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Heritage expert Gül Aktürk Hauser investigates climate change adaptation of cultural heritage

Recently, Dr Gül Aktürk Hauser took up the position as Assistant Professor at the department of Heritage and Society. Originally an architect, she got caught up in the study of historical vernacular buildings in northeastern Turkey. Now her focus lies on the impact of climate change on cultural heritage.

A passion for heritage

Gül Aktürk Hauser's path to the Leiden Faculty of Archaeology was not a straight one. ‘It all started with my bachelor's studies in architecture in Istanbul. During this programme I visted Rome, where I realised that my passion lies in heritage.’ After a master's studies in Edinburgh, she worked in the cultural heritage sector in Turkey for five years. ‘The country is so rich in archaeological and architectural sites. I worked mainly in restoration. While enjoyable, I got to start thinking about going back to academia.’ In 2018 she made the leap, starting a PhD at the Technical University Delft.

Vernacular heritage

Aktürk Hauser's PhD research focused on the effect of climate change on vernacular heritage in the northeastern part of Turkey. ‘The domestic buildings that I studied are some 250 years old, and at risk of changing rainfall patterns, flooding, and landslides. Human activities are also affecting these issues, like large-scale development projects, as well as land-use changes.’ She explored why certain types of construction techniques survived, while others failed.

After finishing her PhD, Aktürk Hauser accepted a postdoc position at TU Delft, but after a year in, she applied and got the Assistant Professorship at Leiden University. ‘I will continue to be involved in the Delft project, however.’

A typical specimen of the domestic houses Gül Aktürk Hauser studied.

Bridging archaeology and heritage

Aktürk Hauser's plan now is to build up a profile as a strong researcher and lecturer. ‘I consider myself in academia in the long term. Now the goal is to obtain funding for new projects and to build up my list of publications.’ She wants to stick with her research topic of climate change adaptation of cultural heritage. ‘Because I'm now embedded in the Faculty of Archaeology, I would like to make a bridge between archaeology and heritage. Cultural heritage is relevant to the past, the present, as well as to the future. How can we make sure that heritage is preserved under the pressures of climate change?’

Currently, Aktürk Hauser is turning her PhD dissertation to publish it as a book with Routledge, making it available to a larger readership. ‘That is taking some of my time right now. Next thing will be developing a course on climate change and cultural heritage, as well as starting with grant proposals. I would like to do a similar research project as my PhD one, focusing on archaeological heritage sites in the Netherlands.’

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