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Concept 2017

Conference: World Heritage Theory, Policy and Practice

April 12 – 14, 2017, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany

Of the many barriers to effective protection, conservation, and presentation of the world’s heritage, one of the most significant challenges is how to reconcile theoretical approaches, policies that govern decision makers, and the ability of front line practitioners to deliver and act on the theory and policy in a practical and realistic way.

Too often, these three realities remain isolated in different institutions, with actors whose paths rarely cross.

Academics think, write and contribute to important dialogue and discussion about the state of heritage issues, researching and envisioning how the field of heritage conservation can be improved to everyone’s advantage. The realm of academia resides in our universities and institutions, and work is sometimes practical but more often theoretical in nature.

Government officials and other institutional policy makers struggle to reconcile competing financial, social, cultural and political realities to develop legislation and guidelines that reflect the innovations of the academics in a way that is actionable in a practical sense; a daunting task made more difficult by ever shifting political priorities.

Finally, there are the practitioners, the people who work directly with the heritage and the people to whom it belongs. The interpreters who develop and the school programs that will inspire the next generation, the conservators who work tirelessly to ensure that heritage will remain and the laborers who hold the knowledge that shape cultural identity. These people who work on the front lines of the heritage world, are too often disconnected from the policy makers who may not consult with them, and from the academics, whose dialogue is often inaccessible to those outside their institutions.

World Heritage Theory, Policy and Practice is a forum meant to bridge these gaps, bringing together actors from each realm of the heritage world in meaningful dialogue so each can better understand the challenges and barriers faced by the others. By doing this, opportunities to connect these world will be identified and positive change can take place.

The conference includes 4 main themes, separated in to sessions:

Session 1: Challenges and opportunities for implementing the World Heritage Convention

The World Heritage Convention and the Operational Guidelines for their implementation present many opportunities for sites that are inscribed on the World Heritage List. Inscription allows for increased opportunities to inform a global audience about the stories and significance of these special places, and provides an extra level of scrutiny when there are concerns about the state of conservation or potential threats to their outstanding universal value.

From nomination files and periodic reporting, to development pressures and public concerns, managers and employees at World Heritage Sites as well as representatives of state parties, advisory bodies and the World Heritage Centre all face many challenges in implementing the convention. In this session we will hear about these challenges from various perspectives and work together to elaborate on potential solutions.

Session 2: Middle Eastern Heritage: Threats and Opportunities

This session aims to bring reflection and debate to the paradoxical realities within the Middle East in the context of heritage conservation. In recent years, the world has come to know the threats and the destruction inflicted on the cultural wealth across the region; the level of destruction, in particular to several World Heritage sites, is unprecedented. In contrast, the wealthy countries in the region, especially the Persian Gulf states, have seen extraordinary and rapid economic development and have been making important investments in culture and heritage preservation.

Constituent points for debate will be the role and participation of stakeholders; the political and social leadership of communities in the recovery of heritage sites; multicultural dialogue; humanitarian aid; and international cooperation. Participants are encouraged to present research, success stories, conservation projects, and social-media engagement strategies that increase the world’s understanding of the level of damage incurred and the opportunities that have emerged.

Session 3: New Heritage Data: collecting and storage

The development of new technologies has influenced the basic approach to heritage data collection and storage. New challenges and opportunities have presented themselves to professionals involved in heritage conservation practice all over the world.

Rapid development of digital technologies allows for new more effective and precise methods of collecting, analyzing and distributing information about heritage sites. This is of particular relevance to heritage sites under threat, where physical characteristics of historic places need to be recorded quickly in order to ensure the site data preservation in case of its physical destruction. Cost-benefit analysis, limited data storage volume, sustainability of data preservation as well as political framework are just a few of many issues stakeholders need to take into consideration. This session attempts to reflect on these and other current heritage data issues in relation to both tangible and intangible heritage sites.

Session 4: World Heritage Education

Promoting education is one of UNESCO’s founding principles. Heritage education is vital to advancing cultural understanding, promoting peace and encouraging good governance around the globe. World Heritage sites can be centers of learning and teaching not just to identify, but also to serve as examples of solutions to broader social, environmental and cultural issues.

Presenters for this session are invited to speak on a wide range of topics related to educational techniques, approaches and projects in the World Heritage field. Formal heritage education such as the World Heritage Studies at universities, UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet), online classes, workshops and seasonal schools that train professionals, youth and children and other related academic programs teaching skills for restoration and conservation are equally on the interest. The session may also consider the important role of informal education – personal onsite heritage interpretation that is both educating and entertaining for visitors.

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