Developing and Implementing a Web-based National Geospatial Inventory System

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The second component of the initiative was the development and implementation of a Web-based national geospatial inventory system for the SBAH: the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities (MEGA)-Iraq. The system was to be accessible to the SBAH's regional offices, as well as international scholars, and be:

  • in Arabic and English;
  • easy to use and not requiring extensive training of personnel;
  • built with technical tools that are non-proprietary so that it could be easily maintained and readily customized to accommodate changes in practices in the future;
  • built with software that is low-cost, making upgrades and maintenance affordable; and
  • compatible with systems used by other national, regional, and local authorities, particularly those dealing with development and land ownership, thereby allowing for the sharing of data.

These development criteria were selected to help ensure that MEGA-Iraq would be sustainable. MEGA-Iraq was envisioned to be used by the SBAH as a planning and decision-making tool to address needs related to the legal protection of sites, site management, infrastructure and development control, World Heritage requirements, and development of national and regional research strategies. It was designed to allow for recording the timing and extent of looting of sites in order to provide for targeted protection measures, to permit the SBAH to assess the potential impact on heritage sites of planned development and to prevent damage before development projects are implemented.

Work Completed

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The GCI and WMF began work on a national geospatial inventory for the SBAH in 2004. The GCI and WMF held a number of meetings with SBAH leadership and other personnel to gather information on their needs for the system. In tandem with the system's development, the initiative developed a methodology for the rapid recording of sites and assessment of their significance, condition, and management situation. The rapid assessment methodology was developed to provide data for the national inventory and to assess archaeological and architectural site protection and conservation needs and priorities.

Unfortunately, the ongoing conflict in Iraq impeded the successful completion of the system. At the same time, it was evident that Jordan had a similar need and requirements for such a system. The Jordanian Department of Antiquities (DoA) was also a strong supporting partner of the GCI-WMF Iraq Initiative. It was decided, therefore, to continue working on such a system, implementing it first in Jordan and developing it in such a way so as to make it adaptable and configurable for Iraq and other Arabic-speaking countries.

MEGA-Jordan was deployed nationwide in December 2010. Information is available on the project website.

In April 2011 the GCI and WMF made a prototype of MEGA-Iraq available to the SBAH. Unfortunately administrative changes in Iraq have delayed the implementation of MEGA-Iraq by the SBAH.

Page updated: January 2015