The year 2020 began with an unprecedented health crisis that has affected each one of us, and we still cannot predict its long-term effects. Not only have we been touched in our personal lives. Lockdown has perturbed our work, our communities and our industries, at times with devastating consequences. And this crisis is not yet over.
Inevitably, our World Heritage sites have suffered too. The abrupt halt in travel and tourism cut off the stream of visitors and the revenue they bring, for some sites the only source of income to cover conservation, maintenance and salaries. The surrounding communities were affected adversely as well, with many people losing jobs and income.
Nonetheless we note positive aspects. For a number of properties, the halt in visitors and traffic meant a respite for natural areas, and in some cultural sites, rehabilitation or restoration works were made possible. Certain sites have been devoid of people for the first time ever, and drones were able to fly over them and film them in all of their splendour, untainted by human presence.
We have also seen a new focus on the digital aspects of heritage, ranging from creating virtual visits and online exhibitions to cataloguing inventory of heritage objects.
In this issue, we share our immediate experience of dealing with the pandemic. We include the voices of the site managers themselves, telling us how they have coped in these exceptional circumstances. I wish you all the best in these uncertain times and I look forward to sharing the joys of our heritage, and the efforts to protect it, as we move into the future.
UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Interpretation and Covid-19
Monitoring World Heritage site closures
Global maps on the closure of World Heritage sites due to Covid-19 and analysis
Accessing World Heritage sites from home
Digital technologies for remote interpretation and monitoring
The impact of Covid-19 and the adoption of digital methodologies offers an opportunity to develop principles, guidelines and protocols for documentation, monitoring, interpretation and dissemination that could assist site managers in adopting these approaches, hiring appropriate services and improving their overall application to enhance the values of the site.
Reflecting on the crisis
World Heritage places, museums and heritage interpretation
The Covid-19 crisis has incited World Heritage properties to develop innovative approaches, and it has highlighted the importance of museums in the efforts to navigate and transcend the constraints imposed by lockdown. It has also confirmed UNESCO’s fundamental role in assisting countries to review their policies to enable these vital resources to survive.
Site manager profiles
The impact of Covid-19 has had numerous unforeseen consequences for the day-today operations of World Heritage sites. Their managers tell us how they are coping with the crisis.
In moments of crisis, people need culture
UNESCO has made it its mission to promote access to culture during this time of self-isolation and confinement. UNESCO has launched the social media campaign #ShareCulture and encouraged people around the world to share their culture and creativity with one another online. We are also stepping up our ongoing efforts to increase access to culture and support protections for artists, in order to address the root causes of the current crisis.
Katherine Cheng, Global and Community Impact, Expedia Group.
IUCN statement on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Living heritage under lockdown.
Covid-19 and marine World Heritage: a pathway to a resilient ocean; More than 130 ministers call for support to culture sector in Covid-19 crisis response.
Emergency response to tragic attack in Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Little Artists Exhibition; UNESCO’s World Heritage City Lab; Celebrating African World Heritage Day online.