UNESCO and Malta organize a conference on public access to underwater cultural heritage
UNESCO, in cooperation with the Government and the University of Malta, organized an international conference on public access to underwater cultural heritage on 15 December to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Heritage underwater.
“Underwater cultural heritage is an important part of the history of the Mediterranean and of Malta. We must make it visible and accessible to the public,” said His Exc. José Herrera, Minister of Culture of Malta.
“The Virtual Underwater Museum of Malta promotes the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, which states that States Parties shall raise public awareness of the value and importance of this heritage”, underlined Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of UNESCO. World Heritage Center.
Chris Dobbs of the Mary Rose Museum in the UK, which has strong public awareness initiatives, stressed that “our effort to make this heritage accessible must not focus only on the objects, but on the people and on whom we are. Many mistakes have been made in the past, but artifacts are not just works of art, they are part of human history. We need to make this heritage relevant and accessible to our news audience. manners.
The event showcased the most recent efforts and projects to achieve this goal. They ranged from the new Virtual Museum of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Malta to the Vrak Project – Shipwreck Museum in Sweden, to the new plans for the Nemi wrecks and their display at the Museo delle Navi in Italy. The recent Thalassa exhibition in Naples, Italy, focusing on the underwater heritage of the Mediterranean, the presentation of underwater cultural heritage in the Greek museum context and at the National Museum of the Philippines, and the excavations of the Nanhai Nr 1 shipwreck in China have was also highlighted.
Good practices in museum exhibitions were presented by the National Museum of Underwater Archeology in Spain and by the Museum of Arles, exhibiting the barge Arles-Rhône 3, in France.
The issue of access to underwater cultural heritage in situ has been addressed by the Mexican authorities whose exhibition on cenotes and caves at the Fuerte El Alto Museum has been designated as Best Practices of the 2001 UNESCO Convention. Public access to heritage in underwater parks, such as the sunken Imperial Villas in Baia, Italy, and the use of digital means to access them, were also discussed.
The wreck of the USS Arizona in the United States offered another innovative example of public access and engagement with underwater cultural heritage using virtual reality. New museum plans were presented for the Amsterdam Shipwreck project in the Netherlands, for the Museum of Underwater Archeology and Baltic Fisheries in Leba, Poland, and for the new Museo Mario Brozoski exhibition in Argentina. Finally, the project for a large Mediterranean museum of underwater archeology in Kemer/Antalya, Turkey, was enthusiastically received.
The meeting concluded that underwater cultural heritage should be treated as archaeological heritage with context and history and not as “lost treasure”. As the Decade of the Oceans kicks off, the relationship of humans with the ocean environment, underwater and coastal heritage can be prioritized with enhanced inclusion of local communities and awareness raising among the general public.
The webinar strongly encouraged the contextual presentation of underwater cultural heritage in museums and online as well as for the construction of underwater museums and the use of virtual presentations in relation to underwater heritage artefacts and in situ sites.