Our annual Celebration of World Heritage has always been a ritual of bonding, a place to exchange ideas and experiences about World Heritage Sites and the World Heritage Program and to make connections that move all of us forward toward the goals of the World Heritage Convention. In the world suddenly and inescapably gone virtual, it was a great challenge to replicate this traditionally black-tie event online.
In a matter of a few months, our interns and volunteers stepped up to the task, closely coordinating their work with the Board of Trustees and administrative staff. They brainstormed an experience that combined the tangible with the digital. Olivia Lichens and Anne Comer contributed hundreds of unpaid hours to create the event. They planned and ordered the contents of the World Heritage Travel Chests that were sent to Celebration sponsors. Because of social distancing, the task of assembling them fell to Anne. Tennessee Mills prepared mailing labels for the Travel Chests online and assisted Olivia and Anne in tracking the deliveries–and arranging for alternate means of delivery as needed–a complicated task due to U.S.-wide delivery delays.
There are opportunities in the digital world that has been imposed upon us. Anne contacted World Heritage Sites in the U.S. and around the world, suggesting that they make short video greetings with a word about how they were coping with COVID-19. She provided instructions, answered questions, reviewed videos with William Humphrey as they came in, requested new video and audio takes, and recruited one of her enormously talented college classmates, Pohan Su, to take on the complicated task of editing the contributed videos, adding subtle music background, and stitching these and recorded presentations into a tightly knit, engaging one-hour presentation. Pohan’s technical skills and artistic sense proved remarkable.
The reviews of the Celebration have been enthusiastic. A great number of comments have been received saying that the experience of not only seeing the 33 World Heritage Sites featured in the short videos, but also sensing the intense dedication of the people onsite charged with protecting and presenting them to the public was a moving one.
The 2020 Celebration of World Heritage is now online on the US/ICOMOS Youtube channel.