Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi Hosts Landmark Event on Heritage Restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral

26 March, 2024

Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi (SUAD) recently wrapped up an event that took place between February 26 and March 21 signifying progress, in the realm of heritage restoration. The focus was on the efforts to restore the Notre Dame Cathedral following a fire highlighting an important advancement in the worldwide effort to preserve cultural heritage. Through a blend of a conference and an engaging exhibition, the event demonstrated SUADs commitment, to promoting innovation and excellence in safeguarding heritage.

The conference held over two days, on February 26 and 27, served as a convergence point for experts from fields, during which it served as a platform for researchers from France and UAE to share experiences and exchange perspectives with the Arabian Peninsula. With over 25 professionals participating in discussions, the conversations covered the restoration journey of Notre Dame, from immediate actions post-fire to the comprehensive archaeological studies undertaken during the rehabilitation phases. A key highlight was the emphasis on the important role of digital technologies and scientific data management in safeguarding cultural heritage, demonstrating their critical importance in the conservation sector in both the United Arab Emirates and abroad.

A central feature of this event was an exclusive photography exhibition by Patrick Zachmann, a French photojournalist and a member of the Magnum Photos Agency, showcasing the complex nature of heritage restoration. Attendees were treated to an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experience and captivating holographic displays, allowing them to step into the heart of the restoration efforts and witness the transformation of heritage sites firsthand. A world premiere, the exhibition tested holographic technology on the restoration of an archaeological artefact, placing SUAD in a significant breakthrough in heritage and restoration research.

Professor Nathalie Martial Braz, Vice Chancellor of Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, emphasised the global significance of the event as part of SUAD’s research institute within the heritage centre. She stated that “it showcases SUAD’s pivotal role in shaping the future of research for heritage preservation on a large scale. This event serves as a testament to the scientific endeavours undertaken by SUAD’s research faculty and experts, portraying it as a global project aimed at advancing research on an international scale bringing curated content to the local community. By integrating the best techniques of Archaeometry (bringing Physics with archaeological masterpieces) and establishing research partnerships with cutting-edge technological experts,

SUAD’s researchers unveiled a world premiere successful experiment, paving the way for research advancements in heritage preservation.” Professor Braz stressed the importance of presenting scientific breakthroughs to society and bridging the scientific community of the UAE and France, as an essential tool of research development and dissemination.

Dr. Delphine Syvilay, Assistant Professor in the Sciences and Engineering Department at SUAD and the organizer of the event, highlighted that the Notre Dame exhibition is unique because it is multi-dimensional and multi-sensory. Through Patrick Zachmann’s lens, we witnessed the meticulous reconstruction of Notre Dame, allowing visitors to intimately follow the different phases of the restoration work. By immersing visitors in Virtual Reality and Holograms, they were taken on a journey through time, granting them access to corners of the cathedral that remain unseen by the public today.

Various partners and collaborators including Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris, Magnum Photos, Institut Français UAE, Embassy of France in the UAE, Notre Dame de Paris, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi Culture, Gallagher, Eiffel Investment Group, Holusion and Orange played roles in ensuring the success of this significant event.

Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi remains at the forefront of global initiatives aimed at preserving cultural heritage.