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SAVING SITES BY TRANSFORMING LIVES

The Sustainable Preservation Initiative


The Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) seeks to save and preserve the worlds cultural heritage by providing transformative and sustainable economic opportunities to poor communities in which cultural heritage sites are located. The SPI mantra is Saving Sites by Transforming Lives.

By Lawrence Coben & Charles S. Stanish

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PEOPLE CANT EAT THEIR HISTORY,


accordingtoUniversityofPennsylvaniaarchaeologistLarryCoben,SPIsExecutiveDirector,weneedto provideanalternativetootherpotentialeconomicuses ofarchaeologicalsites,suchaslooting,agriculture,grazing,residentialandcommercialuses.Thatenablesusto helppeoplebettertheirlivesandgivesthemapowerful economicincentivetopreserveoursharedheritage. SPIwasincubatedattheArchaeologicalInstitute ofAmericaandtheCotsenInstituteofArchaeologyat UCLAasaresponsetotherapidlyacceleratingdestructionoftheworldsglobalheritage.War,looting,climate change,neglectandincreasesinextremetourismare allcontributingtothemassivedamagetoarchaeologicalsites.Particularlyinpoorercommunities,thereis nofundingforsitepreservation,andalternativesto archaeologyarethebesteconomicusesofsites.The problemofeconomicallysuperiorusesisprevalentin bothmoreandlessdevelopedcountries,fromhistoricallysignificantbuildingsinmajorcitesrazedtobuild condominiumstositeslootedtosellartifactsbypoor localresidents.Thecurrenteconomiccrisisonlyexacerbatesthisproblem.

Existingpreservationparadigmshaveprovedinadequateandunsustainable,primarilyduetotheabsenceof aneconomicreasonforlocalcommunitiestocontinue preservingsitesafterthedepartureofarchaeologistsand conservators.Howcansomeonetellapoorpersonnotto economicallyexploitasite,evenifdestructive,without providingaviableeconomicopportunitythatprovides incometothatpersonwhilesimultaneouslypreserving culturalheritage?SPIseekstocreateanewparadigmto solvethisproblem. Theexplosionofextremetourismandglobalization createenormouspotentialforlocallybasedtourismand artisanbusinesses.Evensmalllocaleconomicbenefits cancompetesuccessfullywithlootingandalternative usesofsites.Andthecreationoflocalbusinesseswitha vestedinterestinthepreservationandmaintenanceofa siteprovidesanongoingandlong-termsourceofincentiveandfundingforsite preservation,aswellas Even small local economic benefits allofthebenefitsnormallyassociatedwith can compete successfully with looting economicdevelopment inpoorcommunities. and alternative uses of sites.

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Working with community and governmental leaders, local business people, archaeologists and preservationists, SPI will develop plans for projects and businesses that will be locally owned and that maximize spending in the communities surrounding the sites.

SPIsgoalisthecreationofthisnewpreservation paradigm.Workingwithcommunityandgovernmentalleaders,localbusinesspeople,archaeologistsand preservationists,SPIwilldevelopplansforprojectsand businessesthatwillbelocallyownedandthatmaximizespendinginthecommunitiessurroundingthe sites.Throughmicrolenders,charitableorganizations andothersourcesoffunding,SPIwillprovidegrantsto existingorstartupbusinessessuchastourism,guides,

restaurants,hostels,transportation,artisansandsite museumsandotherrapidlyimplementableprojects. Continuedeconomicsupportwillbetiedtosuccessful sustainablebusinessandpreservationefforts.Through thiscombinationoflocalinvolvement,decisionmakingandownership,sustainableeconomicbenefitsand valuewillberelatedtoandconditioneduponcontinued sitepreservation.Thesebusinesseswillalsoprovidean ongoingrevenuestreamtomeetpreservationandother localneeds.Thisparadigmprovidestwoforthepriceof oneeverydollarspentoneconomicdevelopmentand theimprovementoflocalpeoplesliveswillalsoserveto preservetheworldsculturalheritage. Ofcourse,meresuccessfulimplementationofafew projectswillnotstemthedestructionoftheworlds globalheritage.Rather,SPIwillpublicize,publishand educatewithrespecttoitssuccessesandfailures,aswell ascreateanonlinenetworkofexpertswhocanconsult witharchaeologistsandlocalcommunitiestoassist themintheimplementationoflocaleconomicallysustainableprojects.Manyarchaeologistsdesirestrongly toassisttheirlocalcommunitiesinthisway,butarenot trainedtodoso.SPIwillbearesourceforthemtocall

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upontomeetthisgoalandpreservetheirsites.SPIwill alsoprovidecoursematerialforinclusioninarchaeologicalcurricula. SPIispresentlyactiveinPeruandArmenia,andexpectstoannounceprojectspriortoyear-endinJordan. SPIsstrongestsupportersincludetheAIA,theCotsenInstituteandthemembersofitsoutstandingboard ofdirectors,whichincludesabroadcrosssectionof archaeologists,businesspeople,internationaldevelopmentexpertsanddiplomats,allofwhomarededicated tothesuccessfulimplementationofSPIsnewpreservationparadigm.

SUPPORT THE SPI


The Sustainable Preservation Initiative is looking for donors who share its vision of community-based heritage preservation. To find out more about supporting the project, please visit: www.ioa.ucla.edu/support. For more information about the Sustainable Preservation Initiative, visit : www.sustainablepreservation.org.

Lawrence Coben is Executive Director of the SPI. Charles Stanish is Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

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