Integrating Monitoring in the Nomination Process of Cultural Serial Transnational World Heritage Using Geospatial Content Management Systems: The Silk Roads Case Study
Cultural serial transnational World Heritage nominations contain component parts located in two or more countries that may or may not be contiguous. As such, they are a great opportunity for States Parties to collaborate and share experiences under a common Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). One way of properly protecting and managing these sites can be a systematic monitoring of change with regard to heritage values and attributes, and heritage documentation is the first major step towards effective monitoring. However, such systematic monitoring has not yet been integrated in the World Heritage nomination process. The specific characteristics of these types of properties bring about new challenges in documentation and management. In contrast to single properties, data and groups of stakeholders involved in serial transnational World Heritage properties are usually more extensive and complex. Problems start when the baseline information to be shared is not reliable or incomplete or when there is a lack in local stakeholder expertise when it comes to adequate information management strategies. In such cases it can be helpful to apply advanced yet easy-to-use information and content management systems that can handle large amounts of geospatial data.
This doctoral thesis proposes the integration of monitoring in the nomination process of cultural serial transnational World Heritage using Geospatial Content Management Systems (GeoCMS). It proposes a conceptual framework for strengthening the monitoring of serial transnational World Heritage properties supporting a preventive conservation approach. Digital technology, in hand with proper methodologies and capacity building, offers a novel solution for the States Parties to manage large amounts of information at a transnational level. The proposed framework is a cyclic approach that contains the three pillars of the OUV, as part of the requirements of the World Heritage nomination. This framework applies a values-based approach and integrates risk assessment in the World Heritage management process. Values embedded in the cultural heritage are identified to assess significance, prioritize resources, and take informed decisions. The Nara Grid and additional contributions from a multidisciplinary and cross-organizational wider group of stakeholders (“who”) are applied at the serial transnational World Heritage Property and its Component Parts to systematically assess heritage values (“why”) and identify heritage attributes (“what”). This leads to the issue of how to manage change, and examples provided here with regard to a proper delineation of boundaries and buffer zones as well as establishing a regulatory framework at different management levels show a possible way forward.
Workflows for documentation, as well as data standards and methods for nomination and monitoring, of serial transnational World Heritage are developed to support the monitoring system. At the same time, these methods are supported by a strong component of capacity building. They reinforce the existing guidelines and practices on data collection in the participating countries by improving methodologies towards preventive conservation. A data model to build a monitoring tool is developed and implemented as a GeoCMS. It sets standards and baseline monitoring, and the nomination dossier is created as the first record. The GeoCMS aids to compile, store, manage and share information during the preparation of the nomination dossier and the monitoring process, while at the same time it uses the capabilities of a Geographic Information System (“where”). The GeoCMS is tested and validated using the case study of the Silk Roads in Central Asia. The GeoCMS, Silk Roads Cultural Heritage Resource Information System (Silk Roads CHRIS), is developed with input of the stakeholders under a User-Centered Design (UCD) approach. Capacity building appears as an inseparable companion to system development.
Results show that the integration of a values-based risk management approach into a management system provides for a more accurate and earlier detection of the symptoms of damage. Although heritage sites are always “at risk”, i.e. threatened by natural and anthropogenic factors, having an informed risk management plan in place together with proper awareness can greatly reduce the impacts of such factors. The use of a GeoCMS facilitates the implementation of risk assessment for serial transnational World Heritage properties by standardizing the information, as well as of the monitoring process with common techniques in remote sensing such as satellite imaginary. The Silk Roads CHRIS is successfully implemented, populated and validated to submit the Silk Roads serial transnational World Heritage nomination and to continue with further monitoring. The system was effectively used as a tool to support the Central Asian countries in the preparation of two Silk Roads nomination dossiers. The underlying methodologies support the large number of stakeholders in their efforts to preserve the values of their shared cultural heritage, to jointly understand and trust the information, to train professionals, to increase scientific knowledge, and lastly, to produce the World Heritage nomination dossier.