Islamabad - National History and Literary Heritage Division (NHLH) is all set to initiate work on the project of digital documentation of archaeological artefacts to provide database for scholars to conduct research and prevent illicit trafficking of archaeological objects.

According to the official source, this project titled `Establishment of digitalization centre for documentation of the artefacts and archival material at Department of Archaeology and Museums’ was approved in the budget of fiscal year 2016-17.

The project, costing to Rs. 2.929 million, has been approved from Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP). The process of opening of assignment account and the release of funds is under process and the work will hopefully start by the mid January. “Preservation and documentation has always been a matter of concern for the academic research of the moveable and immoveable cultural wealth of the country”, Joint Secretary, NHLH, Mashhood Mirza said.

Talking to APP, he said the fragility of archaeological material and lack of documentation of the archaeological artefacts in the national repository limits academic study and verification of record so it is imperative to preserve and document the archaeological material.  The digital archiving of the whole record of the archaeological artefacts in the custody of DoAM was direly needed for posterity and providing data to the scholars for interpretive information, he said.

Mashhood Mirza said, this step will also prove as a deterrent for pilfered objects from the archaeological sites and monuments and it’s selling on the black market as this data is shared internationally with Interpol and other databases for deterring illicit trafficking of archaeological objects. “It will enable us to comply with the UNESCO convention of 1970 - “Prohibiting and Preventing the illicit Import/Export and Transfer of ownership of cultural property”, he said.

The high resolution pictures and maintenance of electronic database is the only way to overcome the issues of illicit import and export of precious relics.

This project will provide an additional platform for access and exhibition of documents and artefacts for providing research facilities for scholars, researchers from Pakistan and abroad in the field of archaeology, Mashhood Mirza said. He said NHLH has revitalized the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) which was lying dormant after devolution under 18th Amendment of the constitution.

Advisor to Prime Minister on NHLH, Irfan Siddiqui who is taking keen interest in preservation and safeguard of the cultural heritage, has issued special directions to implement this project without any delay for saving country’s precious heritage, he said.