that supports and encourages the study of the cultures and history of the Near East, from the earliest times to the present. ASOR is apolitical and has no religious affiliation. For further information, please contact ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives office (asorhert@bu.edu).

The mission of the J.M. Kaplan Fund is to search for the realization of an ideal society. For almost 70 years, the J.M. Kaplan fund has supported efforts to achieve this goal by providing leadership in the fields of the environment, migrations, historic preservation, and civic life.

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