Colonial Cultural Heritage Analysis in the Caribbean
University of Bamberg researchers teach non-destructive heritage conservation techniques in Cuba
Havana is among the first cities established by Spain in the New World. This year, Cuba’s capital is celebrating its 500th birthday. Havana, and particularly the city’s historic centre, is characterised by a varied history that is reflected in its diversity of architectural styles. “Many buildings in Havana’s centre are unfortunately in acute danger of collapse and many are damaged past the point of preservation. Cuban heritage conservationists are making great efforts to save the most significant of these historic buildings,” says Dr. Till Sonneman, Assistant Professor of Digital Geoarchaeology at the University of Bamberg. Together with his colleague Prof. Mona Hess, Chair of Digital Technologies in Heritage Conservation, and her research assistant Dr. John Hindmarch, they hope to make a small contribution to these efforts by offering an introductory course on the utilisation of non-destructive building analysis methods. Following the success of the first international summer school focusing on the Bamberg Cathedral in July 2018, “Monitoring Heritage 2019” was offering the course in Cuba’s World Heritage capital city. From 23 to 27 September, twenty students of heritage conservation and archaeology at the Colegio Universitario San Gerónimo de La Universidad de la Habana learned about non-destructive imaging methods like working with the terrestrial laser scanner or photogrammetry and the examination of substrata using ground-penetrating radar.
“Dr. Sergio Raymant Arencibia Iglesias, director of the heritage conservation degree programme and vice-dean of the Colegio, had selected a particularly fascinating documentation object in the Palacio de los Condes de Jaruco at the Plaza Vieja,” says Till Sonnemann. Because the patio’s paving slabs have never been moved, the conservationists are interested in discovering how the historical water pipes are situated beneath the building with the help of the ground-penetrating radar. Laser scanning also enables researchers to take all deformation into account while making measurements, creating floor plans and sectional views and rendering 3-D models of individual buildings. It also allows them to observe any structural changes. As Mona Hess states, “We’d like to provide the local students with insights into these technologies so that they can use them to create efficient digital documentation of the buildings and learn more about their condition.” This information can then serve as a foundational resource for the preservation of buildings in the Cuban capital.
This international cooperation is being funded by the Bavarian Research Alliance (BayFOR) and the Bavarian Academic Center for Latin America (BAYLAT), of which the latter initiated the cooperative efforts on the occasion of Havana’s celebration of Alexander von Humboldt’s 250th birthday.
University of Bamberg scholars are not only sharing their expertise in Havana. The university is currently cooperating with a total of 22 partner universities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Columbia, Cuba, Mexico and Peru. Staff members from both the Centre for Heritage Conservation Studies and Technologies (KDWT) and the Institute of Archaeology, Heritage Sciences and Art History are involved in conducting interdisciplinary projects worldwide and organising summer schools.
Prof. Dr. Mona Hess
Chair of Digital Technologies in Heritage Conservation
Prof. Dr. Till Sonnemann
Assistant Professor of Digital Geoarchaeology