Newcastle University to establish UNESCO Chair for cultural protection

Newcastle University has been invited by UNESCO to join its prestigious universities network and establish the first ever UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace.

New worldwide partnerships

Through the accolade – awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) with the full support of the UK National Commission for UNESCO – Newcastle University will deliver training and capacity building activities and build new partnerships worldwide to mitigate the destruction of cultural property during conflict and strengthen the use of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as tools for peace.

Professor Peter Stone OBE, Head of the School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University, will be appointed as the UNESCO Chairholder.

One of the UK’s leading specialists in protecting cultural property during armed conflict, Professor Stone has acted as a specialist advisor to the UK government regarding the identification and protection of the cultural heritage in Iraq. He is also Chair of the UK Committee for the Blue Shield; the cultural heritage equivalent of the Red Cross.

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Sharing Cultures 2013: 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage

Sharing Cultures 2013: the 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage took place in Aveiro, Portugal from 24 – 26 July. Attending the conference from ICCHS were PhD researchers Niki Black and Jared Bowers, who both presented papers.

Traditional fishing net weaving - Ecomuseum near Aveiro
Sharing Cultures aimed to push further the discussion on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), under the main topics proposed by the UNESCO Convention. In addition new fields of discussion were included this year, namely management and promotion of ICH, educational matters and musealization. The conference attracted delegates from many countries with a particularly strong presence from Australasia and America; attendance was unfortunately down from European countries which the organisers put down to the impact of the financial recession on research budgets across the continent. It was good to see representatives from African nations too and to be able to share directly discussion on the development of heritage initiatives in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

'Salinas' or salt harvesting lagoons, Aveiro

‘Salinas’ or salt harvesting lagoons, Aveiro

Niki presented a paper entitled ‘Making Connections: Festivals, ICH, people and places’ using data from her on-going doctoral research into small-scale cultural festivals and the social impact on their host communities, based upon case study events in Northumberland. The paper problematized the role and inclusion of ICH in festivals and examined how consistency and innovation, captured in the ICH of festivals, might potentially impact on host communities, through a network of connections made both spatially (sense of place) and temporally (sense of continuity) between the event, its host community and its respective indigenous culture.Jared presented a paper on his work in the Rupununi in Guyana.
In addition to a full and varied programme of presentations and discussions in a beautiful location, the conference organising committee laid on a full day of workshops and visits to heritage sites and projects in the area. The delegates were able to try their hand directly at many of the intangible heritage skills indigenous to that area of Portugal from salt harvesting to pottery and the making of ‘ovos moles’, the traditional cake of the region.

From Thailand to the Netherlands

For the last four years Peter Davis has been working with colleagues in the Princess Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok, to explore ways of cataloguing, safeguarding and transmitting intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Carried out as part of a training programme for curators and heritage professionals in the Lower Mekong sub-region this research and teaching programme has explored questions about the role of the museums in relation to sustaining ICH in countries that have ratified UNESCO’s ICH Convention. The Netherlands has recently become a signatory to the Convention, a situation now causing huge interest in the country amongst museum professionals and Peter travelled to Amsterdam in April to recount his experiences in Thailand and elsewhere to a meeting at the Reinwardt Academie.

Peter Davis with colleagues in Bangkok

Peter Davis with colleagues in Bangkok

Some 40 people attended, including staff and MA students of the Reinwardt (the Netherlands’ only provider of museum and heritage training); other guests included  Albert van der Zeijden (the Vice-president of VIE, the Dutch Intangible Heritage Centre), Ms. Riet de Leeuw (Senior Policy Adviser of the Dutch Ministry of Culture & Education), Marc Wingens, director of Gelders Erfgoed (a provincial Heritage foundation with ICH interests), Femie Willems of the Foundation for Cultural Participation and Steph Scholten (Director of Heritage Collections of the University of Amsterdam). Peter’s presentation was followed by a fascinating discussion about the ways forward for ICH safeguarding in the Netherlands, a country with a diverse ethnicity that demonstrates all manner of intangible heritages. It is evident that discussions and approaches are still very much in their early stages and already somewhat controversial.