Dr. Cornelis Stal
Manager of H-digital, The Heritage Management Organization digitization program.
Convenor of the annual ‘Digital Tools for Heritage Management’ executive workshop by The Heritage Management Organization.
Lecturer/Researcher, Ghent University College – HOGENT, Belgium
As I sit down to write a few words about my experience in producing and filming a documentary on landscape archaeology in the island of Naxos, I wonder what could be of interest to us, the heritage tribe…
I am a producer/director with an MA in Heritage Management, working for Greece’s national broadcaster ERT, as well for the Heritage Management Organization.
I specialize in documentaries on heritage, anthropology and on children’s programs.
This documentary came about by sheer chance, actually.
My first intention was to gather information for another heritage production, this one for children. But the latter was at an initial stage of conception and the team consisted of just me and the artistic director.
The documentary on Naxos, on the other hand, would be the result of a research taking place for quite some time on location, conducted by the Mc Cord center for History, Classics and Archaeology of the University of Newcastle, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Oslo and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades.
First point to note:
If you are a heritage manager from the production field, you will be needing a solid research/scientific team to work with; mostly because this is the way to guarantee authenticity and support, scientific and financial. Without those, the road is long and it
won’t necessarily come to fruition, even if it is well researched by the production team and vice versa.
The next step was to bring the McCord center’s scientific team for the research in Naxos, together with the production and management team from Greece’s National Broadcaster (ERT), and form – more than a coproduction- a synergy.
Second point to note:
Funding for heritage documentaries can be difficult these days. Hence, forming some sort of a co-production or synergy is essential in order to get the better of two worlds.
An agreement was established and the pre-production begun, including the values to be communicated, the narrative, the artistic style, days of filming, crew, cost etc. The scientific and the production team worked closely together, to make sure we were both aiming towards the same direction.
Third point to note:
Once the production team is formed and the concept of the narrative is designed, one needs to start thinking of:
This point will guarantee that when the crew is on location for the filming, the human and financial resources available for the production will be used up to the optimum potential in accordance with the desired goals.
Fourth point to note:
Once on location, the production team – apart from filming- is also doing another very important work; namely engaging with the local society. We need to always keep in mind that television production is a popular medium. So these productions, on location and upon distribution, approach the local society, stakeholders and the target audience, in a completely different way. This connection creates another type of bond with the people and should be part of the production design, one of its main goals.
All points completed, and a year later, the documentary was aired twice by Greece’s national broadcaster ERT. The first time was scheduled and the second occurred as a result of the audience’s demand!
On May the 15th a workshop took place at the University of Newcastle, with the title:
“Filming the Past in the Present: Heritage and Documentary Practice”
It was a collaborative event supported by the Digital Cultures Research Group and the Research Centre for Film, the Cultural Significance of Place Research Group.
There were three films presented by the research teams and the producers. One of them was Hidden Landscapes of Naxos.
All the films were completely different in artistic style and narrative. However, the main points were evident in all of them.
To conclude, the reason for this blog piece – after reading through my writings a few times – is probably to serve as a brief manual on what it takes to actually pull through an audiovisual production on heritage.
In this effort, the Heritage Management Organization has found a very important ally: Global Heritage Fund (GHF). According to Stefaan Poortman, GHF’s CEO, “Over the years, the Heritage Management Organization has successfully convinced GHF that local community engagement is a key feature in any heritage management project. In our desire to follow best practices in heritage preservation, we have decided to attempt a very important project at Ayios Vasileios near Sparta. Our partnership with this organization, which leads in their field, will be instrumental in the success of our efforts there.”
If funded, this will be the first large-scale public engagement project that GHF has undertaken, and it will be the HMO’s first collaboration with this great institution. Given that Global Heritage Fund is a leading project management and conservation organization worldwide, with 28 projects in 19 countries, it is an ideal partner to our organization as we have neither the interest nor the expertise in project managing whilst our strength in training will compliment GHF, which does not lead training programs. If the program is funded, then GHF may work with us to ensure the implementation of best practices as well as to test new ideas in a new context. We are proud to say that we have completed this first phase of collaboration with GHF, and we expect this collaboration to bear greater fruits in the months and years to come.
A super energetic girls’ group from CBWDS (Centre for Blind Women and Disability Studies),New Delhi, shared their experiences with Siddhant Shah, after the tactile walk ‘Abhas’ at DAG Modern (a Modern Art museum in Delhi). Gudiya – as she is popularly called by her teachers, thanked Siddhant Shah and the team from DAG Modern who assisted them during the walk. She shared with the team how she and her friends were amazed to ‘touch and see’ the artwork. It was a first time experience for them to be invited to an art gallery and the opportunity to actually feel the objects, which was something that none of the other galleries offer. They are not equipped with the infrastructure that can make their space accessible to those with visual impairment. When the girls were asked about their favorite art work, there was a unanimous vote for the 3D tactile reproduction of the artwork by Eric Bowen. As they had fun touching the replica and exploring various shapes, lines and surfaces of this black and white strip artwork.
