Monday, April 30, 2012

How might the United States Better Participate in the Memory of the World Program

Signing of the Constitution
UNESCO established the Memory of the World Program in 1992. Impetus came originally from a growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world.War and social upheaval, as well as severe lack of resources, have worsened problems which have existed for centuries.

In September, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the progam, there will be an international conference sponsored by UNESCO, titled The Memory of the World in the Digital age: Digitization and Preservation.

Many countries have established national Memory of the World Committees. It might be a good time for the United States to do so. Such a committee could share U.S. experience with the preservation of documentary heritage, helping other nations to preserve materials that they hold of global importance.

The U.S. National Archives has just put on display one of four copies in the world of the Magna Carta. Signed in 1297, this great charter established limitation of the king's power in British law. It remains as the basis of British democracy.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Opening sentence of the Declaration of Independence
The actual document of the Magna Carta joins the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution on public display in the National Archives. The Declaration of Independence is generally considered the most influential document in United States history. Its opening sentence has been claimed to be one of the best known in the English language. The United States Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use, and has been used as a model by many other nations.

I would suggest that these three documents be nominated by the United States for the Memory of the World Register as part of the U.S. participation in the 20th anniversary of the program.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Petition Asking Congress to Fund UNESCO

There are several petitions available on asking the Congress to restore U.S. funding for UNESCO. The one with the most signatures reads:
Reinstate funding for UNESCO 
The US has stopped all funding for UNESCO as of Oct. 31, 2011. This is due to an outdated law mandating a cutoff of American financial support to any UN agency that accepts Palestine as a full member. Loss of funding for UNESCO hurts the philanthropic endeavors advance literacy, science, provide clean water and education, including sex education and promoting equal treatment for girls and young women. The loss of US funding for these programs is not only devastating for those in dire straits who benefit directly from them but to the US itself. This action has jeopardized economic benefits provided by UNESCO and has gone counter to our core security interests. Right this injustice immediately!
You can add your name to this petition here.... 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Two U.S. Heritage Education Programs

The University of Florida Paris World Heritage in Practice: Paris Program

The University of Florida Paris Research Center offers an exceptional base for learning in the heart of Paris. The Reid Hall facilities date from the 18th century and have been property of Columbia University since 1964. In 2003, the UF Paris Research Center joined the Reid Hall academic community to facilitate and promote international academic endeavors. 
Located on the Left Bank of the Seine, Reid Hall ( is a two-minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens. The Montparnasse district adjoins the Latin Quarter of the University of Paris, popularly known as the Sorbonne for its original college founded in the 13th century. 
Neighborhood caf├ęs and bookstores evoke the Hemingway MOVEABLE FEAST of Paris in the 1920s or post-World War II Paris recalled in the Julia Child memoire MY LIFE IN FRANCE.
The University of Minnesota Center for World Heritage Studies

The Center for World Heritage Studies is dedicated to research and education in the protection, conservation, and enhancement of global heritage. 
In 2005 the University of Minnesota College of Design (formerly College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) created the Center for World Heritage Studies, in conjunction with a formal agreement signed with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris. The relationship is unique among American universities. At the same time, The School of Architecture established a M.S. degree program with a concentration in Heritage Conservation and Preservation—the first and only such program in the state of Minnesota. The Center works in cooperation with the programs of UNESCO, the School of Architecture, and in partnership with others in the academic community, as well as practitioners.

UNESCO World Heritage Center
© UNESCO / Eric Esquivel

Monday, April 16, 2012

U.S. Nominations Coming for World Heritage Status

The News Star (a Gannett chain Louisianna paper) reports:

Dr. Diana Greenlee is the station archaeologist at Poverty Point State Historic Site. She's also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science, Earth Science, and Physics at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, although she doesn't have an office on campus — she works full-time at Poverty Point, near Epps, Louisiana. 
In 2011, Poverty Point was named one of two American sites selected by the U.S. Department of the Interior for future nomination as a prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
As a result, Greenlee is concentrating her energy these days on the World Heritage initiative — compiling documentation, writing the nomination dossier, attending conferences, orchestrating the nomination process, even updating the site's Facebook page
The other nomination for World Heritage status includes eleven buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Here is the description from last year's press release of the National Park Service:

