Last week, the Charleston World Heritage Coalition hosted international experts from six countries for three days of public meetings and private discussions to help the Coalition with its bid to nominate Charleston as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Symposium began with a public forum on August 19 with over 180 community members in attendance. The forum included presentations by experts on Charleston’s unique history, such Jonathan Poston, author of Buildings of Charleston and Jane Aldrich, executive director of the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project, as well as lectures on the World Heritage process from international expert attendees. Guest presenters were Gustavo Araoz, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and World Heritage consultants Alexandra Kruse and Bernd Paulowitz of insitu World Heritage Consulting in Paris, France.
The day concluded with two panel discussions and Q&A sessions featuring local supporters, such as Historic Charleston Foundation, College of Charleston, Jonathan Green and Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Reality, and visiting international experts from Canada, Spain and Barbados.
The public forum was followed by two days of site visits and closed roundtable discussions to determine what is Charleston’s “Outstanding Universal Value,” i.e. what aspects of the area’s history is globally significant and important to the entire human race.
The international experts agreed unanimously that Charleston’s cultural landscape is worthy of World Heritage designation; however there is a long road ahead. The first step will be for Charleston to be accepted on the U.S. National Park Service Tentative List, a list of sites for consideration to be submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for a final decision. Once on the Tentative List, the creation of an in depth dossier of research and supporting documentation will be created to send to UNESCO for consideration.
The Charleston World Heritage Coalition views the recent Symposium as a success and major milestone in the process. The Coalition hopes to continue engagement with the public throughout the next steps of the nomination process, and maintain advisory relationships with the visiting expert panel. Ruthie Ravenel, board member of the Coalition stated, “We could not have accomplished such a successful event without the support and participation of our community and coalition members. We were very excited by the turnout at the events and the wide-ranging support we have seen in the Charleston public for this project. The Charleston World Heritage Coalition remains committed to continuing to actively engage the community in the form of open forums and discussions in the future.”