Global Heritage Fund is distinguished by its approach to saving heritage sites, and that approach, called Preservation By Design®, has four points: Conservation, Planning, Partnerships and Community Development. The latter point is what distinguishes us from traditional preservation advocacy groups, so we will get to that.
In a few weeks, I will be moderating a panel discussion with Global Heritage Fund project leaders at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The panel will focus on these four points so I thought I might preview the discussion here.
Let’s break down the diagram: The top half – Planning and Conservation – is about heritage. The bottom half – Partnerships and Community – is about development.
Historically, preservation organizations were advocates who focused their efforts and their expertise in the top half of the diagram. Historically, architects, archaeologists and conservators were trained in that same half. Often their curatorial training explicitly excluded community and partnerships. It was a flawed model.
Dr. Santiago Giraldo and the health center Global Heritage Fund built near Ciudad Perdida last year.
That has changed, and Global Heritage Fund has been part of that change. I had the good fortune of starting my preservation career in 1983 working on the first heritage area in the U.S., which united historic preservation, natural area conservation, and economic development. Heritage areas are “partnership parks” that leverage public and private entities to focus often limited resources on sites that have both a depth of cultural heritage and a potential for economic development.
Steps built perhaps 1000 years ago by the Tayrona, Colombia
Unlike an earlier generation trained in curatorial practices my practice (and my teaching) was always focused on making heritage resources part of the economic everyday. Tourism is a piece of the puzzle, but it is not the whole puzzle.
So, let’s look at the Four Points:
Planning (and Design)
Planning has always been a key part of the GHF model because we are dealing with heritage sites in impoverished regions. Often the barrier to World Heritage inscription is not the significance of the site, but the lack of a management plan. Over the years, GHF has built up its expertise in conservation and management planning. In Pingyao, we worked with Tongji University to do a comprehensive city plan that went well beyond heritage conservation.
The modern approach to heritage conservation is to begin with a process that engages all community stakeholders in the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of their own heritage. This is the biggest shift from past practice, where the experts came in and told the community what was significant and how to treat it properly. Since the revised Burra Charter in 1999, that has not been accepted practice.
In the old system, there were universal standards for identifying what is important; for evaluating it significance; and even for how it should be treated. That has changed. I get quite animated when talking about heritage planning because it is a PROCESS that is universal: engaging a community in a discussion of what elements of their heritage, tangible and intangible, should be brought into the future, and the culturally appropriate way to do that.
What remains universal in the treatment of cultural heritage are basic facts of organic and inorganic chemistry. How to treat various stones, bricks, mortars, muds and woods, although these too vary greatly and it is important to have regional expertise. Also, unlike the earlier generation, conservationists today recognize that traditional cultural techniques and practice may well have significant insights into appropriate treatments. Scientific study can get you a chemically correct treatment in short order, but a thousand years of practice may well have already found the solution.
Mesilla, New Mexico
Test walls, Pachacamac, Peru
We end up building test walls a lot – we are doing that at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, the “world’s oldest ceremonial site”. We have also built shelters over archaeological sites like Göbekli Tepe, Catalhoyuk (also in Turkey) and several temples at El Mirador, in Guatemala. This is conservation as well – protecting precious artifacts from the elements.
2013 structure protecting Popul Vuh mural, El Mirador
I came into this field in the 1980s, so I have no muscle memory of EITHER a highly funded public sector or a highly funded NGO sector. The first heritage area (I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor) was signed into law by President Reagan in 1984. It was a public-private partnership with a minimal budget. It was effectively a mechanism for creating partnerships and leveraging scare public and private dollars toward a common set of goals: Heritage; Recreation; Economic Development.
I had to get a security clearance to be in this room.
No one goes it alone anymore. Global Heritage Fund’s model is to find half the funding – 50% – within the country we are working in, from government or private sector. Our best projects, like Guizhou, China, leverage even more. We actively court our compatriots around the world – World Monuments Fund, Prince Claus Fund, Getty Conservation Institute, UNESCO, ICOMOS – to see how we can work together, share expertise, and bring more resources to key projects by combining our efforts.
Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia
Global Heritage Fund started a dozen years ago, and was born in the era of the public-private partnership, the Burra Charter and heritage as a community development strategy. There are two reasons for this. First, heritage can be threatened by the local community if they see the site as having potential to be looted for short-term gain. This was the case in many areas, and it was exacerbated by the old curatorial approach to archaeology and conservation. But many of those places turned it around by engaging the community in a genuine process of evaluation. There used to be looters at Chotune/Chornankap in Peru, but today the site is the pride of the community, a cooperative venture with the local government, and if any looters came -t he community would probably chase them away.
Museum at Chotune/Chornankap, Peru
If a heritage site can be shown (and it can) to have MORE value over time by being conserved, the community will want to maintain the benefit. Historically conservationists have often trained local teams to assist their work, but the modern approach is to not stop at conservation training, but add tourism and hospitality training, to look at other ways that heritage sites can attract ongoing human and financial investment. Why do people invest their time and treasure in a place like San Francisco? Because it’s convenient? I don’t think so.
Drop dead gorgeous? Yes. Convenient? No.
Totally obsolete transportation system.
By 2010 international organization like UNESCO and ICOMOS were heralding cultural heritage as a key development strategy for the developing world. The message was getting out.
Now, normally we think of economic development as a factory, or a highway construction, or an office or other job-producing project. A heritage site would seem to provide less jobs and income than a factory, right? Sure, but what is your timeframe? How long does a factory provide jobs before finding another place where labor is cheaper?
A heritage site is of a place and is not going to move. If it becomes an income generator, that is the most sustainable form of development, because it is renewable and ongoing over time. Tourism is the most obvious income generator, and at Ciudad Perdida it has added $3 million to the local economy, most of that captured by the community.
In other communities, where the heritage is part of the urban or village fabric, tourism is simply the wedge of investment in PLACE that follows as heritage and environment create an attractive package that makes people and businesses want to be there.
Come for the terra cotta soldiers; stay for the dumplings…..
If you don’t have a chance to join us on April 16, check back here for a summary!
How does a project director, working on the ground, get all four of these aspects to work? That is what we are going to be discussing at Preserving the Past; Investing in the Future: Archaeology in the 21st Century at the Legion of Honor on April 16, with Dr. Santiago Giraldo, who runs the project at Ciudad Perdida in Colombia, Dr. Lee Clare, who is heading up the excavation at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, and Dr. Richard Hansen, who has been working at El Mirador in Guatemala for decades. Find out more about the event here.