UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

10/02/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/02/2019 08:55

The role of Visitor Centres in UNESCO Designated Sites: educating for Sustainable Development through Heritage Interpretation

The 2nd regional workshop on the Role of Visitor Centres in UNESCO Designated Sites will take place this year in Bamberg, Germany from 6-8 October 2019. This series of workshops, organized by UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe addresses the core functions and potentialities of visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites, in order to provide advice for their improvement.

Building on the outcomes of the first regional workshop on this subject, hosted by the City of Palermo in 2018, this second meeting will focus on capacity building in the interpretation of heritage and education for sustainable development. Capacity building is one of the 3 focus areas for the work of visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites; the other two being tourism management and community engagement.

UNESCO designated sites, such as World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geo-parks play a prominent role in the interpretation of heritage and educational services. Despite their different institutional and operational frameworks, the various UNESCO designations share the common objective to contribute to the achievement of the Organization's mission towards peace and sustainable development. Therefore, the designations are summoned to serve as learning sites to protect and enhance cultural and natural resources, communicate and uphold the values that UNESCO stands for, and develop educational approaches supporting both.

The 'presentation' of heritage is one of the core objectives of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, and part of the States Parties' duties, along with the responsibility to set up education and information programmes in order to strengthen the overall understanding, appreciation and respect for cultural and natural heritage.

The Convention's Operational Guidelines encourage States Parties to ensure that World Heritage status is adequately marked and promoted on-site.

Is encouraged also the development of educational materials, activities and programmes with the participation of schools, universities, museums and other local and national educational authorities, wherever possible. Followed by the requirement to integrate sustainable development principles in the management of World Heritage properties.

Biosphere Reserves of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), such as 'Science for Sustainability support sites', are required inter alia to act as sites of excellence for education and training. They should foster the harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development, including through promoting knowledge sharing, education, public awareness and involvement, acting as demonstration areas and learning sites.

UNESCO Global Geo-parks promote the importance and significance of protecting the Earth's geodiversity through actively engaging with the local communities. In order to do this, Geo-parks are required to enhance their visibility, stimulate geo-tourism, promote awareness of geological heritage, and adopt a sustainable approach to the development of the area.

In light of the above, the second workshop will offer the opportunity to share lessons learned and to discuss possibilities on how to improve heritage interpretation and education for sustainable development in Visitors Centres related to UNESCO designated sites, with a view at providing useful indication to both existing and future centres.

The programme consists of 2 sessions, respectively focusing on 'UNESCO's learning and teaching concepts in heritage interpretation at UNESCO Designated Sites' and 'challenges and opportunities of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) in heritage interpretation'. These knowledge-sharing sessions will be combined with facilitated discussions and group exercises on the new World Heritage Visitor Centre in Bamberg as a real case study.

Participants in the workshop will be representatives of visitor centres related to 26 designated sites from 21 countries in Europe, selected through a call for applications. The workshop is organized by UNESCO, through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. The City of Bamberg will host the workshop, in cooperation with the Bamberg World Heritage Visitor Centre, the University of Bamberg - Competence Centre for Heritage Sciences and Technologies, and the German Commission for UNESCO, with the participation of Interpret Europe as technical partner.

The organisation of this series of workshops is made possible thanks to the annual contribution of Italy to the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. Two more workshops for the same subject are planned during the next biennium, with a focus on tourism sustainability and visitors management (2020) and community engagement and community-oriented services (2021).