Every 18th of April, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an organization I’ve been involved with since the very early 1990s, celebrates the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This year’s theme is Heritage and Science.
Heritage and science are inextricably woven together in two distinct ways. Science and technology lead to the creation of heritage and have for many years. From ancient observatories like Kokino in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to more modern sites like Maritime Greenwich in the UK, astronomy is but one of the fields of science that has had a profound impact on heritage.
At the same time, science and technology provide insights into heritage on a scale unheard of even a century ago. Application of science and technology such as radioisotope dating like carbon dating, X-ray diffraction and information management systems to new conservation tools and techniques mean that we can learn increasing amounts of information about artefacts and the cultures they come from.
The Internet and the World Wide Web have provided incredible opportunities for people in the heritage conservation field to communicate to each other and to the public at large. My involvement with ICOMOS over the years started with the creation of a gopher server followed shortly thereafter by ICOMOS’ first website, which was one of the earliest websites on the Internet. ICOMOS was the first international heritage organization in the world to have a presence on the Internet, something I’m very proud to have had a role in. It has lead to a grassroots group concerned about the imminent demolition of a heritage property in the UK finding the information they needed to convince the authorities to revoke the demolition permit and get the property designated. A reporter in Japan wrote a series of articles about the theft of carved stones from Japanese heritage sites that appeared in a national daily newspaper, raising the profile of these thefts.
Clearly, science and technology have had a profound impact on heritage and vice versa. I encourage you to visit ICOMOS’ 18 April website at 18april.icomos.org to learn more about the International Day for Monuments and Sites.