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Syracuse University introduces new interdisciplinary advanced certificate in cultural heritage preservation

May 13, 2010

Margaret Spillett
(315) 443-1069

Three schools and colleges at Syracuse University have joined together to develop the new Certificate of Advanced Study in Cultural Heritage Preservation. The 15-credit hour, graduate-level certificate is designed for students currently pursuing another graduate degree or post-baccalaureate work, and is offered by the School of Information Studies (iSchool), the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

“The idea for the program emerged from a library conference in fall 2007,” says Kenneth Lavender, iSchool professor of practice, who directs the program. Attendees discussed making cultural heritage a major focus in library research. Lavender, whose area of expertise is preservation and special collections, felt this would be a perfect program to develop and implement at the iSchool with the help of partners across campus.

Together with Edward Aiken, director of the graduate program in museum studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Lavender began developing the advanced certificate. The anthropology department in the Maxwell School signed on to be a part of the program, making SU’s advanced certificate the first and only among similar programs to include the anthropology perspective.

Students in the program will learn how to manage and preserve oral traditions, written documents and historical artifacts, and expand these techniques to incorporate electronic preservation techniques, such as virtual museums and digitized collections.

Also, Lavender expects to begin a cultural preservation project with iSchool social media strategist and professor of practice Anthony Rotolo that would use augmented reality, a location-based social technology that enables images and contextual information to be displayed over real-world environments through a mobile phone camera. The team hopes to preserve cultural heritage in communities throughout Syracuse by overlaying information about people, sites and events that occurred at various spots using augmented reality. This technique will then be adaptable to communities wherever cultural preservation is needed.

Recipients of the cultural heritage certificate will be provided with an interdisciplinary grounding in the preservation of cultural heritage. This will include opportunities to focus on such areas as:

• the application of digital approaches to heritage preservation;
• the basics of historic site preservation;
• the management and interpretation of cultural resources; and
• the collection, preservation and curation of archaeological artifacts, archival materials, ethnographic data, and museum and library collections.

The certificate program is intended to prepare students to work with organizations such as libraries, museums, national parks, and state and local agencies in preserving cultural resources.

“We want students to understand the importance of cultural heritage, no matter whose culture it is,” Lavender says.

The Certificate of Advanced Study in Cultural Heritage Preservation will be offered only as an on-campus program and will require the completion of 15 credits: 3 credits of required courses, 6-9 credits of electives and 3-6 credits of internships.

Through internships, students will get hands-on learning experience contributing to the preservation of culture, Lavender says.

Because students will enter the program with different educational and experiential backgrounds, they will work with program advisors to determine the most appropriate ratio of coursework to internships.
One of the main objectives of the advanced certificate is to broaden the employment prospects for students from a variety of majors by providing them with diversified skill sets that enhance their original degree. “The goal is for students to get jobs out of this program,” Lavender says.

Many students have already shown interest in the program and registered for the fall 2010 introduction course (ANT/MUS/IST 622), which is a multi-disciplinary introduction to cultural heritage preservation.

For more information on the Certificate of Advanced Study in Cultural Heritage Preservation, contact Lavender at klavende@syr.edu; Aiken at eaaiken@syr.edu; or Christopher DeCorse, chair of the anthropology department, at crdecors@maxwell.syr.edu; or visit http://ischool.syr.edu/culturalheritage.

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