Digital Documentation and Storytelling Build Greater Appreciation for Jordan’s Cultural Heritage

May 17, 2021

An inventory and storage upgrade project supported by the State Department at the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum was put on hold in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Museum staff and partners from the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Gannon University, and La Sierra University could no longer access the collection as the city closed.  The local community that depended on tourism revenue for their livelihoods were adversely affected by the global freeze on travel.  In response, the project partners pioneered an innovative initiative of training, professional development, and virtual tours of the heritage trail in downtown Madaba that brings to light the many stories of people who call this ancient place and its living heritage home. 


Jude Twal from the American University of Madaba completes photogrammetry of the Hippolytus Hall
The project—One Place, Many Stories: Madaba—involved digital documentation of the heritage sites within the historic downtown.  Three Jordanian students from the American University of Madaba worked with California-based CyArk to record the archaeological parks and historic buildings including St. George’s Church, a Byzantine period building that houses the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land.  Using photogrammetry, the Madaba heritage sites were then turned into 3D models.  This documentation was combined with audio and video tours recorded by Jordanian guides who received English language training supported by ECA.  In addition, six Madaba residents chronicled how their contemporary lives relate to the cultural heritage of Madaba with the help of another California-based NGO StoryCenter.  Together these documentation and stories combine to make an engaging online experience you can explore for yourself in English or Arabic at


Hippolytus Hall and Virgin Mary Church
Eventually a tipping system will be available with the virtual tour to give financial help to guides who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.  This community-centered documentation project and virtual tour in Madaba serves as a public education tool, supports the livelihoods of Madaba residents, and provides a digital inventory of the site until the project team can return and complete its work in the museum. 

About the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation 

The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), created in 2001 at the direction of Congress, supports projects to preserve a wide range of cultural heritage in less developed countries, including historic buildings, archaeological sites, ethnographic objects, paintings, manuscripts, and indigenous languages and other forms of traditional cultural expression. Since its creation, AFCP has supported more than 1,000 cultural heritage projects around the world.  

About the Cultural Antiquities Task Force  

Created by the State Department in 2004 at the direction of Congress, the Cultural Antiquities Task Force (CATF) comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to combat antiquities trafficking in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 95 domestic and international cultural property training programs.