Adventures in Preservation (AiP)

Adventures in Preservation (AiP) envisions a world where people use, understand, and appreciate historic buildings that are vital to economic and environmental sustainability and preserve cultural identity. AiP organizes international volunteer-based projects which provide educational training in preservation issues and technical skills, preserve and restore heritage sites essential to cultural identity, and support sustainable economic development through heritage tourism and job creation. Adventures in Preservation's mission: Connecting people and preservation through enriching experiential programs that safeguard heritage and foster community sustainability.
Apr 1, 2016

Major Funding Only Path to Continued Conservation

Building friendships - building a stronger economy
Building friendships - building a stronger economy

As you might remember, our last report highlighted the exciting – and highly visible – progress underway today in Gjirokastra; current challenges that may, unfortunately, overwhelm the progress; and ways you can help support this progress by sharing AiP’s information with university programs and with potential corporate sponsors 

The dire condition of many historic buildings in Gjirokastra was brought to the public’s attention in July 2005. At a meeting of UNESCO held in Durban, South Africa, a unanimous vote declared that Gjirokastra’s "World Cultural Heritage" was at risk. The citizens of Gjirokastra took on this challenge, deciding that development of their cultural resources and increasing tourism was a means to address the crisis 

AiP’s involvement in saving the city’s architectural heritage was a result of this determination.

We know that creating a strong relationship between cultural heritage and tourism makes destinations, such as Gjirokastra, more attractive and competitive as places to live, to visit, to invest in and to gain employment. This is the key to Gjirokastra’s very survival.

Tourism has indeed increased since concerted preservation efforts began, with official data from Gjirokastra Municipality showing that in 2009 the number of visitors was 15,894 and by 2014 numbers reached 35,000. Much more remains to be done. Many of the city’s magnificent tower houses are still in a state of near collapse, and the need for international support is much greater than the current resources invested.

In the meantime, $4,992 USD was approved by UNESCO on February 2, 2016 to be allocated for "Development of Monitoring Indicators for the "Historic Centres of Gjirokastra and Berat"". The results of this monitoring will be beneficial for planning and prioritizing future preservation work.

We are now focusing our efforts on finding one or more major funders to join us in undertaking the complete restoration of one of the many endangered tower houses. Only by identifying these sources of support will we be able to make a greater impact.

This will be our last report to you until we can announce the start of a fully funded project. We thank you for seeing the value of our work and agreeing with us that –

Preservation is a powerful tool for change.


Jan 5, 2016

New Challenges for the New Year

Tower house that collapsed before intervention
Tower house that collapsed before intervention

You have supported the people of Gjirokastra for almost five years as they’ve worked to improve conditions in their community. As we start a new year, our goal is to build on recent successes –

  • three tower houses restored and opened as hostels and hotels,
  • several new restaurants serving local residents and tourists,
  • new businesses opening in the bazaar.

Although promising, obstacles may still overwhelm the progress. Here are some of the current challenges:

For every tower house that is repaired or restored, several more will collapse before intervention is possible.

The small but dedicated staff of the Regional Directorate of National Culture in Gjirokastra, AiP’s local partner, is responsible for saving, or at the very least documenting, hundreds of heritage buildings in the city of Gjirokastra and the surrounding district. Their minimal budget is too small to cover even the cost of one truck to deliver building materials to the few funded projects.

The huge exodus from Albania in the 1990s depleted the country of skilled workers and left many heritage buildings vacant and deteriorating.

Funds for building conservation in Albania are almost nonexistent, casting doubt on the possibility of continuing work on several important tower houses that have been stabilized with the hope of finding support for future conservation.

Lonely Planet named Albania it’s top choice for an affordable off-the-beaten-path destination in 2011, yet international volunteers are still uncertain about traveling here to join building conservation projects, leaving scheduled work unfinished.

Are you wondering if there’s anything you can do to help overcome these challenges? The answer is YES!

  • Contact university programs you have a connection with and tell them of the great on-site training opportunities for their students in architecture, engineering, preservation, tourism and more. AiP will customize sessions to meet the needs of specific university programs.
  • Talk to the head of Social Responsibility or Philanthropy in the business or corporation you have ties to, stressing the need for financial support of heritage building conservation.

We can’t wait to hear from you with news. Be the highlight of our next report as we share what you've done and the results. 

(All photos taken by Ilir Rizaj during May 2015 preservation session.)

Endangered orthodox church in Gjirokastra district
Endangered orthodox church in Gjirokastra district
AiP, CHwB, gov
AiP, CHwB, gov't & private interests joined forces


Oct 13, 2015

University Students Eager to Volunteer

Travel combined with training enhances education
Travel combined with training enhances education

University students are eager to gain valuable hands-on experience in their field of study, and no better way to get this experience than volunteering at an actual job site. 

Adventures in Preservation staff is talking to students in the fields of heritage conservation, engineering, architecture, tourism and more. We are sharing information on the important work underway in Gjirokastra, and letting them know they can gain knowledge and possibly credit by joining the effort. Equally important, students will be saving the city’s architectural heritage that is bringing increasing numbers of tourists and boosting the steady growth of the economy.

Most of our student volunteers come from the US and Europe, and we are working hard to broaden our outreach. Structural engineering students can assist with structural assessment and stabilization; those studying architecture can learn about traditional building materials and methods; art conservation students can document and assess decorative wall paintings and learn cutting edge methods to maintain the pigments on lime plaster. And those studying tourism can see first hand the importance of heritage tourism as a tool for supporting economic growth.

If you’re a student, or know a student, that would benefit from experiential travel, hands-on training, or is looking for an internship option, join us and spread the word about AiP. By getting involved, students will see that preservation is a powerful tool for change!


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