The Department of Culture (DoC) under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) has launched its first-ever cultural heritage database system to conserve the important heritage sites in the country.
Realizing the importance of the system, DoC had earmarked the project as an essential activity in the 12th FYP for which the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (US AFCP), through the Bhutan Foundation, supported the project with USD 101,100 for two years.
With the absence of a proper database and inventory of cultural heritage, Bhutan faced a tremendous challenge in protecting its cultural heritage, particularly in the face of rapid socio-economic development said Patricia A. Lacina, Charge De’ Affairs of U.S Embassy in New Delhi, India
The inventory and database system in place would assist in the planning of the major infrastructural projects like hydropower or economic zone with due consideration of the cultural heritage of the nation and the particular region.
Senior Architect of the DoC, Pema Wangchuk, said “The DoC has documentation and inventory data of some important heritage sites. However, due to a lack of proper inventory and database system, the information is underutilized. Therefore, the institution of an inventory and database system will enhance the current practice and protection of heritage sites, and play a pivotal role in the registration and designation of heritage sites, which in turn is value-based protection of heritage sites.”
The project has reinforced DoC’s realization of the urgency to document and study the heritage sites in the east and remote areas of the country. It further opened the dialogue between the custodians and the community on the importance of inventory.
Under the project, DoC has documented 68 cultural heritage sites in total, 26 sites in Bumthang, 22 in Trashigang, and 20 in Mongar. They also trained 5 young architects and researchers in documentation and analysis of the heritage sites contributing to the capacity building of professionals in the field of conservation of cultural heritage.
He said, “DoC will carry out similar documentation and surveys of heritage sites in western districts.”
To make the database more dynamic, the Geographic Information System (GIS) will be integrated which will give the real-time location of the heritage sites and the intangible cultural heritage (ICH).
Meanwhile, Director of the DoC, Nagtsho Dorji, said, “During the process of implementing this project, DoC worked towards recognizing the values associated with the heritage sites, and accordingly registering and designating sites with national value as important heritage sites.”
By undertaking such actions, it will instill an appreciation for heritage sites within the community, and invoke their sense of ownership and responsibility towards sustaining the heritage sites and activities associated to these sites, she added.