“Archaeology, Anthropology and Museum Enhancement Grants in Bulgaria” is a joint program between the American Research Center in Sofia (ARCS) and The Field Museum in Chicago (FM), and it is funded by the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF). As part of the administration of the grants, staff members from ARCS and the FM meet every summer to work on the development and enhancement of the joint program. In June 2012, Dilyana Ivanova (Program Assistant, FM) travelled to Sofia to work with the specialists at ARCS on the upcoming 2013 archaeological and anthropological grant applications. With Dr. Emil Nankov (Archaeological Program Officer, ARCS), Ivanova visited several of the museums and archaeological sites across the nation that received funding through the Site Preservation and Museum Enhancement Grant (SPCME), one of the four available grants.
The first stop on their trip to the current SPCME-funded sites was Nicopolis ad Istrum, near Veliko Tarnovo. This site was funded in 2010 though a project of the Regional Historical Museum – Veliko Turnovo in the amount of $42,486. The project ended in the Fall of 2011. Since the conclusion of the project, the site has experienced many noticeable changes. Among these changes are the construction of new roofed structures to ensure the physical protection of the many monuments and features of the site, including a Roman well. Additionally, after the project ended in 2011, the overall site maintenance was improved considerably and the site now attracts more and more new visitors from Bulgaria and abroad.
After visiting Nicopolis ad Istrum, Nankov and Ivanova continued on to Kazanlak, where they met Meglena Parvin. Parvin is the director of the 2011 SPCME project of the Kazanlak Museum of History, funded in the amount of $45,000. This project is entitled, “Preservation and Enhancement of the Antiquity Collection of Museum of History ‘Iskra.’” Parvin gave Nankov and Ivanova a tour of the regenerated antiquity storage facility of the museum, where she revealed the results of the project's work. The updated facility will ensure conditions for long-term preservation of the collections, create a safe environment for their storage, and provide space for future acquisitions of artifacts. The most endangered artifacts have been sent to a specialized laboratory for restoration, and a temporary exhibit of these artifacts is planned for the near future.The next stop was Burgas, the location of the “Ancient Colony Deultum-Debelt.” The project, called “Conservation, Restoration and Socialization of Archaeological Monuments from Ancient Colony Deultum, near Debelt,” was funded in 2010 in the amount of $47,810, with the ultimate goal of promoting archaeological heritage and attracting tourism to the Burgas region. The results of this project, which ended in 2011, were astounding; there was such a substantial increase in tourism that two new guides were hired in 2012 to accommodate the influx of visitors. This project is notable for its successful community engagement efforts. In addition, a temporary exhibit of the objects that were restored through the project was organized at the Archaeological Museum of Burgas. Amongst the artifacts were a fragmented bronze statue of Septimius Severus (196-211 A.D.), two bronze mugs, glassware, and other findings.
The final leg of the SPCME site tour found Ivanova and Nankov in the medieval town of Cherven, south of the northern border city of Rousse. The project of the Rousse Regional Museum of History, called “The Bishops Residence from the Late Middle Ages – Archaeology, Education and Tourism,” was funded in 2011 in the amount of $39,680. It was successfully completed in June 2012. The Bishop’s Residence from the 15th and 16th century—previously mysterious and hidden from both tourists and locals—has changed dramatically during the one-year duration of the grant. What was once a threatened site is now a center for tourism in the Lom River Valley region of Bulgaria, thanks to the conservation team’s tremendous efforts in community engagement, education, and conservation and restoration.
The team also produced a 27-minute film entitled, “The Lom River Valley Unseen,” and distributed it to visitors. Additionally, the team was able to incorporate an educational component into the project by publishing an interactive archaeological workbook for kids. Overall, the project was highly successful, as discussed by the museum’s director Nikolay Nenov, curator Stoyan Iordanov, Emil Nankov (ARCS), and Dilyana Ivanova (FM) at the project’s closing press conference.
As it is focused on the development and enhancement of tourism in Bulgaria, the SPCME grant strives to engage both local and international tourists through the funding of promising museum projects across the nation. With each awarded proposal, the Archaeology, Anthropology and Museum Enhancement Grants team aims to engage the communities and increase overall awareness and interest in the archaeological culture of Bulgaria. This goal relates directly to the America for Bulgaria Foundation mission to advance archaeological and anthropological research in Bulgaria to develop museums and archaeological and cultural heritage sites for tourism.
Accompanying Ivanova on her trip to Bulgaria was the ABF Archaeological and Anthropological Program at the FM Intern, Morgan Iddings. Iddings, a senior at the University of Notre Dame, has been conducting an ongoing study of attitudes towards the past in post-socialist Bulgaria. While in Rousse, Iddings was able to interview several informants, as well as distribute questionnaires and employ participant-observation research methods. She hopes to use her experiences in Bulgaria and as an intern at the FM in graduate school this coming year.