I attended a lecture this evening hosted by my local AIA chapter and the ‘Lectures for Troops’ program was mentioned in passing. This sparked my interest since I wasn’t aware of the program and certainly not aware that the AIA was involved.
From the program website I gather that the program was started in 2005 with the aim of providing deploying U.S. troops with information about the archaeology, history and cultural heritage of the Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a broader cultural awareness program.
Dr C. Brian Rose is quoted as saying “The troops currently being sent to the Middle East have to deal with a culture that many of them have never studied. Often they’re called upon to patrol archaeological sites and museum, especially in Iraq, and this requires a deeper understanding of that culture.”
This is clearly linked with the CHAMP (The Cultural Heritage by AIA-Military Panel) initiative, which advocates for the preservation of heritage sites in war zones worldwide. Glancing at the CHAMP news page there are stories from Syria, Libya, Egypt and Mali.
I think that both programs are a really fantastic idea. Having talked a lot this week, both in and out of the classroom, about the effect of war on heritage and preservation issues I’ve been struck by what a horribly complex situation it is. There are no simple solutions and what works in one area may not work elsewhere. What works in peacetime may not be possible to implement during war. Even the most dedicated preservation advocate can admit that in these cases the “typical” solutions are not always applicable.
It’s also nice to see an acknowledgement that knowledge of history and culture are important aspects to successful missions overseas. Cultural understanding and the idea of a shared cultural heritage are perhaps one of the best steps (idealistic as this may sound) towards mutual respect.
Link to CHAMP website: http://aiamilitarypanel.org/