Introducing the USAID SCHEP Collection (EN)

A message from ACOR Executive Director Pearce Paul Creasman and USAID SCHEP Chief of Party Nizar Al Adarbeh

Ghawr as Safi, site tour with ACOR USAID SCHEP staff and project director Konstantinos Politis, 2016.

لقراءة المقال بالعربية اضغط هنا

In 2014, ACOR partnered with USAID to establish a groundbreaking new project that would approach heritage management in new and dynamic ways. Building on the model of ACOR’s Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management Initiative, which worked to involve people from Petra in multiple aspects of the project, and inspired by the best aspects of other ongoing projects across Jordan, ACOR adapted this model and scaled up its approach into the Sustainable Cultural Heritage Through Engagement of Local Communities Project (USAID SCHEP). SCHEP has evolved and witnessed several stages of development into a customized model that could be adapted to achieve the project objectives. More information can be found about the project in the open-access publication The Story of SCHEP 2014–2018.

Today, we are pleased to announce the addition of 4,710 images from the first four years of this pioneering project to the ACOR Photo Archive. ACOR and SCHEP are proud that this collection is both the first born-digital collection in the ACOR archive and described using fully bilingual English and Arabic metadata. The SCHEP Photo Archive team worked diligently to create and translate these data in order to ensure the maximal accessibility of these images and the information contained therein for a range of audiences in the US, Jordan, and beyond.

Umm al Jimal, local workers clearing interpretive trail, 2017.

From 2014 to 2018, USAID SCHEP supported the adoption of its community engagement model at nine archaeological sites across Jordan, conducting site development interventions to make them more accessible, training local community members to take an active role in their management, raising awareness of their potential as tourism sites, and supporting the establishment of community-rooted enterprises to help care for the sites and offer experiential tourism services.

Ghawr as Safi, familiarization trip for Ammon University students, 2018.

Along the way, the project worked with Jordanian heritage-mandated entities to help develop tools and guidelines to improve the management of Jordan’s cultural heritage, while ensuring a role for local communities in these processes.

Amman, ArcGIS training for employees of the Department of Antiquities and the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, 2017.

SCHEP also engaged children and youth in hands-on activities designed to increase their awareness of and interest in cultural heritage. During the first four years of the project, SCHEP engaged thousands of young people from all over Jordan in pottery making and reconstruction, mosaic art workshops, site visits with active learning components, and more. Just as SCHEP worked to ensure that the lessons of appreciating, caring for, and preserving Jordan’s heritage were passed on to the next generation, the project is proud now to share this new collection of photographs that preserve its activities and achievements for posterity—and for researchers and practitioners yet to come.

Amman, awareness activities at the Children’s Museum Science and Art Festival, 2017.

As deeply rooted as SCHEP is in Jordan and in local communities and sites throughout the country, the spirit of the project have always reached beyond Jordan’s borders. It is our hope that SCHEP’s model, as well as the specific activities and interventions that we have employed, will serve as an inspiration and an initial blueprint for other projects worldwide. SCHEP demonstrates a viable alternative to top-down, outside-in heritage management. SCHEP works toward a future in which local communities are key stakeholders in decisions about their neighboring heritage sites, active participants in the implementation of such decisions, and direct beneficiaries of tourism to their own hometowns.

Petra, site visit and workshop for SCHEP site stewards, 2017.

This is one reason we are proud to be working within the ACOR Photo Archive (soon to be the ACOR Digital Archive) to make the USAID SCHEP collection freely available online as a resource for whoever may be interested. These pictures convey information that goes far beyond what we have been able to put into words and help bring the ideas of SCHEP to life. They serve as important documentation of modern conservation techniques and cutting-edge technologies employed at several sites. The images also provide documentation of the sites themselves, many of which, such as Busayra and Bir Madhkur, are not well-known even within Jordan.

At-Tafilah, archaeological site of Busayra, remains of postern gate providing access from the walled city to the canyon below, 2017.

Digital access to these sites is especially important in light of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting limitations on travel and in-person visits, which have coincided with an increase in the use of online resources. With these images accessible to all, students and researchers in the U.S., Europe, the wider Middle East, and beyond can better understand Jordan and its heritage sites when unable to visit in person.

Familiarization trip to Bir Madhkur, 2016.

A collection of photographs taken by drone over the site of Umm al Jimal, for example, shows aspects of the site and surrounding area that would be less visible from the ground, as well as evidence of looting.

Umm al Jimal, aerial view, east side of site, 3rd–4th century Roman fort in upper middle area, fields, 2017.

The collection also showcases the techniques used by SCHEP and its partners to excavate, conserve, protect, and study the project’s affiliated sites, as well to improve their navigability and presentation to the public. In the images below, you can see several stages of SCHEP-supported interventions at the Temple of the Winged Lions in Petra (the images progress through time from the top left to the bottom right). As a result of this work, the site is now better protected, stabilized, and prepared for winter rains with an improved drainage system.

It is exciting to integrate SCHEP into the ACOR Digital Archive as this important resource continues to develop and change to become more accessible for all. The USAID SCHEP Collection is the first collection for which all metadata has been produced in both English and Arabic. It is also the first “born-digital” collection to be included, addressing a major future issue for all such archival resources. We are all grateful for this collaboration, which was especially impactful to work on during the pandemic, when the importance of digitization and open access resources has never been clearer.

SCHEP was granted a four-year extension period in 2018, and over the next few years we will continue to add to this collection until it represents a comprehensive archive of the project over its entire period of implementation, reflecting the ways in which the approach and methodology also changed over time.

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the team that made this collection possible, even under challenging and ever-shifting circumstances. From June 2020 until February 2021, the SCHEP Photo Archive staff comprised:

Ashley Lumb, SCHEP Photo Archivist

Shatha Abu Aballi, SCHEP Communications Manager

Starling Carter, SCHEP Communications Specialist

Jessica Holland, ACOR Archivist

Nora Al Omari, SCHEP Archival Assistant (from November 2020)

Khadija Al Faqeer, SCHEP Archival Assistant (July – September 2020)

We also would like to acknowledge the SCHEP staff, who worked hard during the past years to accomplish the goals of the project, capturing these images. The current staff can be seen on the “Meet the Team” page, and all previous members are listed in The Story of SCHEP 2014–2018.

We encourage you to visit the full collection, but you may want to first view the curated content selected by our specialized team to get an introduction to the themes running through the USAID SCHEP archive, inspiring your own research questions. For this reason, we have created several online galleries showcasing different components of USAID SCHEP: Site Development, Capacity-Building, Awareness, Tourism Development, and Events, Conferences, and Lectures.

For more information about USAID SCHEP, visit

For more information about ACOR, visit

The Sustainable Cultural Heritage Through Engagement of Local Communities Project (SCHEP) is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the American Center of Research (ACOR).

Text and photo selections by Starling Carter, with input from Jessica Holland, Shatha Abu Aballi, Nizar Al Adarbeh, and Noreen Doyle.