By Burnham, Bonnie
USA TODAY , Vol. 140, No. 2800
SINCE 1996, the biennial World Monuments Watch has drawn international attention to cultural-heritage sites in need of assistance, helping to save some of the world's most treasured places. The list is assembled by an international panel of specialists in archaeology, architecture, art history, and preservation. Since the program's inception. 688 sites in 132 countries and territories have been included on the nine Watch cycles. The 2012 Watch includes 67 sites, representing 41 countries and territories.
Ranging from the famous (Nasca lines and Geoglyphs, Peru) to the little-known (Cour Royale de Tiebele, Burkina Faso); from the urban (Charleston, S.C.) to the rural (floating fishing villages of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam), the 2012 Watch tells compelling stories of human aspiration, imagination, and adaptation. The sites vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic, and environmental interests of communities around the world. Moreover, in addition to promoting community cohesion and pride, heritage preservation can have an especially positive impact on local populations in times of economic distress, for example, through employment and the development of well-managed tourism.
The World Monuments Watch is a call to action on behalf of endangered cultural-heritage sites across the globe. While these sites are historic, they also are very much of the present-integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day. Indeed, the Watch reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the Earth and of its human heritage.
Found in every type of environment, from the Central Asian steppe to New York City, the 2012 sites range from prehistoric to modem, and include religious structures, cemeteries, houses, palaces, bridges, cultural landscapes, archaeological remains, gardens, train stations, and entire villages and neighborhoods. In some cases, the Watch supports an existing plan to address challenges. in others it advocates for the development of one.
Poorly managed tourism threatens many locales. For instance, Charleston, S.C., was founded in the 17th century and often is considered a birthplace of the preservation movement in the U.S. Meticulous planning and strong preservation values have made it a desirable place to live and a highly prized tourism destination. However, in the last decade, like many other port cities, Charleston has experienced an increase in the number of cruise ships that arrive in its harbor, threatening to undermine the very character that entices visitors to come there in the first place.
The ships themselves, which have grown in size over the last several years, obstruct views of the harbor and skyline, while the potential for hundreds of thousands of passengers to disembark every year is upsetting the balance between commercial development and the residential areas that make the city livable. It is hoped that there can be implementation of a balanced and sustainable plan that will enable tourism including by cruise ship--and the Historic District to thrive.
Another example is the desert of southern Peru, where the ancient Nasca lines and geoglyphs were drawn between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. They represent one of the most important--and enigmatic--archaeological remains in a country that is rich in ancient sites. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the lines and geoglyphs have since become an important tourist destination. Conservation challenges, including tourism management, have necessitated the development of a master plan to ensure long-term preservation and stewardship, while also providing tourism infrastructure and enhancement. Implementation of the plan, through institutional collaboration and community engagement, will be a next critical step, uniting the site's various stakeholders in efforts to conserve this awe-inspiring place. …