GHF Executive Director Jeff Morgan announces the launch of a new global heritage economics study. Photo: © GHF 2012
GHF had a day to remember at the Asia Society in New York on May 3rd, hosting The Forum on Global Heritage in a Developing World: Focus on Asia, a discussion of development challenges facing Asia’s most important and endangered heritage sites. The event featured a diverse program of speakers and panelists, and was well-attended by leading experts in conservation, development, venture philanthropy, technology, travel, academia and media.
Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, President of Asia Society, welcomed participants and attendees with an introductory speech about the current state of heritage and development in Asia. She was followed by Shirley Young, Chair of the US-China Cultural Institute and Governor of the Committee of 100, who spoke about the importance of protecting global heritage sites.
“I think we’d agree,” she said, “that a world without history is a world without soul.”
Kuanghan Li talks about conserving Pingyao Ancient City. Photo: © GHF 2012
John Sanday, GHF’s Regional Director of Asia & Pacific, presented a case study of training and conservation methods at Angkor and Banteay Chhmar; he was joined by Dr. Pheakdey Nguonphan, who is currently using revolutionary 3D imaging tools to help rebuild Banteay Chhmar’s walls. Khuanghan Li, GHF’s China Heritage Program Manager, spoke about the restoration of historic courtyards at Pingyao Ancient City. She was followed by Abha Lambah, who has led efforts at GHF Hampi to rebuild Chandramouleshwara Temple.
Jeff Morgan, GHF’s Executive Director, gave a keynote presentation about the potential of cultural heritage sites to drive sustainable local economic growth in developing countries. He also announced the launch of a heritage economics study that will aim to measure the value of cultural heritage in order to increase funding from governments and private donors.
“Heritage is being dramatically undervalued,” Morgan said, describing the lack of global initiative when it comes to protecting cultural sites. “We’re going to lose them on our watch in the next 10 years.”
Dr. Vasant Shinde talks about the rich history of the Indus civilization. Photo: © GHF 2012
Attendees then broke up into two interactive roundtable sessions. The first, “Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Preservation,” was moderated by Dr. Vincent Michael, Director of Historic Preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was joined by Dr. Vasant Shinde from India’s Deccan College; Dr. Augusto F. Villalon, President of ICOMOS-Philippines; Dr. Hsin-Mei Agnes Hsu from the China Institute and UNESCO World Heritage Centre; Jim Sano, President of Geographic Expeditions; and Yan Zhang, an economist whose recent studies have focused on the value of heritage.
The second session, “Sustainability through Public-Private Partnerships,” was moderated by Dr. Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director of Sustainable Urbanism International at Columbia University. She was joined by S.K. Misra, Chairman of the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD); Jurjen van der Tas from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture; Nancy Shao Yong from Tongji University and China’s National Research Center of Historic Cities; and Shenhua Wang of the World Bank.
Dr. Vincent Michael moderates “Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Preservation.” Photo: © GHF 2012
During a roundtable session, John Sanday tells a personal story of teaching Nepalese villagers about their own cultural heritage. Photo: © GHF 2012
Participants from both sessions gave brief presentations about their own work, before engaging in a series of discussions about heritage conservation and ways of facilitating and increasing funding. Audience members were invited to ask questions and participate in the talks, whose topics ranged from “Who has authority over a site?” to “Can we build a better tourist?” to “What defines authenticity?”
“Authenticity should not be static,” suggested Yan Zhang. “It should be dynamic and evolving.”
From left to right: Jeff Morgan, Dr. Jyoti Hosagrahar, S.K. Misra, Dr. Vincent Michael, and Dr. Vishakha N. Desai discussing the economics of heritage. Photo: © GHF 2012
Participants then reconvened in the main auditorium for a panel discussion with Morgan, Misra, Dr. Michael, Dr. Hosagrahar and moderator Dr. Desai. While remarking on the lack of focus on culture in the UN Millennium goals, Dr. Desai described culture as “a relatively new phenomenon,” comparing it favorably with the environmentalism movement. Misra agreed, saying, “The future is bright.”
The group further discussed the economics of heritage — in particular, the need for new methods of measuring the value of heritage — as well as education’s effect on increased local appreciation of cultural heritage.
The evening’s thrilling final presentation came thanks to contemporary Chinese-born composer Huang Ruo, who first spoke about studying music as a boy on Hainan Island, then later his travels into the mountains to research Chinese folk music. The night concluded with a captivating performance of one of Ruo’s compositions by virtuosic pipa player Min Xiao-Fen.
Huang Ruo talks about studying music with his father on Hainan Island. Photo: © GHF 2012
Min Xiao-Fen performs a composition by Chinese-born composer Huang Ruo. Photo: © GHF 2012
GHF would like to thank all attendees and participants for making The Forum on Global Heritage in a Developing World: Focus on Asia an outstanding success.