Documenting Nepal’s Cultural Heritage

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The UK-based Arcadia Fund is granting financial support worth approximately 2.5 million euros to media anthropologist Christiane Brosius and Indologist Axel Michaels of Heidelberg University. After a two-year pilot phase, it will be used over a six-year period to continue a project of documenting endangered historical monuments in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. The specific aim of the project is to establish a database with digital records of monuments threatened by earthquakes and urban transformation and to make recommendations for preserving or reconstructing them. The new funding will allow extending activities to West Nepal and other places that are culturally and historically linked to the Kathmandu Valley. Under the leadership of Prof. Brosius and Prof. Michaels, 20 specialists from the fields of architecture, anthropology, history, Indology and cultural heritage are working on the project in Heidelberg and Nepal.

The Nepal Heritage Documentation Project with its freely accessible online database comprises descriptions, photos, inscriptions and architectural drawings of Nepal’s endangered historical monuments, including temples, monasteries and palaces. The aim is to document and make an inventory of over 2,000 monuments, 2,500 inscriptions and 8,000 objects, along with the intangible cultural heritage related to them, e.g. rituals, festivals and other social events and religious practices. "Such a detailed documentation of Nepal’s historical monument will stand as a landmark not only for the preservation of potentially threatened cultural heritage but also for handing down knowledge about the rich and extraordinary heritage of Nepal to future generations," says Damodar Gautam, Director General of the Nepalese government’s Department of Archaeology.

Leading the project at Heidelberg University is the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS) in collaboration with the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Heidelberg University Library and the Institute for Spatial Information and Surveying Technology at Mainz University of Applied Sciences. The main partners in Nepal are the Saraf Foundation for Himalayan Traditions and Culture, the Department of Archaeology of the Nepalese government, the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust and UNESCO Nepal.

According to Christiane Brosius, professor of media and visual anthropology at HCTS, the Nepal Heritage Documentation Project will be integrated into teaching at Heidelberg University and "greatly strengthen its Asia studies and transcultural focus, especially research on cultural heritage".

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