At the request of Bolivian authorities, UNESCO provided technical assistance to advise on a mining museum in the City of Potosí, Bolivia (Plurinational State of). Assistance was provided as part of a research programme conducted by the French CNRS (medieval Mediterranean archaeology laboratory) on the site.
The City of Potosí was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987. Situated at an altitude of 4,000 metres above sea level, in the heart of the Bolivian Andes, Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) is the largest silver deposit in the world. Discovered in 1545 by the Spaniards, its fabulous veins transformed the European economy and contributed to the start of the industrial revolution. Exploitation of the mines also transformed local societies who became subject to forced labor in the Spanish-owned mines. The presence of Potosí on a 15th century Chinese map is evidence of its influence in international trade and its pioneering role in shaping the modern economy.
In 2001 an expert mission under the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement travelled to the City of Potosí to identify major themes, periods to be studied, and local partners of an archaeological research programme on the site’s mining history. At the time it appeared that no archaeological research had yet been undertaken in Potosí. Several local institutions including the Plan de Rehabilitación de Áreas Históricas Potosí (PRAHP), the Tomás Frías Autonomous University (UATF), the Departmental Administrative Offices, and the City of Potosí, expressed interest in supporting future research through training and awareness raising for the protection and valorisation of cultural heritage.