Thursday, July 03, 2008

World Heritage: Science and Technology

An Expert Workshop aimed at contributing to the development of guidelines and criteria for the review of sites of interest for the heritage of science and technology on the World Heritage List was held at The Wellcome Trust in London on 21 to 23 January 2008. The meeting was sponsored by the U.K. National Commission for UNESCO.

Key Workshop Papers and Presentations are now available.

Modern science and technology is a critically important element in the cultural heritage of mankind, Indeed, much of UNESCO's overall program is oriented to the diffusion of this common heritage to less developed nations, especially the nations of Africa. Thus it seems appropriate that UNESCO's World Heritage Center should specifically give testimony to this cultural heritage by inscribing sites making and commemorating key scientific and/or technological advances were first made.

The United States is (in the opinion of JAD) quite rich in sites of technological significance adequate to justify inclusion in the World Heritage list, and indeed in scientific sites as well.

U.S. sites that merit consideration for inclusion in the World Heritage list on the basis of their importance in the technological history of mankind include:

The American System of Manufacturing: This system which used semi-skilled labor employing machine tools with templates to manufacture standardized interchangeable parts revolutionized industry. It was developrd by the United States Department of War in the Springfield and Harpers Ferry armories.

Thomas Edison's Laboratory: Edison invented the first practical electrical lighting system as well as many electrical devices, and stands as the nation's and perhaps the world's most important inventor. His laboratory was a trailblazing institution in itself, industrializing the process of invention and technology development. The site is maintained by the National Park Service as the Edison National Historic Site.

The Henry Ford Museum: Which commemorates (among other things) the creation by Ford of the first manufacturing assembly line.

The National Air and Space Museum: Which includes key artifacts of the development of manned aviation and space flight, including the Wright Brothers plane, the first plane to make the transatlantic flight, and a number of vehicles that pioneered space flight.

Perhaps the next time that the U.S. Government revises the tentative list of World Heritage sites in this country, sites commemorating the U.S. contribution to the worlds heritage of scientific knowledge and technology might be added to the list.

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