Moonbeams and Cultural Heritage Management (Update)

Thanks to Professor Margie Purser of Sonoma State University for sending along an article that provides some welcome context for the recent listing of artifacts at Tranquility Base on the Moon as a California State Historical Resource.  It apparently began as a worthwhile academic exercise, not just a case of bureaucratic megalomania:

Archeologist Helps Get Moon Junk on Historical Resources List

The Historical Resources Commission for the state of California recently listed 106 items left on the moon from the landing of Apollo 11 on the Historical Resources List. Archaeologist Lisa Westwood had worked alone on the project before encountering three others with a similar goal: Beth O’Leary, Department of Anthropology, New Mexico State University; Ralph Gibson, Placer County Museums; and John Versluis, Texas Heritage Museum. “Together, we had more than 40 years invested in getting the objects on a historical resource list. I think it’s interesting that that’s the length of time since the Apollo mission,” said Westwood.

Four years ago, in Westwood’s class Society, Time, Archaeology, she talked about resources management and what qualifies for protection. She used the artifacts left on the moon and Tranquility Base as an example of a site that was not old, but was worthy of some protection. It is a case study of a site that doesn’t fit well with existing law and protocol.

“After open discussions with students, it occurred to me, has anyone tried to get this listed? I contacted NASA; they’ve been very nice and supportive. The wall I hit with NASA is that any one country as part of an international treaty can’t claim the lunar surface. The way it stands right now, there is no protection for these objects or the site.”  Read More…

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Interesting that NASA has “lost” some of the original documentation– and I do recognize that there is an interesting heritage management exercise here. 

But the heritage of Apollo 11 is not ONLY on the moon.  Any potential World Heritage Nomination (to be a realistic project– even as a realistic academic project) would have to consider a transboundary serial nomination linking a number of places, things, and people in a number of countries (“states-parties”) around the world that contributed in some way to the moon landing or perhaps to the wider 1950s-1960s pioneering exploration of space.

For an example of this kind of “scientific achievement” transboundary serial World Heritage Site, see the Struve Geodetic Arc, inscribed in 2005.  This would eliminate the “sovereignty” problem– and in fact such initiatives have already been discussed.

It would be a fantastic subject for collaboration between all the world’s space agencies…

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