The MuA Project (Monuments at risk)
Open Digital Archive
The idea behind the MuA Project is to set an online, crowd source network for the recording, documentation, and assessment of heritage values at risk; an open-access, participatory project for the sharing and processing of information concerning risks that endanger cultural heritage and promoting creative ways for its protection.
Observing the cultural landscape of Greece nowadays, one cannot fail to comment on the vast number of sites at risk that have not been recorded or presented to the public. Lack of funding to commit to such a task aggravates the problems encountered, often resulting in the loss or degradation of precious architectural heritage. This was initially caused by inconsistent priorities in the national cultural policy and worsened due to the current economic climate coupled with the lack of public awareness and unscheduled development projects. The absence of any applied and traceable European strategy committed to the protection or even the assessment of risk criteria of architectural heritage aggravate the problem. In order to contribute to the confrontation of these issues, the MuA Project team decided to design an open-access and on-line tool that would contribute to the collective recording, value assessing, raising of awareness, and ultimately protection of heritage at risk in Greece. At the same time, it forms a basic platform for addressing these patterns at an European level. In this way, the MuA database aspires to move further than a mere taxonomic tool to take on the status of an intervention instrument with dynamic and normative rather than descriptive Thus, the database does not confine itself in a “definitional exercise”, but it undertakes a an active stance towards the current state of managing sites in Greece and Europe.
Tools used to adapt and materialise our objectives and theoretical intentions are and will be solely based on open-source technologies. We also employ the general frame of web 2.0 design techniques, emphasizing the ‘openness’ of the database, the usability of data, and the inclusivity of potential users, following the basic principles of the “Digital Agenda for Europe".
The idea that the past is more multiple and dissonant than an eclectic and official national rhetoric propels this section. Divergent interests have legitimate stakes to the past and this has orientated our focus to the role of the public in the cultural heritage field. This role is seen as either a global audience that consumes cultural products or a local/national participant entity that should be involved. Following our general goals of the inclusion and participation of the public in the MuA Project, we decided to design a maximal schema of seven participatory profiles. These cater to different, potential users of the network, according to their professional and personal interests. The profiles created with differential access to the network are: Simple User, Non Govermental Organisation, Professional, Policymaker, Media, Funding Body, and Unregistered User (Non-Public: uninterested users that could be 'lured' to care for cultural heritage). These profiles, catering for Greek and English speakers, cover a large area of the public attempting to 'produce' stakeholders for the protection of cultural heritage.
The first deliverable of the programme is an interactive, on-line database. The database, the first of its kind in Greece, is a communication and participation hub through which citizens can be informed about monuments and cultural landscapes at risk and add information for a monument in danger. In addition, it can be used as a research tool for professionals and interested registered users, a planning aid and a summarising tool for national/local state bodies and municipalities, a tool for co-operation, communication, and intervention for NGOs and the media, and as a tool for effective funding of architectural heritage at risk by cultural institutions and sponsors. Steps forward include the expansion of the network to more diverse public, including: A. Funding bodies: This will be accomplished by examining in detail economic variables and its interrelation with threats that endanger cultural heritage, in order to invite funds for the monuments and our programme. The above described scheme is a unique opportunity to create a wide-applicable, meritocratic way earmarking funds (through corporate social responsibility) for the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage. B. General public: In this case a mobile application should be created in order to make the project more accessible and functional (recording a monument at risk through your mobile/tablet in 3 steps).
We strongly believe that cultural heritage would survive if the call for its protection is democratised, i.e. sharing information and involving the widest possible public. The 'steps forward' described above would help our idea reach more people inside Greece and abroad, providing at the same time a usable platform that could be adapted/taken to a different level/used for other function by other initiatives around the world. What is more, by entering the world of 'corporate social responsibility' with a solid theoretically documented and technologically updated tool, would allow the project to survive long term and start acting physically (management plans for archaeological sites, restoration projects, conservation etc.) for the protection of cultural heritage. These steps would allow to fulfill the main attribute of cultural heritage: making it public.