Educating for Sustainable Development through Heritage Interpretation
Being part of a UNESCO network of sites means joining an international community with a common cause, aligned with UNESCO’s mission and fundamental values. Designated sites like World Heritage properties, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks are all called upon to serve as lighthouses in upholding and communicating universal values for which UNESCO stands, in order to foster peace and sustainable development.
Within this framework, visitor centres at these sites can and should play a key role in promoting such values through heritage interpretation, as an educational activity with an intrinsic potential to raise awareness and inspire behaviours in accordance with sustainable development principles.
From this assumption, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe convened the Second Regional Workshop on the Role of Visitor Centres in UNESCO Designated Sites, following a first pilot event held in 2018 in Palermo, Italy.
The second workshop was generously hosted on 6-8 October 2019 by the City of Bamberg, in cooperation with the Bamberg World Heritage Office, the University of Bamberg – Competence Centre for Heritage Sciences and Technologies, the German Commission for UNESCO, and Interpret Europe as technical partner.
The objective of the second workshop was to advance common and individual knowledge on the subject, to stimulate critical thinking, provide an opportunity for networking and peer-to-peer exchange, and to inspire participants to take future actions.
The report presents the main outcomes of the meeting to interested audiences, including visitor centres’ staff, their parent institutions and partners, researchers, and whoever is seeking advice on improving the management of visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites. The report may also serve as an eye-opener and a point of reference for local authorities and/or other actors planning to establish new visitor centres in their respective sites.
The main concepts and findings of the workshop, as well as the recommendations based on the outcomes of collective discussions during the workshop are unfolded in 3 chapters.
The first and second chapters summarize the key messages and main results of facilitated discussions from the two knowledge-sharing sessions, which respectively focused on mirroring 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.
The third chapter puts forward a set of recommendations for visitor centres to better perform their core function of heritage interpretation, with an emphasis on how to reinforce the link between people’s understanding of heritage and of UNESCO basic values through value-based, inclusive, and participatory approaches to interpretation, and how to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of the use of ICTs tools in heritage interpretation.
Two additional workshops are planned over 2020-2021, focusing on the role of visitor centres in relation to: community engagement and empowerment; and, tourism sustainability and visitors’ management.
The organisation of this series of regional workshops is possible thanks to the annual contribution of Italy to the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe.