Underwatertimes.com News Service - September 4, 2008 18:51 EST

The United Nations cultural agency announced today it will help Egypt build an innovative underwater museum in the Bay of Alexandria on the site of archaeological remains thousands of years old.

The idea for a museum, located by Cleopatra's Palace and the mythical 3rd Century B.C. Alexandria Lighthouse, also known as Pharos, comes amid the growing recognition of the importance of underwater cultural heritage.

The first-of-its kind museum will be partly above water and partly submerged where visitors will be able to see archaeological artefacts on the seabed, according to a press release from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"This project will certainly enhance the appreciation of underwater cultural heritage and raise awareness of the urgent need to protect it from looting," said the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura.

"Until UNESCO's Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention enters into force, there is no specific international law that can protect it against treasure hunters," Mr. Matsuura added.

The museum represents a major advance in underwater cultural heritage exhibitions and UNESCO has established an International Scientific Advisory Committee to help with the construction of the project, expected to begin later this year.

UNESCO have also produced a documentary film focusing on its Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and the importance of saving submerged cultural property, increasingly vulnerable to pillaging with the development of more sophisticated and affordable diving equipment.