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In February 2008, the Getty Conservation Institute, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Mali, organized the conference "Terra 2008" in Bamako, Mali. This tenth meeting on the study and conservation of earthen architectural heritage, and the first to be held in Africa, provided a forum for 470 participants from sixty-five countries to discuss and exchange information about earthen architectural heritage across a variety of disciplines. Over one hundred presentations and posters addressed issues including conservation of archaeological sites, living sites, local knowledge systems, conservation and development, training and education, advances in research, seismic and other natural forces, and standards and guidelines for earthen architecture.

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In addition to the formal conference sessions, two exhibits designed to raise public awareness of earthen architecture were on view in Bamako: a photographic exhibit at the National Museum of Mali showing earthen architectural heritage in Mali and around the world and an exhibit of work on earthen architecture undertaken by foreign embassies and nongovernmental organizations in both Mali and their home countries. The latter exhibition included construction demonstrations by masons from different regions in Mali showcasing traditional materials and techniques used in earthen buildings.

The conference was followed by postconference tours to earthen heritage sites in Mali, including Timbuktu, Djenne, Mopti, and the Dogon country, where significant earthen architectural sites are undergoing conservation.

Funding for nearly two hundred participants from throughout Africa and the developing world was made possible through grants from the Getty Foundation, the World Heritage Centre, Africa 2009, Misereor, and the Ford Foundation.

This conference was part of the GCI's Earthen Architecture Initiative, which over the past twenty years has included research on surface protection for adobe walls, treatments and shelters for earthen archaeological sites, conservation treatment techniques for polychrome earthen bas-reliefs, and seismic issues related to earthen structures.

For more information on the Earthen Architecture Initiative, visit the Getty Web site.