Sharjah Museums Department
Sharjah Museums Department (SMD) received Dr. Stefano De Caro, the newly elected Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), accompanied by Zaki Aslan, Manager of ATHAR Programme (Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region), an affiliate of ICCROM, at Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization.
Dr. Stefano, accompanied by Dr. Aslan, were received by Manal Ataya, SMD Director General, and a number of administrators and officials, who welcomed the gusts and took them on a tour of the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah Archeology Museum and Sharjah Maritime Museum.
The Regional Centre for the Management and Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region (ATHAR Programme has recently been established in the campus of the University City in Sharjah under the order of His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and is due to be opened in October of 2012.
Dr. Caro's recent visit comes in the wake of his first meeting with H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah , as the new Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), during which a number of topics related to the importance of the centre and its role in protecting cultural heritage in Sharjah and the Arab region were discussed.
The visit is also part of a series of activities by the newly established centre and Sharjah Museums Department.
Highlighting the importance of the visit, Manal Ataya, SMD Director General, said:” Our participation with ATHAR Programme began since long time because we share common goals and vision, and hence we believe it is vital for the new director to be aware of activities and events organized by the Department. The visit also provides us with an opportunity to explore ways of cooperation between us and ICCROM in the centre's future plans and various activities and training programs."
"As we reaffirm our commitment to the vision of our wise government in Sharjah and its limitless efforts to preserve culture and heritage, we will join our hands with ICCROM in organizing related activities and contributing to transfer knowledge to competent people as well as providing the necessary platform to exchange expertise," Ataya said.
Emphasizing the role of SMD in highlighting Sharjah as a hub of Arab and Islamic culture, Manal said:" the centre, which gains support from His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, is a very important platform for all those interested in heritage, historical and cultural affairs from across the region to network, cooperate and benefit from knowledge, science and expertise."
During his tour, Dr. Caro was informed about the museum's policy in embracing the message and vision of Sheikh Sultan through displays of artifacts and collections of the museum, offering the opportunity to Sharjah's residents and visitor to get to know the emirate's precious treasures and appreciate the Islamic art, science and culture.
Dr Caro considered the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization as an important landmark in the region as he viewed the unique collection of precious Arab and Islamic artifacts featuring artworks, manuscripts, and various models of art works made from ceramic and metal as well as textiles with unique Islamic character. Dr. Caro toured the museum's 17 galleries that feature more than 5,000 artifacts and artworks from different parts of the Islamic world that date back to 1400 ago.
Dr. Caro and Dr. Zaki then visited Sharjah Archeology Museum, which he described as a leading institution and praised the permanent archive of the museum which is home to a rich collection of artifacts that were uncovered in the emirate since the start of archaeological excavations in 1972 until now. He viewed the artifacts of Sharjah’s very early history that dates back to 125,000 years ago, considering it as a scientific institution that allows researchers to learn about the emirate's history and the secrets of its native inhabitants.
Dr. Caro was briefed about the museum's policy which is in line with the noble directives of Dr. Sheikh Sultan that aim at preserving and documenting Sharjah's artifacts. He also acquainted himself with research conducted on collections, before heading to Al Buhais Cemetery which is dated back to 7,000 years ago, and saw the burial house where he explored realistic models of burials, houses and tombs. Dr. Caro also visited the restoration laboratory and saw thousands of archeological pieces and artifacts that were uncovered in Mulaiha.
He praised the royal collection of Sheikh Sultan which featured precious artifacts, including metal objects, pottery, rings and small sculptures and statues of animals, in addition to foot-shaped metal pieces. Dr Caro praised Sheikh Sultan for the great support and attention he pays to Arab cultural heritage which led to recognizing the emirate of Sharjah as a capital of Arab and Islamic culture.
They also visited Sharjah Maritime Museum, to get more insight into the UAE's national and marine heritage where they viewed more than 670 masterpieces that date back to 7,000 years. They toured the Museum's main hall which houses different models of traditional ships, such as Al Samaa, the biggest diving ship, as well as pearls, boat building and diving tools. They also visited Gulf Studies Center where they were received by its director Ali Al Marri.
On his part, Dr. Zaki Aslan, ATHAR Programme Manager, said:" the support of His Highness, Sharjah Government, and SMD in this initial phase of establishing the Regional Centre is remarkable- we look forward to continuing this strategic partnership with the institutions concerned. Sharjah has a lot to offer in the fields of cultural heritage and museums; this is particularly evident in the good practice one may note in the museums of Sharjah. The choice of Sharjah to establish the Regional Centre is therefore natural, thanks to the passion of His Highness and responsible people involved, in the history, protection and promotion of the rich cultural heritage in the Arab region, and in aiming at broadening access, appreciation and understanding of its past".
Stefano De Caro is well known to ICCROM, having represented the Italian government on the ICCROM Council from 2008 to 2011, and through his involvement on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, a partner organization. He has over 250 publications to his name on topics ranging from Greek and Roman archaeology to the preservation of historic centres, cultural landscapes, and intangible heritage. He is also a member of several professional cultural associations in Italy and abroad, including the Europae Archaeologiae Consilium (EAC), ICOMOS, and the International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM).