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Abstract

Since 2008, the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) and the University of Birmingham have collaborated on a cutting-edge research programme called the Qatar National Historic Environment Record (QNHER). This has made a significant contribution to our understanding of Qatar's diverse cultural heritage resource. Commencing with the analysis of terrestrial and marine remotely sensed data, the project expanded to undertake detailed terrestrial and marine survey across large parts of the country, recording archaeological sites and palaeoenvironmental remains ranging from the Palaeolithic to modern times. The project was not simply concerned with the collection of heritage data, but how that data is then stored and accessed. After consultation with Qatar's Centre for GIS, the project team designed and developed a custom geospatial web application which integrated a large variety of heritage-related information, including locations, detailed categorisations, descriptions, photographs and survey reports. The system architecture is based around a set of REST and OGC compliant web services which can be consumed by various applications. Day-to-day access for all stakeholders is provided via the QNHER Web App client, a fully bilingual Arabic and English HTML5 web application. The system accesses internet resources such as base mapping provided by Google Maps and Bing Maps and has become an invaluable resource for cultural heritage research, management and mitigation and currently holds over 6,000 cultural heritage records. Future development will see modules for survey, underwater cultural heritage, translation and web access for educational institutions. The QNHER geospatial web application has become pivotal in providing evidence-based development control advice for the QMA, in the face of rapid urbanisation, highlighting the importance of research, protection and conservation for Qatar's cultural heritage. However, this application has a much wider potential than simply heritage management within Qatar. Many other countries around the globe lack this kind of geospatial database that would enable them to manage their heritage. Clearly the diversity of cultural heritage, site types and chronologies means that simply attempting to transplant a system directly is inappropriate. However, with the input of regional heritage managers, particularly with regard to language and thesauri, the system could be customised to address the needs of cultural resource managers around the world. Most antiquities departments around the globe do not have country-wide, georeferenced base mapping or access to geospatial inventories. Access to internet resources has major cost-saving benefits, while providing improved mapping and data visualisation. More importantly this offers the opportunity for cultural heritage management tools to be established with minimal outlay and training. The broad approach the project has taken and the technological and methodological innovations it introduced make the QNHER a leader in this field - not only in the Gulf, but also in the wider world.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarf.2013.SSHO-04
2013-11-20
2020-08-15
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