A weeklong workshop on photographic documentation is underway in the capital

Workshop: To safeguard the country’s rich cultural heritage through photographic documentation, a weeklong workshop began in the capital yesterday.

Twenty participants from the Department of Culture and National Museum in Paro are learning the basic knowledge of photography and introduction to photographic documentation of cultural properties.

Officials from the Cultural Heritage Protection Corporation Office, Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), Nara office in Japan, are in the capital to mentor the participants.

Director of culture department, Rinzin Penjore, said photographic documentation is the first step towards documenting the invaluable cultural heritage in Bhutan.

“Although we use our cameras very often in our line of work, we never have a standard of using them for our record and research purpose nor do we know how to use our camera to its best extent,” Rinzin Penjore said. “Therefore, it is fair to say that while we do extensive research in our work, the photographs that we take for record or publication purpose are never the best of its kind.”

ACCU’s director, Yasushi Nishimura, said with the recent spread of inexpensive and easy way to use cameras, anyone can now take a digital photo by just pressing the shutter.

“But photographs related to cultural properties are for the purpose of recording historical materials, and have the role of preserving data for the future,” Yasushi Nishimura said.

Through this workshop, we hope to teach what constitutes a photograph of cultural property and introduce as much of the technology as possible, Yasushi Nishimura said.

Many countries in the Asia Pacific region, Yasushi Nishimura, said now face challenging issues related to the planning of cultural heritage protection, and the preservation and restoration of cultural properties.

“As a result of these deficiencies such as shortage of human and fund resources, a large number of cultural properties have been destroyed or damaged,” Yasushi Nishimura said. “In addition, policies resulting in excessive tourism have prevented sufficient repair or restoration of these properties. For these reasons, cultural heritage in this vast and diverse region is seriously endangered.”

National Assembly Speaker, Jigme Zangpo, said challenges are multi-faceted as the country is developing fast and expectations are growing high.

“Extended family life is vanishing and many monuments are either restored partially or totally reconstructed with new techniques and materials. In doing so, bringing back to its original glory has become a daunting challenge,” the Speaker said. “Therefore, photographic documentation is a powerful tool to preserve and document our rich cultural heritage.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the culture department and the ACCU yesterday. The participants will be given practical training on photographic techniques for traditional structures and moveable cultural properties, and on digital data management and utilization during the weeklong workshop.

Thinley Zangmo