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In March 2008, the GCI Education Department coordinated a two-week workshop, "From Risk Assessment to Conservation: Safeguarding Archaeological Complexes in the Mekong Region," at the World Heritage site of Vat Phou, in Champasak, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). The workshop was a collaboration among the GCI, the Lao PDR Ministry of Information and Culture, the Southeast Asian Ministries of Education Organization Regional Center for Archaeology and Fine Arts in Thailand, and the Fondazione Lerici, Italy.

The goals of the workshop included addressing common conservation issues encountered by heritage professionals throughout the region, enhancing participants' heritage conservation skills by providing new methodologies for conserving and managing large archaeological sites, and developing a network of built heritage conservation professionals within the region.

Twenty-five participants—five each from Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar—attended the workshop. Participants were selected based on their professional experience (early- to midcareer professionals), their level of professional responsibility, and their ability to share and implement in their home countries the information and experience gained during the workshop. An international group of conservation professionals led the workshop, which used lectures, guided discussions, field exercises, and group presentations to address such topics as risk identification and needs prioritization, documentation and condition assessment, material conservation, and risk prevention, as well as project budgeting and proposal writing.

The site of Vat Phou was chosen for the workshop not only because it is a quintessential example of the vast archaeological complexes found in the Mekong River region but also because it exemplifies the challenges associated with the conservation and management of cultural landscapes.

The younger conservation professionals of the region, despite their geographical proximity, often find it difficult to share knowledge and collaborate with their peers on common conservation challenges. The workshop not only offered participants an enriching experience, it also provided materials such as scholarly articles, teaching outlines, and bibliographies for their continued professional development.

The GCI is currently evaluating how, where, and with whom it might collaborate for a follow-up workshop. Other collaborative activities, such as the creation of didactic materials, are also being considered.

"From Risk Assessment to Conservation" is a component of the GCI project Built Heritage in Southeast Asia: Conservation Education and Training Initiative. Its objective is to respond strategically to key education and training needs for built heritage conservation in Southeast Asia. For more information visit the Built Heritage in Southeast Asia Initiative.