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Gannon University Helps Launch Madaba Digital Documentation and Tourism Project

Published: 05/18/2021

An image of Madaba, Jordan from the Madaba Digital Documentation and Tourism Project.

An image of Madaba, Jordan from the Madaba Digital Documentation and Tourism Project.

A collaboration between Gannon University and several entities including La Sierra University and the Department of State has developed the Madaba Digital Documentation and Tourism Project that launched today, May 18. 

The project, called “One Place, Many Stories,” aims to foster greater appreciation and protection for Jordan’s cultural heritage by showcasing the connection between community members and their local heritage. The project involved digital documentation of the heritage sites within the historic downtown that were combined with audio and video tours to chronicle the lives and culture of Madaba residents. Developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program provided training in 3D documentation and storytelling to members of the local community, empowering them to share their perspectives through an interactive web-based experience. 

Viewers of the One Place, Many Stories project can tour one of the wonders of Jordan, the ancient city of Madaba. They can also explore in vivid 3D the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land. The experience is available in English and Arabic and takes viewers on a journey through some of the most recognizable sites in Madaba. It is narrated by local tour guides.

The focus of the project is historic downtown Madaba, Jordan, including the Burnt Palace in the Madaba Archaeological Park West, St. George’s Church of the Map, and the Hippolytus Hall/Church of the Virgin Mary in the Madaba Archaeological Park East, all along the Madaba Heritage Trail.

The project is a collaborative endeavor of several entities including the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum Project, or MRAMP, a USAID funded project founded in 2015 by Gannon University’s Suzanne Richard, Ph.D., distinguished professor in Gannon’s Department of History and Archaeology and the Department of Theology, as well as founder and director of the Archaeological Museum Gallery and director of the Collins Institute for Archaeological Research at Gannon. MRAMP is co-directed by Douglas R. Clark, Ph.D., of La Sierra University. 

Gannon received a $25,900 grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation and the Cultural Antiquities Task Force to support the project.

The collaboration also included CyArk – a nonprofit organization that digitally records, archives and shares the world’s most significant cultural heritage and ensures that these places continue to inspire wonder and curiosity for decades to come – along with La Sierra University and the U.S. Department of State, specifically the English Training Center, StoryCenter, the Madaba Ministry of Tourism, the Department of Antiquities, and the American University of Madaba.

Richard said that of the three Cultural Heritage Preservation projects that she is involved in, the Madaba Digital Documentation and Tourism Project is unique.

“We sought to continue to safeguard the cultural heritage of Jordan even in a COVID-19 lockdown. This project (Sept. 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021) was an experimental and innovative initiative to remotely train 12 people from the local Madaba community to complete all the work on the ground,” Richard said. “CyArk then produced the integrated 3D video and audio virtual Madaba experience. Gannon’s role in Cultural Heritage Management and Preservation is notable.” 

The Madaba Digital Documentation and Tourism Project expands Gannon’s efforts to repurpose the current Madaba Museum and safeguard the endangered Museum artifactual collection, which is supported through an AFCP-CATF award of $188,950. The collection is the signature source for the proposed new museum in the Archaeological Park West, an initiative of MRAMP to protect, restore and preserve the cultural heritage of the Madaba region and ensure sustainability that will positively impact local and international tourism as well as the local economy.

Future initiatives through this project could provide 3D exhibits of artifacts, as well as expanding terrestrial and drone capture to the important archaeological sites within the Madaba governorate, as well as elsewhere in Madaba or the country.

Explore the One Place, Many Stories project at https://cyark.org/projects/madaba/overview 

Learn more about the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum Project at http://madabamuseum.org/en