Smithsonian and UNESCO Link Up to Celebrate World Heritage Convention

July 30, 2012
News Release
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The Smithsonian and UNESCO have developed a joint project, “Protection, Preservation and Prosperity: Stories of World Heritage,” to celebrate the World Heritage Convention’s 40th anniversary. The project focuses on 10 World Heritage Sites, including the Everglades and Taos Pueblo in the United States, the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila in Mexico, the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou in China and the Cliff of Bandiagara in Mali.

The sites will be featured on a new website, accompanied by a mobile app, educational curriculum and a poster-based exhibition. The anniversary marks the creation of an international treaty in 1972 to protect and conserve outstanding sites of cultural and natural heritage. Today, 189 countries are parties to the Convention and 962 sites are inscribed on the World Heritage list.

The project combines the World Heritage Center’s vast archives, reports, research and other materials with the Smithsonian’s resources and specimens from its museums and science centers. For example, the National Museum of Natural History has a cache of Agave botanical specimens collected in the 1950s, and the artwork in the Sackler Gallery of Art’s collections shows how West Lake exemplified the harmonious relationship between people and nature that has inspired poets, artists and gardeners in China for more than a thousand years.

“The launch of the ‘Protection, Preservation and Prosperity’ offers local communities a forum to share their experiences and ideas as central players in the preservation of heritage,” said Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO. “This is a welcome event as we dedicate the 40th anniversary celebration of the World Heritage Convention to sustainable development and the role of local communities.”

“UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme has played an enormous role in preserving the treasure of humanity and the natural wonders of the planet in a way that will inspire future generations,” said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture. “We expect this website and app to extend that fine work.”

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Linda St. Thomas