Looking back at our Scanning for Syria project and the Europa Nostra Heritage Award

2020 Has been a very special year in many respects, as for most people of course. The centre faced loss, challenges but also some large successes, like winning the Europa Nostra Heritage Award. Here we share with you the speech and video we prepared for the (online) Europa Nostra Award Ceremony. 


First of all Dominique, from TU Delft, and myself from the Centre for Global Heritage and Development, and the rest of our team, would like to thank Europa Nostra, for their excellent guidance and setting this up. Of course we would have loved to have a live event in Brussels, but we have to deal with the circumstances as they are. And we feel honored to be here, although digitally.

The Award

Winning the European Heritage Award/Europa Nostra Heritage Award 2020 has been a great comfort in these difficult times where we first of all lost our colleague and friend Olivier Nieuwenhuijse: the initiator of Scanning for Syria and the person to whom we dedicate this award.  And – of course - in these times of COVID-19, we as a network centre were forced to cancel a lot of our activities. It has been hard to readjust, and the award definitely helped keeping the spirit up.

Results/Message to Europa

If we look back I think Scanning for Syria was much more than recreating archaeological objects that were lost during the Syrian war, by the use of 3d-technology. It safeguarded these cuneiform texts, but it also broadened the network of scholars working on these matters, bringing progress in the 3D-scanning of small (archaeological) objects. Furthermore it was about raising awareness on the rich Syrian cultural heritage and the threats it continues to face. We received so much media attention, in the Netherlands and abroad; it definitely helped receiving a larger audience for our work.

Overall I think the project was about resilience in times of conflict and post-conflict. The long standing European research interest in the Middle and Near East, with data, objects and copies entering different European museums and universities for many decades, was suddenly confronted by the war in Syria. Scanning for Syria, even though a very small project with little funding, was a way to show there is something we as both European and Syrian heritage practitioners and scholars can still do.  Finally it was a way to engage Syrian migrant communities. One of the offspring activities was an exhibition in a regional museum in the Northern part of the Netherlands (Museum Wierdenland), which draw a lot of Syrian migrants and their families; hopefully, although in a small way, contributing to their identity, pride and feeling of belonging.


With this award we wish to continue our activities related to Syrian heritage. We have a seminar and photo exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden scheduled for next year (2021), and there are already two research applications lodged. Being part of the Europa Nostra network of excellence will really help us in our way forward.

Mara de Groot on behalf of the Scanning for Syria team



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