DiGA in Pakistan

Jessie Pons and Cristiano Moscatelli look back at the first fieldtrip

Last November Jessie Pons and Cristiano Moscatelli completed the first photographic campaign in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Last night, the DiGA team presented a retrospective of their fieldtrip to their colleagues at CERES. This was an occasion to share our experience and look back on the exciting developments and the stimuli this fieldtrip led to. 

Sunrise on the Swat River

During the first two weeks, the photographic campaign focused on the Gandharan collection of the Dir Museum in Chakdara. Every morning, we would travel from the House of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan (IAMP) in Saidu Sharif – our “basecamp” – to Chakdara, witnessing the sun rise over the Swat River. Overall, the collection includes reliefs and statues coming from sites in the Lower Dir area, such as Chatpat, Andan-dheri, Bambolai, etc. These were all excavated by the Pakistani Archaeological Missions during the 1960s. The photographic documentation was carried out by Cristiano and Aurangzaib Khan, a professional photographer who has been collaborating with the IAMP for years. Simultaneously, Ginevra Palmeri (representative of the IAMP) and Jessie made a first general description of the pieces together with their basic metadata (measurements, state of conservation, specific details, etc.). By the end of the fieldtrip, over 700 pieces had been documented. Our partners in Chakdara must be credited for this successful trip as our work in situ was greatly facilitated by Dr. Abdul Samad (KPDAOM Director), Saqib Raza (KPDOAM representative), Moahid Gul (Museum Director) and the museum staff. They provided invaluable support for the logistics, bringing the pieces from the cases and the storage, cleaning them, and making sure we never run out of power: the generator and biscuits were never far away. 

Cristiano injuring his back taking photos, to the total indifference of Ginevra

The DiGA photographic campaign did not only include the material stored at the Dir Museum. When most of the documentation of the collection in Chakdara was completed, the team split: Cristiano started the documentation of the objects excavated at the site of Saidu Sharif I, now held at the House of the IAMP. These pieces came from the Great Stupa and are mostly architectural, nonetheless they are of crucial importance for the history of Buddhist sacred architecture in Gandhara. It was boon to be able to spend hours handling the sculptures in Chakdara and Saidu Sharif and to see the wealth of this collection unfold. A few pieces unleashed our enthusiasm for their iconographical and stylistic peculiarity. We hope to offer a glimpse of these soon!

Aurangzaib takes photos of a bodhisattva with the assistance of Manzoor Hussain and Asad Khan

Taking photos and typing descriptions is not all we did! Every Thursday, our training program for the local staff took place. It was organized by Serena Autiero in coordination with Abdul Samad and attended by 17 participants, including personnel of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa museums and selected students. The program was meant as an occasion to learn new skills and get acquainted with digital tools for the management, conservation, cataloguing, and preservation of museum collections. Based on a “learning-by-doing” approach, the participants acquired key basic competences for planning and implementing a digital database of archaeological materials. This includes the description of items according to standardized vocabularies, their photographic documentation as well as the creation of a digital repository. Their work has resulted in a digital exhibition, “KP Diffused Museum: a Digital Exhibition of Networked Collections”. Maintaining the digitization campaign while devoting the necessary attention to the trainees was at times challenging. Next time, Serena will travel with us to join forces. We’re confident we will be able to propose a training program that is more intensive and more efficient, one that will foster the transmission of the knowledge and know-how we’re privileged enough to have.

Participants in the training program

Over the week-ends, Luca Maria Olivieri (MAIP Director) generously organized excursions to archaeological sites and the DiGA team was lucky enough to have breakfast at Amluk-dara, tea at Abba-sahib-china, lunch at Tokar-dara and, last but not least, pakoras at Takht-i-bahi! One of the most famous Buddhist monastic centers of Gandhara and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Abdul Samad thoughtfully coordinated our visit with M. Riaz, field officer, who offered a detailed guided tour through the site’s history. A visit was also paid to the Peshawar Museum and its stunning collections of Gandharan artefacts, Islamic art and Kalash objects.

Our driver Ali at Amluk-dara

We already are missing Pakistan, and particularly all the people we met and with whom we share this precious experience. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to: Abdul Samad, Moahid Gul, Saqib Raza, Luca Maria Olivieri, Ginevra Palmeri, Aurangzaib Khan, Shafiq, Ali, Yusuf, Rahman, the Staff at Dir Museum, Asim Saleem, Muhammad Adnan Khan, Fawad Khan, Mehran Ashraf, Sami Ullah, Saqib Raza, Muhammad Jahangir, Muhammad Saud, Ghayyur Shahab, Abdul Sohail Khan, Zahid Ullah, Sheraz Inayat, Abdul Wahab, Zubaida Yousaf, Syed Gul Kalash, Romana Haider, Fozia Naz, Johum Jarrar. We cannot wait to see you all again next Fall! 

The staff of the Dir Museum, Chakdara


One Reply to “DiGA in Pakistan”

  1. Salam to all the digitalization team. We miss you. You people spent your time and efforts for the improvement and promotion of valuable objects . We are thankful to all team members especially to Jessie pons for his nice behavior and love with us.

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