Poverty Point is a prehistoric site in northeastern Louisiana comprising a network of earthwork constructions. Built between 3,100 and 3,700 years ago, it is among the largest permanent hunter-gatherer settlements in the world. 
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is widely considered one of the most influential architects of all time. Of the 400 completed buildings he designed, 11 from across the country have been selected as superb representations of Wright's vision of an "organic architecture", a notion that has had a profound impact on the craft.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

International Jazz Day

Herbie Hancock receives certificate of appointment
as Goodwill Ambassador from Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock will kick-off the first annual International Jazz Day with a full day of events including live performances, Master Classes, and discussions featuring Marcus Miller, Barbara Hendricks, Hugh Masekela, Dee Dee Bridgewater, plus much more.

New Orleans, United States of America, 30 April 2012
Special sunrise concert in the birthplace of jazz, in the margins of the famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, with Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Kermit Ruffins, Bill Summers, Treme Brass Band, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Dr. Michael White, Luther Gray, Roland Guerin, and other special guests.  
New York, United States of America, 30 April 2012
Co-hosted by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, this special evening concert at the United Nations General Assembly Hall will feature performances by Angelique Kidjo, Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela, Shankar Mahadevan, and many more. 

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Without Comment

The dean of the journalism department at Baghdad University, Hashim Hasan, in a UNESCO workshop described the struggles of teaching in contemporary Iraq. His classrooms are not equipped with computers. But even if they were, there is no broadband Internet connectivity. And even were there computers and broadband, the university lacks reliable electricity service. Hasan concluded softly reciting a poem he wrote for the UNESCO workshop.

We are the butterflies of the media,
The lovers of pens,
The makers of the photo and the movie.
We fly in the world of dreams,
Render truth accurately,
Seek love and peace.
We are the butterflies of the media,
Our dream is the transparency of the truth,
The happiness of human beings.

Friday, April 06, 2012

U.S. Department of the Interior considering new nominees for UNESCO World Heritage sites

Inscription of a site in UNESCO's World Heritage list involves a long and relatively complex process. Member states first select sites to be included on a "tentative list". In the United States, even this process includes an open process. Then sites from the tentative list are selected, and full proposals are prepared. The proposal includes both an explanation as to why the site is of sufficient importance to be considered as part of the world heritage of mankind and a plan for the maintenance and conservation of the site. Proposals in hand, member states then make nominations for the full World Heritage list. These are peer reviewed, and on the basis of those reviews the governing body of the World Heritage Center makes the decision to accept or reject the site.

The Fort Ancient Earthworks: a series of earthen embankments that extend for more than three and a half miles around a high bluff along the Little Miami River in southwestern Ohio. The earthworks were built by the Hopewell culture, circa 100 BCE–400 CE. (CERHAS, University of Cincinnati)

The U.S. government last month began the process of selection of sites from the tentative list for preparation of full proposals. Here is the current tentative list for the United States:

Serpent Mound: the largest serpent effigy in the world. It is thought to have been built by the Fort Ancient culture, circa 1000–1650 CE. (Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites [CERHAS], University of Cincinnati)
I have visited many of these sites. I have chosen two for illustration of this post, in part because they seem to be little known among my fellow Americans and in part because they show that the North American pre-Columbian population had achieved much higher levels of intellectual attainment than is generally recognized. The Serpent Mound, for example, is not only a huge earthen structure (note the size of the people relative to the height of the mound), but are built demonstrating a detailed and complex understanding of astronomy and the prediction of the seasons.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Report from the Executive Board Meeting

American UNESCO veteran and international education expert Leslie Limage recently attended various sessions of UNESCO's 189th Executive Board, which adjourned in Paris last month.
She shares her perspective about UNESCO staff morale, the Obiang Prize, and importance of U.S. engagement here.

Welcome to the Inter-America UNESCO Club

The Inter-Americas UNESCO Club of Houston (based in Houston, Texas) recently became one of our nation's newest UNESCO clubs.

America's World Heritage

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, the National Park Service has produced a short film on all the World Heritage sites in the U.S. These stunning images remind us why these sites were deemed to have truly global significance, connecting them to a world-wide network of such iconic places as the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Enjoy!