A Community-Based Approach
While archaeologists have long been concerned with preserving the sites they study for the future, how best to do so is often much less clear. Traditionally, preservation—often through restoration—has focused on a site's physical remains themselves. As a process, this prevailing approach has tended to at best ignore and at worst actively discourage participation from local stakeholders that may have a strong connection to the site's history and meaning.
A prime concern of the Umm el-Jimal Project and its partners is to develop new ways of thinking about cultural heritage preservation that not only account for the interests of all people connected to the site, but encourage and facilitate participation by this broadly-defined community in conserving and sharing the ruins. Indeed, Umm el-Jimal's own history reinforces the necessity and appropriateness of a community-based approach to the site's preservation. First, Umm el-Jimal's most recent occupation by Druze and Masa'eid was effectively a preservation effort in itself, as these families rebuilt, reused, and protected the site's buildings. Second, the Department of Antiquities' fencing off of the site in the 1970s shifted the ability of local people to access the site, limiting their ability to take care of Umm el-Jimal.
Hence, the Umm el-Jimal Project's long-term preservation strategy focuses on mobilizing a diverse set of stakeholders that includes the residents of modern Umm el-Jimal—some of whom even still remember growing up among the ruins. This approach includes several facets. To begin, the project is developing a suite of English and Arabic public educational resources online through this website's Community and Museum sections as well as via a four-part Curriculum for Jordanian school children in conjunction with Jordan's Ministry of Education. Next, the project is working directly with Jordanian and international organizations to develop innovative community programs such as a permanent cultural heritage center and Water Project. These programs are managed and operated by local organizations such as Black Jewel and the Women's Co-op in collaboration with the project's other partners. Finally, the project continues to develop best practices and methodologies for the site's physical conservation with Yarmouk University, the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, and local participants with decades of experience at the site.
Recent Key Support
The Umm el-Jimal Project gratefully acknowledges the following institutions' support in developing best practices and methodologies for this community-based approach to preservation.
NORHED Urban Transformation in the Southern Levant
A 2015-2018 grant from the NORHED Urban Transformation program is supporting further archaeological research and conservation. Work at Umm el-Jimal is being conducted in parallel with that of scholars from the University of Bergen (Norway) and Birzeti University (Palestine) working at Et-Tell and other sites in the region.
☆ USAID-ACOR SCHEP
A 2015-2016 grant from the Sustainable Cultural Heritage through Engagement of Local Communities Project program by USAID and the American Center of Oriental Research has enabled archaeological conservation of the West Gate area and additional development of the site's interpretive trail.
Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation
Grants from the US Department of State's Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation in 2012 and 2014 have allowed development of site-wide best practices for Umm el-Jimal's physical conservation through the consolidation and preservation of the House XVII-XVIII Complex.
AIA Site Conservation
The project's virtual museum and educational resources were made possible by a 2010 grant from the Archaeological Institute of America's Site Preservation program.