Now that the Registry is almost finished, we can evaluate our work and identify problem areas that have bearing on our general accuracy and the percentage of error.
- It is critical to devise a questionnaire that has a clear objective, with an appendix of clear explanation of its provisions (key to filling the questionnaire), and an agreement on certain terms by researchers. This is necessary in order to avoid repetition of the same meaning and different expression used by different people and in the various categories. We had difficulty in extracting reports from the programs because terms were not consistently used across questionnaires, the failure of the parties that carried out the surveys.
- Agreement should be reached early in the project on a numeration system that takes into consideration the official number of centers, governorates, buildings, and so on. This is essential so that the information can be linked the appropriate pictures and the maps in later stages of the project.
- The questionnaire should be discussed with a programmer specialized in various databases, and he or she should attend the final discussions related to the questionnaire form and content in order to understand the study's objectives and thereby to create a program that is capable of absorbing the information and extracting reports. A staff member assuming the role of general supervisor should liaise with the programmer throughout the course of the project. This is necessary so that the programmer takes the project objectives into consideration when designing the database. This strategy would avoid technical problems, which we ran into when we developed our database and which was inevitably time consuming.
- A fieldwork team must be trained to fill in the questionnaires correctly and accurately and to deal with the buildings and solve problems that may arise during the fieldwork. For projects like ours, architects or history and archeology students are good field researchers. During the training process, some questionnaires should be filled by the supervisors, and the field team should be sent alone into the field. The information they collect should be reviewed in order to evaluate their understanding of the information and accuracy before the actual work on the project starts. We found that despite the training courses that preceded field work, the large number of field researchers and supervisors from various cultural backgrounds led to disparities in their use of various terms when filling the questionnaires and in registering the historic buildings. This was the result of either a lack of understanding of the questionnaire and its provisions or an inability to diagnose and solve problems in the field (for example, dealing with the building as one or as a group of buildings). This also created problems when entering information from the questionnaire into the computer.
- Plans should be put in place for reviewing the information in order to explore any possible problems which may appear and insure that they are resolved. The fieldwork team needs constant supervision, and problems they encounter should be discussed with them. A process must be developed to control the field information before it is accumulated and before the field researchers forget the information they observed. Problems are more likely to occur when there is a large fieldwork team with little supervision.
- Before starting work, different kinds of maps of the locations should be prepared. Maps based on recent aerial photographs are more likely to be accurate than other maps. Maps then are divided into basins to facilitate work and numeration. These maps should be computerized. We ran into problems because we lacked accurate maps for the fieldwork; moreover, we couldn't link these maps to clear coordinates, so it was difficult for us to define the historic buildings in the field and to deal with the map on the computer. Consequently, this has affected our effort to draw up protection plans. The lack of accurate maps is an ongoing problem.
We also faced some other important issues, which played a role in the accuracy of information:
- We lacked written references to assist in acquiring information about the buildings, especially in the villages. This made it difficult for us to validate information, including the date of construction and ownership. As a result, information was collected through anecdotal oral testimonies and the researchers’ estimations, especially in relation to the year of construction, various phases, and the building condition. The most important problems that arose from verbal information was defining the building properties, which can only be ascertained by going back to the records of the municipalities, local and village councils, and religious courts.
- The field surveys were conducted during difficult political conditions. A particularly acute period was from 2001 onwards, which was when we organized and edited the material in preparation for publication. During this period, researchers and supervisors were denied freedom of movement between populated centers. This in turn affected the completion of photography, documentation, and the fact checking. Inevitably this affected the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the information collected.
Much work remains to be done, including photographing the centers in which the buildings were not photographed, re-numerating questionnaires and pictures in various databases, unifying them with the currently adopted numerating system, completing the unification of terms in the program, and editing the material, so that it becomes more manageable when updated in the future. We also need to work on continuing to survey the centers we were unable to survey previously.
The preceding remarks should be taken into consideration when updating the current information in the future. It is also important to design a questionnaire for this updating process in which provisions are specific and clear and are based on the last questionnaire and on the targeted objective of the updating process as a whole, so that the database can be used for more than one issue and project at a time. The database program should also be developed to serve the same purpose and to keep abreast of developments in this field.
Finally and after such a immense project, we at Riwaq can say that the experience we gained throughout these years, allows us to objectively evaluate the Registry. Although some mistakes have occurred, which are quite justifiable in such a new experience, there are immeasurable benefits that can be obtained from the Registry if we recognize the means for handling its results.