Great Economic Potential for the People of Iraq?

Um…  Tourist attraction?  Island of western antiquarianism?  Original brick?  Water Table?  Is this worth the effort?  Who is it really for?  How will it affect the future of Iraq

You decide about the wisdom of this $700,000 State Department/World Monuments Fund Project:

Who Ever Said Heritage is About the Past? (Continued)

Smoke is seen as volunteers clear debris at the Kasubi Royal Tombs, destroyed by an inferno in the outskirts of Uganda’s capital Kampala, March 17, 2010. Credit: REUTERS/James Akena


From AFP 17 March:   

Uganda army deploys after fire destroys historic tombs

KAMPALA — Fire ravaged the UN-listed Kasubi tombs in Uganda and the army and police deployed across Kampala on Wednesday after protests by youths who claimed it was arson.   

Anti-riot units battled during the night to disperse young supporters of the Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, traditional ruler of the Baganda, one of Uganda’s main tribes.   

The fire on Tuesday night destroyed much of the 128-year-old tombs just south of Kampala where four Baganda kings are buried.   

The tombs in straw-thatched buildings are revered by the Baganda people and are a major tourist attraction on the World Heritage List drawn up by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).   

President Yoweri Museveni is to inspect the damage on Wednesday, a source at his office said.   

“When the fire broke out, police were called in and got there in time but the fire brigade was obstructed by a hostile crowd, three trucks were damaged and a fireman injured,” Uganda’s police chief, Major General Kale Kayihura told AFP.   

“Faced with this hostility and in an effort to stop the fire from destroying the tombs, the officer fired some shots in the air to disperse the crowd but no one was hurt,” he added.   

Kayihura said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.   

Peter Mayiga, a spokesman for the Buganda Kingdom, whose people are concentrated in the south of Uganda and Kampala, described the fire as “an attack on Buganda”.   

Last year an attempt by the authorities to stop the Baganda king from visiting an area near Kampala sparked running battles in the streets of the capital. Police fired tear gas and live ammunition.   

“This fire is very strange given what we (the Baganda) have been going through,” Mayiga said without giving details.   

Kayihura, reacting to Mayiga’s comments, said: “That is absolute falsehood. The government cannot be responsible for this fire.”   

The tombs were declared a World Heritage Site in 2001. As a spiritual symbol for the Baganda people, many go to the tombs for ritual ceremonies…   

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For more info on the Kasubi tombs, click here.   

Uganda has two other World Heritage sites, the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Ruwenzori Mountains National Park. Both are “natural” properties.    

Much harder to make a political point with those…   


“Minarets Have Nothing To Do With Germany”

In what is becoming a familiar storyline for cultural heritage conflicts in the New Europe, lines are being drawn between what is considered “authentic” heritage and what considered an unsightly intrusion being brought into the country by THEM.       

As noted in a Feb. 11 story by David Charter in the London Times Online:      

At the center of the storm


“An unassuming former cinema opposite a giant steelworks on the banks of the Saar river is at the centre of a stand-off over plans for a minaret to mark its new role as a mosque. The row highlights concerns about the spread of Islam in Germany’s traditionally conservative rust belt.      

“In a confrontation reminiscent of the debate in Switzerland, which led to a national referendum verdict banning new minarets, the 40,000-strong town of Völklingen has become divided over plans by the Selimiye mosque for three domes and an 8m (26ft) spire.      

“It would be the first minaret in Saarland, which has fallen on hard times since the heyday of steel production in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving many of the Turks who arrived to work in the smelters unemployed…      

“We are being quietly infiltrated by the Turks,” said one resident at a meeting called last month, according to Die Tageszeitung. The audience of 250 was asked to fill in forms, with one stating: “Minarets have nothing to do with Germany.”      

(The recent, bitter debate about the construction of a minaret in the German town of Völklingen has the added fillip of its also being a UNESCO World Heritage Site  that, in fact, commemorates the technology of steel production but, more subtly and silently, symbolizes the death of the town’s main industry by turning it into a heritage attraction.)      

The Times story continues:      

“The mosque is in Wehrden, the district that was home to many steelworkers when the plant employed 17,000 men. The six furnaces across the river from the mosque fell silent in 1986 and are now a Unesco World Heritage site, with a sign that says: “The Völklinger Hütte, one of the most exciting places in the world. Today it is equal to the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Acropolis at Athens.”      

Adnan Atakli, the head of the town’s Turkish community association, said: “This is our democratic right, to have our places of worship just like there are churches. Churches have a tower. I live here, we have a mosque and a mosque should have a minaret.” He said that it would be decorative only.      

“The Saarbrücker Zeitung, the local newspaper, carried an article calling for it not to be built: “It symbolises Islam’s quest for power and is nothing less than a provocation.”      

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When will cultural heritage stop obsessing only about the past and about purity and become a creative element in evolving community identity?

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…