Researchers discuss the challenges of Mongolian cultural preservation

An article for The UB Post reporting the American Center for Mongolian Studies’ Cultural Preservation Conference. Original can be found here.

The American Center for Mongolian Studies hosted the ACMS Conference on Mongolian Cultural Heritage last week.

Presentations were given by over 20 speakers hailing from academic institutions worldwide. Researchers were affiliated with organizations such as the Max Planck Institute, the National Library of Mongolia, Global Leadership University, University of Warsaw, and the Archaeological Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences among others. Topics of discussion included anthropology, archaeology, and history, as well as economics, biology, literature, and others.

Presenters emphasized Mongolia’s nomadic roots. They underscored the need to preserve fading traditions in the face of urbanization and modernization. Cultural customs and traditions such as milk fermentation, herding, and shamanism were discussed.

A recurring issue that was additionally discussed was the impact of the nation’s abrupt transition from a socialist government to a capitalist society. Presenters argued that abrupt privatization of land has led to its inefficient use and exacerbated desertification.

Another topic highlighted by speakers was the interaction of Mongolian culture with that of other distant nations’, such as Polish culture or Slovak culture. They illustrated the widespread influence of the Mongolian empire throughout the centuries, from its prominence in ancient weaponry in Eastern Europe to its influence on the development of USSR climbing culture in the 1960s.

During each presentation, speakers discussed public outreach and education as one of the most effective means of promoting cultural heritage. They highlighted the benefits of building a national identity for Mongolia based on the country’s array of complex traditions.

Julie Pitzen in particular presented a poster on the role and importance of education in cultural heritage. Pitzen works at the International School of Ulaanbaatar and conducted independent research on this subject.

“Field trips, museum education and public programming play an important role in educating people about archaeology, their heritage and why it is important to protect it,” she said. She presented ideas for teachers and museums to promote heritage amongst youth in their curriculum.

The other presentations seemed to conclude the same thing. In the researchers’ efforts to preserve Mongolian heritage, be it an archaeological site, an important custom, or ancient texts, public outreach and education was vital to solving the problem.

Public outreach and education is part of the American Center for Mongolian Studies’ mission. “We hold bi-weekly speaker series and publish monthly field notes on our website,” said Director Dr. Julie Clark. She encouraged attendees to not only participate in future events and read the monthly field notes, but also actively engage by contributing or commenting.

This conference and the entirety of ACMS was sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation. The ACMS was founded in 2015 and has since grown to support numerous projects for researchers. They provide logistical support, financial control, and border permits.

In her closing statement, Clark added that ACMS also seeks to support future research on Mongolian cultural heritage preservation by providing digital development of archives and a registry of researchers in Mongolia for networking. Clark believes that this will help facilitate the “creation of cultural allies.” She hopes that researchers will continue to support one another to help educate the public and contribute to meaningful, sustainable conservation.

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