UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

We’ve written before about the UNESCO World Heritage sites, but did you know that UNESCO also maintains Cultural Heritage lists? This is to protect intangible cultural processes — like the traditional process by which really great beer is made.  According to Smithsonian Magazine:

Life in Belgium is soaked in beer, from cheese washed with suds to town festivals to a pipeline that pumps over 1,000 gallons of beer every hour on a two-mile journey through Bruges. So it’s no surprise that beer is part of the world’s vision of Belgium, too…Belgium has more than earned the designation—the tiny country is serious about its beer. According to the Brewers of Europe, a trade organization, Belgium had 168 active breweries in 2014 and Belgians consumed an average of 72 liters per capita that year. Much of that beer is hopped on tradition: Indeed, some of the best beer in the country is made by Trappist monks who have been perfecting and passing down their craft for centuries.

Beer bottle and full glass with Westvleteren logo
Made at at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. By DirkVE – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28434250

Belgian beer is just one thing on the Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage maintained by UNESCO.  Cultural heritage extends beyond the physical location or object:

It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

There are actually two lists: the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” and the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”  (Belgian beer is on the representative list.)  The traditions on the urgent safeguarding list include the Cambodian Chapei Dang Veng and the Ugandan Ma’di bowl lyre music and dance.

The Chapei Dang Veng is a Cambodian

Kong Nay playing the chapei dong veng, Phnom Penh. By n ole - Guitar Master, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3590992
Kong Nay playing the chapei dong veng, Phnom Penh. By n ole – Guitar Master, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3590992

musical tradition featuring the chapei (a type of lute often played at cultural festivals) accompanied by singing. “Song lyrics range from the educational and a type of social commentary, to satire while incorporating traditional poems, folk tales or Buddhist stories. The tradition is considered to have multiple functions within Cambodian communities…”

image by Idro Williams Jean, 2014 from http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/USL/ma-di-bowl-lyre-music-and-dance-01187
image by Idro Williams Jean, 2014 from http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/USL/ma-di-bowl-lyre-music-and-dance-01187

The making of a Ma’di bowl lyre has several rituals associated with it, while the instrument itself is played on special occasions with specific songs and dances. “The traditional practice is a tool for strengthening family ties and clan unity, as well as educating younger generations about their community’s history, values and culture.”

Both of these traditions are at risk of being lost, for a host of reasons: the perception of being old-fashioned by young people, materials required that come from endangered plants and animals,  and the lingering effects of genocide.

Interested in incorporating intangible cultural heritage into your classes?  You might want to check out the video of a roundtable that included presentations from educators from Belize, Uganda, and Pakistan.  The roundtable was one of the sessions at the eleventh session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


BulbgraphOnOffInternet Projects can be a great in-class exercise — ask students if they can figure out the principles by which the links were curated.


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New World Heritage Sites

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designates sites around the world as worthy of preserving as part of humanity’s shared legacy.  The factors considered for inclusion are that a site has to be of “outstanding universal value,” and meet these criteria.  It has designated several new World Heritage Sites for 2016:

  1. Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park, Sudan
  2. Hubei Shennongjia, China
  3. Lut Desert, Islamic Republic of Iran
  4. Western Tien-Shan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
  5. Mistaken Point, Canada
  6. Archipiélago de Revillagigedo, Mexico
  7. Ennedi Massif: Natural and Cultural Landscape, Chad
  8. The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict  Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities, Iraq
  9. Khangchendzonga National Park, India
  10. Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, China
  11. Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at
    Nalanda, Bihar, India
  12. The Persian Qanat, Islamic Republic of Iran
  13. Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia, Federated States of Micronesia
  14. Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia
  15. Archaeological Site of Philippi, Greece
  16. Antequera Dolmens Site, Spain
  17. Archaeological Site of Ani, Turkey
  18. Gorham’s Cave Complex, United Kingdom of Great Britain and
    Northern Ireland
  19. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement, Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan and Switzerland
  20. Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites, Antigua and
    Barbuda
  21. Pampulha Modern Ensemble, Brazil

You can read about each site in the document (.pdf) detailing the decisions of the 40th session of the Committee, with summary explanations of each site’s criteria for inclusion on the list, and for inclusion on the danger list.  For some really nice pictures of some of the new sites, as well as links to more information about them, this article from Smithsonian Magazine is a great place to start.  Another place to look is Atlas Obscura (search for “UNESCO”).

World Heritage sites can be either natural, cultural, or mixed (denoted by circles or diamonds on the map in the featured image).  And unfortunately, too many are in danger (denoted by red on the map).  One site that was destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan was that of the Bamiyan Buddhas — giant statues that were evidence of Afghanistan’s Buddhist past.  However, it remains a World Heritage site, and artists and others have resurrected the statues in beautiful and imaginative ways.

Countries around the world are tasked with protecting and defending these sites.  Sometimes, as in the Syrian Civil War, that isn’t possible, as when the ruins at Palmyra were looted and destroyed by Islamic State militants.  Other countries may be experiencing less violence, but lack the resources or the will to protect these sites.  Most, however, are proud of their sites, and do their utmost.  And many countries try to incorporate current technology into their sites to make a connection to today’s visitors.  For example, Italy has a plan to give its world heritage sites wifi.  Imagine being at a site and using the wifi to get augmented reality information about what you’re seeing!

Is there a site on the list near you?  Is there a site that you or your students think should be on the list?


BulbgraphOnOffProjects give students the chance to create a large and diversified portfolio, not just a series of test scores.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/