McMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

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UC Alum Leads Albania’s Cultural Heritage Directorate

As the director for cultural heritage at the Albanian Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, Ols Lafe builds the future on a foundation laid at UC.

Date: 11/3/2010 11:00:00 PM
By: Ryan Varney
Phone: (513) 556-0142
Photos By: Ols Lafe
The adventurous wouldn’t dare miss an opportunity to experience Kamenica, a mysterious and diverse burial mound in Albania that carries nearly seven centuries of history. But the site itself was in jeopardy of dying until University of Cincinnati Classics alum Ols Lafe came to the rescue.

Ols Lafe at an underwater archaeology exploration in Albania.
Ols Lafe at an underwater archaeology exploration in Albania.

Thanks to Lafe the U.S. State Department is now aiding the preservation of this late Bronze Age treasure in Kamenica through its Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

As the director for cultural heritage at the Albanian Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, Lafe helped secure funding to preserve the Tumulus of Kamenica, a rare and important piece of Albanian heritage.

Getting the Ambassador’s Fund to support the preservation is just one of the many exciting aspects of Lafe’s job. With a staff of over 350 people and 27 worldwide institutions to deal with, his job as director is filled with enormous challenges.

“The work of the cultural heritage director consists in coordinating all the efforts in the management of tangible and intangible values of heritage.”

He goes on to say, “The director is in charge of the policy making in the field of cultural heritage, authorized to draft and propose changes in the existing legislation or the creation of new legal acts, as well as entitled to cooperate with UNESCO, Council of Europe and other international and national bodies for the protection, restoration, excavation, research and promotion of cultural values.”

The job can be as overwhelming as it sounds, but Lafe keeps it under control using his UC experience as a foundation. “Studying at UC has given me the possibility to confront openly and with confidence all discussions and debates in the field of archaeology,” he says, “but also the chance to enhance my English, which has been continuously an asset for my publications.”

Despite the workload, Lafe loves being at the center of everything related to Albanian heritage. “I grew up in Vlora, the city where Albania claimed its independence,” he says. “So my favorite part of the job is to be constantly in the loop of all developments in the country, especially at a time of huge urban change and difficult decisions.”

Consequently, it was his zeal for Albanian heritage that brought him to UC in first place. Studying history at the University of Tirana, in Albania, Lafe found himself working on a project with Jack Davis, UC professor of classics and director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Over the course of the project, Davis was able to inform him of everything the classics department had to offer. Lafe applied to the program immediately, and he wasn’t disappointed.

 “UC is an excellent place to study and improve one’s capacity to undertake research—anywhere in the world—after leaving the university. My time spent at UC has been one-of-a-lifetime, and I still remember the availability of any kind of support one wished to have in order to achieve the maximum possible quality in research.”

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