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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/Edinburgh steps in to help save Turkey’s heritage at risk

Edinburgh steps in to help save Turkey’s heritage at risk


11th October 2019

Rebecca Leary

Edinburgh World Heritage, the charity responsible for the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, has just completed a project to help save and protect heritage which is at risk in two historic Turkish cities near to the Syrian border. The project, which was funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, has trained local experts, students and stonemasons, compiled a register of buildings at risk, conserved specific historic buildings, implemented energy efficiency programmes, and created an awareness-raising exhibition in Mardin.

Edinburgh World Heritage partnered with KMKD, a local Turkish association formed to help protect Turkey’s cultural heritage. The project focused on the two historic Turkish cities of Mardin and Antakya (Antioch) both of which are about 20 kilometres from the Syrian border and which have been affected by the ongoing civil war. The British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund is intended to help safeguard and promote cultural heritage at risk due to conflict overseas.

The project also developed new solutions to ensure historic buildings are more energy efficient and better able to cope with the up to 50 degrees centigrade temperature change between summer and winter. Local communities, teachers and school children have also been involved in the project with the aim of developing a sense of ownership for the conservation of their heritage.

The project in numbers:

  • Over 1,000 historic buildings were surveyed, and a ‘Buildings at Risk’ register has been created similar to the approach used in the UK
  • 300 Turkish students, professionals and heritage managers have been trained in conservation best practice in both Turkey and Edinburgh
  • 35 master stonemasons and joiners have been trained in the latest conservation techniques
  • 12 training events have been conducted including two heritage leadership schools in Edinburgh
  • One major exhibition has been mounted in Mardin, in a 19th century building conserved and refurbished by the project, which opened this week.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage commented: “the conservation of Edinburgh’s historic environment is viewed internationally as a success story. With over 4,000 listed buildings within the city-centre World Heritage Site, Edinburgh is one of the most authentic and complete historic cities in the world. We have been delighted to work with our Turkish partners, share Edinburgh’s expertise overseas, as well as bring home some ideas that will help us here. Events of recent days underline the importance of conserving the outstanding heritage of the area.”

İsmail Yavuz Özkaya , the Chair of the Board at KMKD, said: “we have been working to document, protect and raise awareness about the diverse and rich, yet abandoned and ignored Armenian, Greek, Jewish, Syriac and Georgian cultural heritage in Turkey since 2014. The KORU project, and its inspiring training programme, raises public awareness of the protection of our common heritage. I am grateful to our KMKD team who worked hard to turn this project into a success, our Edinburgh World Heritage partners for their work and contribution throughout, and the British Council for their generous support for the protection of our common heritage.”

Stephen Stenning, the Head of Arts and Society at British Council said: “British Council is delighted with the results that Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) projects have produced since 2016. CPF initiatives across the wider Middle East and North Africa region have ensured cultural heritage is better safeguarded for future generations, the heritage workforce has increased capacity and local communities are more able to care for, value and benefit from their own heritage. The KORU project is a strong example of how CPF grantees work closely with organisations and communities on the ground, sharing skills and knowledge. The impressive outputs from this project will ensure that Turkish heritage is protected for future generations.”

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