I am attending a meeting of ICOMOS the International Council on Monuments and Sites on the island of Malta. The meeting consists of a Scientific Symposium on the topic of “Changing World, Changing Views of Heritage: The Impact of Global Change on Cultural Heritage – Technological Change,” along with meetings of the organization’s Scientific Council and Advisory Committee. I’m here to give a paper on behalf of IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, which describes international collaboration among international nongovernmental organizations (NGO) concerned with libraries, archives, museums, monuments and sites (LAMMS). ICOMOS works on the protection and preservation of cultural heritage sites world-wide—buildings, archaeological sites, historical cities and monuments. Members are from national heritage committees, but also comprise architects, engineers, builders, conservators, policy-makers, and others in the field.
The Library in Valletta, Malta
The symposium papers covered topics such as laser scanning of monuments and buildings, the impact of cultural tourism on world heritage sites, using technology to monitor global climate change, and reproduction of historical sites. Preservation includes documentation of heritage sites, and it is kept in archives and libraries. Conservation issues overlap with museum conservation issues. “Greening” issues include everyone who has a building or service. Being at this conference has opened my eyes to the commonalities we share with other international cultural heritage organizations. Our advocacy efforts would be much stronger if we could collaborate on them and share information. The presidents and secretaries general of the international NGOs (besides IFLA and ICOMOS, they include the International Council on Archives, the International Council of Museums, and the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations) are meeting to discuss these issues. They plan to take responsibilities for leading the collaboration on issues such as copyright, UNESCO relationships, digitization, and the activities of the International Committee of the Blue Shield.
The ICOMOS Scientific Council is similar (although not as large) to the IFLA professional program; it is composed of the chairs of all of the ICOMOS scientific committees, who are the program arm. The Council is relatively new, an attempt to give the committees a stronger voice in ICOMOS affairs. At this meeting, they are concerned about new guidelines for evaluating the work of the committees; the guidelines were developed because of the problem of inactive committees and provide a mechanism for re-organizing or encouraging them if necessary.
ICOMOS has met in Malta several times because of its World Heritage sites, its historical and archaeological riches and its commitment to their preservation and protection. From a U.S. perspective, it is awe-inspiring to be among ancient ruins that date back to 4000BC.
Nancy E. Gwinn