Course of Action
Work started at Riwaq on studying and preparing the necessary materials for producing a registry of historic buildings. The first aspect of the project was a study of the experiences of other countries that had undertaken such work, such as Sweden, France, Britain, Canada, Jordan, and Egypt. Foreign experts were invited to come to Palestine in order to train the team that would undertake the work. The first to contribute to the training process was the Swedish expert Dr. Marianne Raberg. The experiences of some Arab and foreign countries were also researched through visits and examinations of their registration methods and studies and how they dealt with the documentation of historic buildings.
The next step in the project was the registration of the buildings in the two cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh; this work began in 1994 as a pilot and training study. Work commenced once the first questionnaire was designed and maps of the two cities were obtained from the different municipalities. The work then proceeded in the following way: the work was evaluated, the questionnaire was developed, and the results of the project were collated. The project was divided into two parts, fieldwork and office work. We prepared for the fieldwork first, which was considered the most important stage and the most difficult component. The focus was on the following steps:
- A questionnaire was prepared for the registration of the historic buildings, to give elementary information about every building, and a “key" that would help identify the provisions in the questionnaire.
- Maps of the localities with historic buildings were collected from various sources (described later in this report).
- Field supervisors were trained to supervise field researchers and to solve the problems that may rise in the field. This training was done through an extensive lecture program at the center.
- Students of architecture, history, and archeology from various Palestinian universities were trained to fill the questionnaires. They were trained in how to deal with the historic buildings, how to register their locations on the map, how to deal with the residents to facilitate gathering of information, and how to explain the questionnaire's articles. The students were sent on field trips with supervisors to execute several sample questionnaires after which they discussed the mistakes and problems that arose. Following that, they were distributed to localities in which historic buildings were identified for registration.
- Students were trained to take pictures of buildings, and at least one picture was taken of every building.
The preparation for the office-based component of the project included the following:
- A computer database was designed that could absorb the information in the questionnaire and produce reports.
- An office team was trained to review the questionnaires and check them after receiving them from the field workers and supervisors.
- Employees were trained to deal with the information program and enter the questionnaires in the program.
- The information was checked through the computer program before extracting the reports.
- Maps were computerized to depict the location of the buildings and allow the introduction of modifications that were gleaned from the fieldwork.
- The pictures of historic buildings were computerized and an archive of pictures for the Registry was prepared.
Although we studied how Western and Arab countries conducted similar projects, we did not really know when we began how we would deal with the Registry or what possible difficulties we might face. The way of dealing with the Registry developed from the practical experience acquired through field work and information collection..
Work on this project consisted of fieldwork, preparing a work plan for reviewing and verifying the information for publication, collecting information from various surveys, unifying them within a single database, and completing the registration of the remaining populated centers. These included several steps:
- Organizing and indexing the files and preparing them for review and numbering.
- Indexing and computerizing all pictures of buildings surveyed for checking and numbering.
- Collecting field maps of locations, indexing them, computerizing them, and preparing to link them to the database on the Geographical Information System.
- Preparing lists of the surveyed locations, defining the number of buildings in each location, and ensuring that maps were available.
- Following up the information program and developing it, so that it produces what was expected from it (reports/easy entering and reviewing of information ...etc), and unifying the databases of other projects into one comprehensive database for the entire Registry.
- Comparing the location lists with the lists of other surveys (project of cultural resources), and making a list of locations which had not been registered, depending on the lists of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
While work was underway on these steps, we also began to check the information in the questionnaires and the pictures of buildings and to place this information in the database, thus making the database and pictures ready to be linked to the maps on the Geographical Information System. The database was also developed so that reports on every site according to the questionnaire provisions could be produced. The aim was to facilitate report generation for every site and to prepare the material for publication.