Italian Institution, Centro Conservazione E Restauro “La Venaria Reale”, Partners with the Royal Commission for Alula to Develop the Next Generation of Saudi Conservation Science Experts
AlUla, Saudi Arabia, 12 July 2023: Centro Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale” (CCR), an Italian conservation institute, has partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the authority driving the comprehensive regeneration of AlUla, to further develop expertise in the restoration and conservation of northwest Saudi Arabia’s incredible cultural heritage.
As part of the partnership, a group of 12 young Saudi professionals and new university graduates selected by RCU have travelled from AlUla to Italy for a knowledge exchange programme. The group of 6 women and 6 men will participate in workshops in both Venaria near Turin in northern Italy and AlUla. The multi-modal course will see CCR share best practices for the application of an interdisciplinary approach to heritage conservation science.
Between July 2023 and February 2024, the group – 6 chemistry and biology graduates and 6 conservation officers from different parts of KSA – will take part in integrated and highly interactive modules designed to provide insights into the most relevant technical, scientific, historical, and conservation management issues, including tutoring on functional themes such as the planning, management, and conservation of archaeological sites.
Sara Abram, Secretary General at CCR, said: “Partnering with RCU is a unique opportunity to explore the characteristics of our different cultural, social, and organisational contexts. In this programme, the CCR provides its technical, scientific, and humanistic expertise, through its professionals and with the involvement of lecturers from some of the most important Italian universities and conservation institutes.”
Aimed at deepening knowledge of artefacts and their historical context, the programme reflects CCR’s methodological approach to conservation. Starting with preliminary observations, the course focuses on data collection and processing, and proceeds toward analysis of techniques and assessment, ending with the definition of the most suitable conservation strategies on a case-by-case basis.
Designed in collaboration with conservation experts, including conservators, conservation scientists, and historians, the two main aims of the programme are to enhance technical and scientific knowledge of different works of art and their materials that relate to archaeological contexts; and to raise awareness of the values of cultural heritage, considered as tangible and intangible evidence of history and societies.
The 12-strong Saudi team will be provided with a basic understanding of material conservation methods, processes, and protocols to uphold international best practices. Theoretical and practical workshops in heritage conservation and preservation will empower the next generation of experts from KSA with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in conservation sciences, thus supporting the sector’s future development goals.
During their stay in Venaria, the participants will not only engage with the great Italian tradition of conservation but will also be immersed in the Italian way of life: through awareness workshops and cultural exchange, discovering the UNESCO Royal Palace “Reggia di Venaria,” the city of Turin, and talking with students from the University of Turin.
The collaboration between CCR and RCU reflects the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Venice in May by His Highness Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan AlSaud, Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Italy’s Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, to expand cooperation in the fields of archaeology, conservation, restoration and protection of cultural heritage, the film industry, and literature.
Dr Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, Executive Director of Archaeology, Collections and Conservation at the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “Our partnership with CCR aligns with our ambitions to place our community at the heart of RCU’s conservation and sustainable regeneration efforts. Through this initial programme, we will provide the next generation of conservation experts with the knowledge and foundational skills they need to confidently pursue a career in conservation science, supporting our future ambitions.”
Located 1,100km from Riyadh, AlUla is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The vast area, covering 22,561km², includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years.
The most well-known and recognised site in AlUla is Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 52-hectare ancient city, Hegra was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is comprised of nearly 100 well-preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut into sandstone outcrops. Current research suggests Hegra was also an important southern outpost of the Romans after conquering the Nabataeans in 106 CE.
In addition to Hegra, AlUla is home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites such as: AlUla Old Town surrounded by an ancient oasis, Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, which is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; thousands of ancient rock art sites and inscriptions at Jabal Ikmah; and the fascinating and secluded oasis of Kaybar, a green jewel in a sea of lava.