Their second favorite is the reproduction of J. Swaminathan’s, Bird, Mountain and Tree series, where they not only enjoyed touching and experiencing the artwork but also appreciated the element of smell in this reproduction. Ishrat Jahan, who hails from Banaras, is the youngest member of this group who receives and undertakes training in areas of crafts, candle making, braille reading and other skills. She made a remarkably interesting observation with reference to burnt wood Tactile Aid for Jeram Patel’s Art work, commenting on how amazed she was to learn that creating something did not always involve sticking things together – but one could also burn to create something new.
Siddhant Shah, who is the creator of ‘Abhas, a Tactile Experience’, feels that his work is successful when he hears comments like these. It fits the main aim of this initiative – allowing one to experience art with multiple senses and being aware of the ideas and concepts that exist in the art-scape. The students of CBWDS concluded the discussion with a round of chai or Indian tea, essentially with milk and sugar, while Gudiya made a parting statement, saying that sensing the various materials through touch, had helped her think about other unique ways of using paper, strings and sand for her handicraft training sessions.
Siddhant Shah, a Stavros Niarchos Scholar finished his MA in Heritage Management from the University of Kent (Athens Campus, Greece). His first degree is in Architecture with a Pg. Dip. Indian Aesthetics, and is an Access Management Consultant who specializes in bridging the gap between Cultural Heritage and Disability. He works with museums, art-events, art galleries and cultural sites to make them more accessible through educational and multi-sensory experiential activities, focusing on kids and groups with special needs. He has designed books in Braille for cultural organizations in India and Pakistan along with Tactile Art & Heritage Walks. He has written and designed India and Pakistan’s 1st Open Braille guide book with large script font and tactile plates. Shah consults national and international museums like National Museum, Jaipur City Palace Museum, State Bank of Pakistan Museum and other organizations like DAG Modern, Art1, India Art Fair amongst others. His is driven with a focus to either ‘Get a Person to the context or get the Context to the person’.
At the beginning of the Spring Semester, the students of the MA in Heritage Management were offered an opportunity to participate in an extracurricular workshop in photography of cultural heritage. The workshop’s first lessons introduced how heritage has been conveyed through photography in the past and in modern times; the next series of lectures gave us the basics on how to use our cameras as well as photographic techniques to make our photos look more professional. The course also encompassed a couple of photography days where we went around outside to practice these newfound techniques.
Using Elefsina as a case study, we were divided into four groups, each with a certain focus. Group 1 was to examine Elefsina’s Industrial Heritage, Group 2 was to capture the Architectural Heritage of Lower Elefsina, Group 3 was to look at the Iera Odos (Sacred Way) as a Cultural Monument, and Group 4 was to illustrate the Tourism Marketing potential of Elefsina.
Group 1: Industrial Heritage
The industrial heritage of Elefsina is vast and complicated, with many facets of interest. This group decided to tackle this subject as a communication between Industrial Heritage and the Water Front of Elefsina.
Group 2: Architectural Heritage of Lower Elefsina
The artistic decision for this project was to take photos of buildings on one street from beginning to end, and to observe its mixtures of architectural styles and designs, to help remind audiences of “why those buildings were built in that way” with connection to the history of Elefsina and those locals who lived there.
Group 3: Iera Odos as a Cultural Monument
In a project entitled “The Perennial Sacred Way,” this group decided to explore the Sacred Way that goes from Kerameikos in Athens to Elefsina both as a cultural monument and as a road; the former being static, unchanging, and the latter being dynamic, always moving.
Group 4: Tourism Marketing of Elefsina
The objective of this project was to convey Elefsina outside of its industrial identity, showcasing the city’s longstanding history and vibrant citizens. Subject matter included the archaeological site, shopkeepers, outdoor markets, and Elefsina’s unique seafront. The approach of marketing was tackled by conveying a day trip of the city through a couple’s perspective.
The workshop will be running again next Fall for the 2014 Masters students and will include more archaeological sites in the greater Athens area.
Brittany Wade is the editor of the Initiative for Heritage Conservancy blog and student of the MA in Heritage Management 2013. Having studied Classics in her undergraduate, Brittany is interested in applying her knowledge of history in the field of archaeology. Her interests are mainly in Prehistoric Minoan and Hellenic history.