The British Prime Minister has stepped into the debate about cultural property currently held in the British Museum by making a statement about what he considers to be the legal status of the Parthenon architectural sculptures (“Greek culture minister challenges British PM’s claims on Parthenon sculptures“, ekatherimini.com 12 March 2021). These sculptures were once an integral part of the Parthenon, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Acropolis. The proposal is to display them in line of sight with the Parthenon.
Some of the issues relating to cultural property are explored in my Context Matters: Collating the Past (20202) [see here].
Over the New Year I tweeted a post on the Heritage Journal relating to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on Stonehenge. I was asked about the source of the quote and therefore cite here the exact wordings from the 41st meeting in Krakow in July 2017. The World Heritage Committee [Decision 41 COM 7B.56]:
Expresses concern that the 2.9km Stonehenge tunnel options and their associated 2.2km of dual carriageway approach roads within the property that are under consideration, would impact adversely the OUV [Outstanding Universal Value] of the property
One of the earliest Ministry guidebooks for properties in Scotland was prepared for Edinburgh Castle (1929). The description was by James S. Richardson, with an extended history (pp. 15–40) by Marguerite Wood. It contains black and white photographs with a fouldout plan inside the back cover.
The second edition was published in 1939, and the third in 1948.
This guide continued as the Blue Guide. The plan was moved to the centre pages.
A souvenir guide was prepared for the Ministry of Works by the Central Office of Information in 1960. It has a subtitle, ‘An illustrated guide with the story of the castle through the centuries’. A small plan is placed on p. 3. At the end of the guide are sections on the Scottish United Services Museum; the Honours of Scotland; and the Scottish National War Memorial.
The present Historic Scotland souvenir guide is by Chris Tabraham. It starts with a guided tour (Thirty steps to history), and then a history as ‘Symbol of Scotland’. There are ‘Did you know?’ boxes on each of the double page spreads. The guide also has the logo for the World Heritage Site.
The report reminds its readers of the economic value of UNESCO World Heritage status: “Britain makes a net gain from our membership of Unesco: we contributed £11m to the agency this year, versus £100m value added to our economy from its designation of our heritage sites”.
Heritage sites, indeed inscribed UNESCO World Heritage sites, form part of the UK Government tourism strategy to attract more visitors. Had Mourdant taken the time to understand the benefits of the UK remaining a member of UNESCO?
It is reported that Mordaunt’s proposal has been rejected by No. 10.
David Gill will be giving a lecture on ‘Austerity, heritage and tourism: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece’ as part of the Edmund Lecture Series for 2017/18. The lecture will be in Suffolk House, Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday 18 April 2018 at 6.00 pm.
Tourism is a significant part of the Greek economy and an important counterbalance to austerity. There are 18 UNESCO cultural and two mixed World Heritage Sites (WHS) in Greece. They range from the Bronze Age site of Mycenae, through the Classical site of Olympia, to the Medieval City of Rhodes. These locations stand alongside a rich range of archaeological and heritage sites as well as museums that serve as a repository for the finds. This lecture will review the value of these UNESCO recognised sites as focal points for tourist activity. This overview will be presented against the wider visitor figures for other archaeological sites and museums in the care of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. This information will be mapped onto the wider visitor data for Greece, and contributes to the discussion over the economic impact of World Heritage Sites for local economies as well as the wider economy of Greece. The lecture will explore the likely impact of Brexit on the Greek tourist economy, and opens a wider discussion of why the UK Government should value our own UNESCO World Heritage Sites.