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World Heritage and Museums

Schoolchildren attending an educational programme offered by the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum (Siem Reap, Cambodia) © LY Vanna | LY Vanna

The ever-growing global heritage tourism, boosted by the striking success of the UNESCO World Heritage programme, offers an ideal setting for site-related museums to act as a mediator of intercultural understanding. Museums are also important agents of sustainable development, as they provide quality educational contents for local and international communities. Moreover, associating local communities with developing quality museum signature products and cultural events, could lead to the stimulation of locally-based cultural and creative industries and employment.

Yet, many site-related museums and interpretation centres as they currently stand, lack the capacity - whether financial or human - to fulfil this role thereby remaining as static archaeological depots with little room for interpretation. Programmes linking World Heritage sites and museums, such as the one initiated with a pilot phase funded by the Japanese government, aims to accompany and assist this process of revitalisation for these cultural institutions. 

Museum contents can prompt visitors to learn more about the history of a region and the traditions or social customs of the peoples concerned, stimulating curiosity, openness and tolerance towards different cultures and respect for other traditions. Site museums can bring visitors into contact with local communities, acting as showcases for local communities’ cultures and traditions as well as enhancing the understanding of living cultures, including local crafts, culinary traditions, beliefs and customs.

The World Heritage site-related museums also connect historians, museum professionals, archaeologists and the public to re-discover historical linkages and interaction between different sites and populations through joint research projects and exhibitions.