August 19, 2016

How to manage 5,000 cultural heritage goods in Myanmar?

Mauro Salvemini

Picture shows statutes depicting Four Noble Truth in Thun Pagoda in Nyaungdon Town.
Picture shows statutes depicting Four Noble Truth in Thun Pagoda in Nyaungdon Town.


Since 2011, there have been interests and actions for cultural heritage in Myanmar. Among the others, a very recent initiative on intangible cultural heritage was overtaken by the new government with the UNESCO, in the near past among the others: the projects  for the recognition (2014) of UNESCO Pyu’s Ancient Cities supported by Italy, the ones in INLE lake area undertaken by Norway , and some others. As usual in situations like Myanmar, the projects have been focused on specific sites with specific tasks, aiming to protect the buildings and their artworks
(paintings, etc.), to create awareness about the conservation and restoration issues and to build skills and competencies on specific technologies such as GIS (Geographic Information System), as the mentioned UNESCO project did (2012-2013). Based on the several decades of consulting experience for Italian Ministry of Culture and designing decision support information systems for public authorities based on geographic location, my prudent estimation of the entire Myanmar patrimony of fixed cultural heritage is about 5,000 goods. The patrimony amount of cultural fixed objects should be intended to enumerate goods from the archeological up to the colonial period so much present in Myanmar cities from Yangon to Sale. This huge patrimony may not be managed only by single projects even if modern technologies such as drones are going to be used.
During the recent meeting with Dr. Nanda Hmun, permanent secretary of Ministry of Culture, I have been very happy to hear that the attention is moving towards a more comprehensive view of the issue of cultural heritage in Myanmar. The good news is that the present information technology offers the SDI (Spatial Data Infrastructure) solution to manage the cultural heritage at a national level. This would enable the sharing of cultural heritage data, the efficient understanding and management of the shared cultural heritage resources for responsible authorities, partner institutions and public. This issue was also discussed with Ms. Zar Chi Aye, a doctoral candidate at University of Lausanne, who has been a part of the discussion developed on the workshop held at Free University of Bolzano ( Based on the peculiar characteristics which every country has, it is a matter of fact that an already developed model cannot be imported and used for setting up an SDI or an information system while a specific national one has to be deployed. Therefore, as an initial step and as Dr. Nanda Hmun kindly agreed, it is opportune to do a specific workshop with relevant stakeholders for the discussion of how to build the SDI for cultural heritage in Myanmar. This would be benefit in maximizing the combined efforts and collaborations with all interested parties for the management of Myanmar cultural heritage.


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