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Heritage is a complex term that embraces a huge range of tangible and intangible values including its meanings that gives its unique character and sense of place. The values that people assign to places are not static; they change gradually over time following socio-economic changes or rapidly because of conflict, war, or natural disasters. The process of assessing the values follows an international system as well as local. However, changing meanings has an impact on the integrity, authenticity, and management of heritage. The plurality of place meaning requires employing various methods and tools for mapping and interpreting these meanings, such as community consultation, stakeholders’ workshops, digital tools, the internet, crowd sourcing, social media…. etc.
The present associate theme on ‘changing meaning’ will explore various methods that are used to assess and map out the meaning and/or sense of heritage places and their changes. It will explore how digital technologies make it possible to map out heritage meanings for civil society (including youth), the various local and international stakeholders alongside the national presentation by States Parties. Through a webinar, we will also explore how new meanings and associated values can be incorporated into the recognized Outstanding Universal Value of existing World Heritage properties.
The organizers are keen to invite various examples from different regions, with a focus on good practice in how to map and assess the meaning of heritage place beyond the official designation, and engage in dialogue with a variety of stakeholders from different regions. The outcomes of this dialogue will be a set of recommendation that will inform an inclusive place-making process as well as the decision-making in heritage management. It will also hopefully influence the World Heritage Committee and its advisory bodies to adopt more flexible approaches to the redefinition of the Outstanding Universal Value of existing World Heritage properties.
Christopher Young, heritage consultant and former Head of International Advice at English Heritage.
Hiba Alkhalaf, Department of Classics at King’s College London.