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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

an International Achievement
M. Patino *, B. Cliver“
* Project Manager, HABS/HAER/HALS Division, NPS, 1201 Eye St, NW, Washington DC 20005, US -
mariana patinofaicontractor.nps.gov / mariana patino@terra r.rim r.n
“ Chief, HABS/HAER/HALS Division, NPS, (idem) — blaine cliver@nps.gov
The Panama Canal Documentation Project was launched through a tripartite organization - ACP, HABS/HAER/HALS
and ICOMOS- on March of 2001, between the countries of Panama and the United States, to document in interpretive
drawings, large-format photographs and a data base the history of the construction of the Panama Canal and its
mechanical operation, providing future generations with a fully understanding of a colossal achievement of the
engineering of the 20th century. The international perspective through which the Panama Canal Documentation Project
was conducted illustrates how two countries were challenged into organizing, locating, keeping and retrieving
information of a now Panamanian enterprise that was constructed by the United States. The two nations archival
infrastructure expanded frontiers as so will do the new set of drawings with its recording methods and techniques
achieved through digital retrieval. The link with both ICOMOS organizations also accomplished the other part of the
documentation goal, through providing training and exchange of expertise in recording and documenting techniques,
assuring the strong liaison that the academic dimension of the project put into documentation as a tool for historic
preservation activities. Involving personnel from both countries to work jointly assured the new documentation to be
shared equally and produced bilingually. 75 sheets with interpretive drawings, a data base and a huge image bank will
be the deliverables of the project, to be found at several ACP offices and the Miraflores Visitors Center in Panama
and at the Library of Congress, the HABS/HAER/HALS Division of the NPS, the National Archives and the Panama
Canal Museum in Florida in the United States, both in hard copies as on electronic version through the corresponding
organizations web sites.
This is an extraordinary opportunity to talk about the
and the successful-international alliance between the
Panama Canal Authority, the Panama and the United
States ICOMOS committees, and the
HABS/HAER/HALS Division of the National Park
Service, US Department of the Interior.
Project background
In early 1999 US/ICOMOS was approached by the
HABS/HAER/HALS Division of the National Park
Service, US Department of the Interior, to explore
avenues of international cooperation to prepare
interpretive documentation of the work done by the
United States in constructing the Panama Canal at the
beginning of the 20th Century. This work would be
included in the HABS/HAER/HALS collection and
archived at the Library of Congress.
Let me start by presenting a brief history of the
geographical location we are going to be speaking of
and a short introduction of the organizations involved
in the operation:
The Panama Canal is the realization of an idea four
centuries old. It dates almost from the discovery of
Using a cooperative agreement with US/ICOMOS,
and in turn, the link between US/ICOMOS and
ICOMOS Panama, HABS/HAER proposed a joint
initiative to achieve its documentation goal.
US/ICOMOS felt that this would be a good
opportunity to expand its objective of international
cooperation and exchanges by using such a project to
provide training to Panamanian conservationists in
recording and documentation techniques.
A first trip to Panama by the Executive Director of
US/ICOMOS and the Manager of
HABS/HAER/HALS, on the 20 th July 2000, gave birth
to the initiative. In March 2001, a project manager
was assigned to the project.
America by Columbus. The native Indians knew of a
narrow place between the two seas and Balboa, a
Spaniard was the first white man to cross the Isthmus.
He began his expedition and reached the waters of the
Pacific (south sea) in 1513.
With the passing of Spanish colonial domination, the
United States took an official interest in the subject of
a transportation connection between the two oceans;