Shengru Li’s internship at UNESCO Office for the Pacific States

Li working in UNESCO Office for the Pacific States

Li carried out the internship with Culture Sector in UNESCO Office for the Pacific States in Apia, Samoa from October, 2017 to February, 2018. UNESCO Office in Apia serves sixteen independent countries and one territory in the Pacific in areas of education, science and culture. Li was working with the culture sector in collaboration with Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (MESC) to build the national Intangible Culture Heritage (ICH) database in Samoa.

Li first carried out a review of the current status in the development of ICH database in Samoa. It was found that UNESCO had collaborated with MESC to collect information regarding ICH elements from the local community using the locally adapted ICH inventorying instrument. Through the inventorying process, various types of data such as descriptions of the ICH elements, photos, videos and survey questionnaires were collected. According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, collecting data and creating a national database are important steps towards the safeguarding of ICH elements. Given the background that the ICH database is yet to be constructed, Li focused on the prototyping and the development of the ICH database to be adapted by MESC.

From left, Li, Prof. Yamaguchi, Dr. Takahashi (UNESCO Culture Specialist) under hand knitted roof using coconut tree fibre (local craftsmanship, an ICH element)

In order to understand the local requirements for constructing the database, interviews were conducted with UNESCO Culture Sector specialist, Culture Division officers, and ICT Division officers of MESC. Through multiple iterations of consultation, specifications such as the layout of the user interface, functions of the database, deployment plan, as well as maintenance and training needs were clarified. The prototype of the ICH database was demonstrated to UNESCO and MESC specialists in December, 2017,  during which the participants brainstormed and offered inputs to further improve the database. Prof. Yamaguchi from Tokyo Tech also presented the case of the World Heritage Database in Luang Prabang, Laos to illustrate the importance and benefits of the database.

Brainstorming with staff from MESC, Samoa

As a result, the ICH database was developed which functions as a simple Content Management System (CMS) using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The users can manage information of the ICH elements through a user-friendly interface. You may refer to the technical details and the description of all procedures by following this link. The ICH database was deployed on a local workstation in Culture Division of MESC. Training on how to build the database was conducted with four MESC staff members at the beginning of 2018, mainly using video training materials with hands-on practise. The motivation of MESC staff was found high to further learn about the design, implementation and management of the database by self-learning. It is expected that the ICH database will be deployed on the server to be open to the public in the future, to promote the regional and global information sharing of the ICH elements in Samoa.

Training with staff of MESC on building database web-application

Through this internship, Li gained the first-hand experience of working with a development project using ICT in a Small Island Developing (SID) country. He has experienced extensively in coordinating and reconciling opinions from different stakeholders to reach project outcomes. Li was also involved in other activities such as volunteering in the beach clean ups. He also enjoyed diving in Samoa, and deepened his understanding of the influence of climate change on coastal bio-diversity by witnessing coral bleaching.

Group of fish and coral under the sea near Upolu Island, Samoa
Print Friendly, PDF & Email