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Archaeology, Heritage and Local Authorities Meeting

Convento dos Capuchos/Almada, 11 and 12 January 2024

The Archaeology, Heritage and Local Authorities meeting, organised by the CHAM of the Nova University of Lisbon, the City Council of Almada and the Almada Museum, was held in Almada on 11 and 12 January. This Meeting is based on the assumption that ‘one of the vectors for affirming municipal power in a democracy is culture’. Municipalities have sought to enhance local identities by promoting research and the dissemination of architectural and archaeological heritage, by creating museums, carrying out archaeological excavations and surveys, or by establishing monuments and sites tours. At the same time, the heritage area has been confronted with the powers conferred on City Councils in the field of urban management and territorial planning. Municipalities have thus been directly responsible for and have played a leading role in many different challenges related to cultural heritage, notwithstanding the lack of competences conferred upon them by legislation. (…) This meeting aims to take stock of what municipalities have been doing in terms of architectural and archaeological heritage, learning about best practices and pointing out shortcomings and difficulties, but above all to point out ways of resolving more effectively the problems and challenges the country faces in this area”.
The Meeting was organised into 6 panels:
Protecting, safeguarding and managing immovable heritage: municipal territorial plans
Urban licensing, impact assessment of rural operations and technical monitoring of interventions
Information systems, heritage maps and georeferenced inventories;
Management of listed immovable heritage
Heritage research, publication and dissemination
Deposit and incorporation of movable property, collections and municipal museums

Representing the Mértola Museum, Lígia Rafael presented the paper ‘The problem of the backstage in municipal museums – the case of the Cláudio Torres Mértola Museum’, as part of Panel 6, summarised below.
“The conservation and cultural goods reserve problem are recurring themes and the complex issues involving archaeological materials are a well-known topic, as they are constantly fed by an increasing number of materials resulting from countless interventions. In recent years, the monitoring of works in urban contexts has been exacerbating the problem, which raises complex issues in terms of conservation, research and dissemination.
Since the study and conservation of materials is essential to understanding the past and building the history of the territory over time, we cannot minimise the impact that incorrect storage or unsuitable preservation conditions can have. In fact, we must preserve what we can and in the best conditions, otherwise we may be interfering in the transfer to future generations and jeopardising future technical and methodological approaches.
Given the current scenario, have we indeed evolved and do we have best practice examples in terms of collection reserve and management? Yes, fortunately! Do they correspond to the majority of cases? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so, and the situation worsens when we think about municipal museums’ reserves, especially small museum units without the logistical conditions or resources to incorporate, document and preserve the typological diversity and constituent materials resulting from archaeological interventions.
In the case of Mértola, the four decades of archaeological work have resulted in a collection of considerable size, great material and typological diversity, and diverse needs in terms of packaging and conservation conditions. Its preservation and safety has been a struggle of many people and many years, and recently some progress has been made. Recently, the relocation of the archaeological materials reserve to Mina de S. Domingos (17 km from Mértola) has made it possible to reorganise and facilitate access to the materials, which is indeed a major step forward given the degrading conditions to which the ceramic and stone materials had been subjected for years. On the other hand, the ongoing project for the buildings of the former EPAC barns, located at Além-Rio in Mértola, includes the Heritage Centre, with decent and adequate facilities for the Technical Area of the Mértola Museum, which is also expected to be equipped with specialised human resources in adequate numbers.”.

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