We need a fundamental shift in the concept of heritage, where the arbitrary differentiation between culture, nature and intangible heritage are removed. Segregating heritage into these silos is an artificial distinction and has led to an irreparable damage in our notions of Heritage, mainly promoted by UNESCO under World Heritage convention of 1972. The realisation that heritage should be seen as an inter-connected system needs to be addressed at all levels of heritage protection including the World heritage.
It is hypothesized that interconnectedness of historic cities and sites also has evolutionary traits within cultural heritage on lines of the theory of evolution in natural world. Moreover, we also tend to celebrate a few isolated icons by nominating these on World Heritage list while relegating many more to be of lesser importance. Even our inventories and listings of heritage at national levels tends to be more selective and indicative.
If world heritage cities and other associated sites used under comparative analysis within the nomination process are mapped this itself shows Interconnectedness of historic sites and cites, thereby making them part of a composite system, much like the theory of evolution found in the environment or social networks popularly called the ‘six degrees of separation’. Several of these sites are beyond the WH list but are equally important and contribute in creating an inter connectivity of collaborations amongst these cities. In this scenario it is argued that the nomination process in the future could perhaps itself look at alternative auto nomination of 'World Heritage Systems', rather than a few selected aspects or attributes, where even sites used for comparative analysis could also have certain monitoring mechanisms based on SDGs within the WH format.
Divay Gupta is a conservation architect and headed the Architectural Heritage Division of INTACH, New Delhi til March 2023. An Alumni of ICCROM, University of Birmingham & School of Planning & Architecture he has been striving to help better manage and conserve the cultural resources in his country for more than 25 years. He has had the privilege and opportunity to be part of a number of prestigious projects in the UK, USA, India, Afghanistan, Nepal and Cambodia and has participated in joint UNESCO & ICOMOS missions to World Heritage sites as a conservation expert.
His restoration projects in Ladakh have won the South Asia UNESCO awards of Merit & Excellence. He is an Ad Hoc expert on the International Conservation Committee (ICC) for the world heritage site of Preah Vihear in Cambodia. He was a member of National Culture Fund and serves on advisory committee to Government of India on World Heritage Matters. He is also a visiting faculty and a member on the board of studies of Department of Architecture Conservation at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) New Delhi. He is presently pursuing his private practice and PhD at Deprt of Conservation, SPA, New Delhi. https://www.design.upenn.edu/people/divay-gupta, https://www.linkedin.com/in/divay-gupta-5613a86b/
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