Heading Photo credit: @ Nigel Morris Photography
The U.S. Government has announced its intention to revise the United States’ World Heritage Tentative List in 2016. The preparation of a revised U.S. Tentative List has significant consequences for the U.S. communities that aspire to World Heritage status. More broadly, compiling the List is one of the most important expressions of cultural heritage a nation can undertake. In the United States, it’s also something that occurs comparatively rarely. The U.S. Tentative List has been updated only two times in history, the last time being in 2008.
A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties that a Nation intends to consider for nomination to the World Heritage List in the future. Only properties that have already been included on Tentative List can be considered for inscription. Nations are encouraged to submit in their Tentative Lists cultural and/or natural heritage sites that they consider to be of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription. In addition, in 1994 the World Heritage Committee launched the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List which further encourages Nations to prepare Tentative Lists from categories of eligible cultural resources not currently well-represented on the World Heritage List.
Any contemplation of new U.S. World Heritage nominations must also acknowledge the difficult context in which the U.S. is currently operating. The U.S. ceased all budgetary support to UNESCO, including to the World Heritage Center, in the fall of 2011. The cut-off of U.S. funding has not only undermined our country’s status within UNESCO, it has had profound consequences for the staff who work there. Budget cuts and layoffs have hit particularly hard the heritage professionals who administer the World Heritage Convention. The resulting erosion of the World Heritage Center’s capacity to address the destruction of heritage as a tactic of war currently occurring on a shocking scale across North Africa and the Middle East is an especially unfortunate consequence of this policy.
In short, it has never been more important that Americans who cherish the World Heritage program demonstrate their passion through informed, respectful, professional and committed engagement of all its processes.
In view of the importance of this process, US/ICOMOS has launched this U.S. World Heritage Tentative List Update Resource Center. The site provides a rich array of background information on the legal, regulatory and heritage aspects of the pending Tentative List revisions. This includes resources developed during the U.S. Tentative List Expert Consultation that occurred in 2015. This site will also provide updates on the revision process as it unfolds over the coming months.
US/ICOMOS has been committed to the principles of World Heritage since even before the U.S. ratified the Convention in the summer of 1973. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, US/ICOMOS remains deeply committed to the World Heritage program, both working to build domestic support for this international program and aiding in the nomination and conservation of U.S. inscribed sites. This work builds on the international work of ICOMOS, the formal advisory body to the World Heritage Committee on all aspects of cultural heritage.