George Town, Penang, Chosen to Run UNESCO Pilot Projects

Participants in the International Conference on Managing Urban Cultural Heritage ⓒ GTWHI

The importance of integrated and community-based approaches in managing tangible and intangible cultural heritage was emphasized once again. George Town in Penang, Malaysia, has been selected by UNESCO as the only Asian city to run heritage pilot projects, including one on community-driven ICH inventorying, starting from next year.

The International Conference on Managing Urban Cultural Heritage 2018 was held in George Town from 1 to 4 October 2018. The conference was organized to celebrate the tenth anniversary of George Town and Malacca being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over two hundred people attended the conference, including those from UNESCO regional offices and experts in cultural heritage management from around the world.

The conference looked at management approaches and strategies in all aspects of cultural heritage management, including conservation and education. Presentations and discussions were held in the following ten themes: urban archaeology, globalization and sustainable tourism, disaster risk reduction, challenges in world heritage site management, education and capacity building, conservation of objects and collections, site documentations, rejuvenation of urban heritage, online mobilization in heritage management, and future challenges.

While the conference focused on world heritage sites, many speakers emphasized integrated approaches to tangible and intangible cultural heritage and community capacity building for sustainable development. Participants also shared their research activities that employ not just conventional academic methods but also recent technologies such as virtual reality and social media. Ang Ming Chee, General Manager of the George Town World Heritage Incorporated, said at the closing of the conference that “There is no one-size-fits-all formula which can be used to safeguard cultural heritage. We can choose to act or not. I hope that this moment will be remembered for its positive impact.”

Meanwhile, UNESCO Jakarta Cultural Unit head Moe Chiba announced in a press conference held after the opening of the conference that George Town was selected by UNESCO as the only Asian city to roll out two pilot projects on cultural heritage, starting from 2019. The pilot projects are associated, respectively, with the community-led documentation of intangible cultural heritage in George Town and the promotion of industries in heritage sites with participation of cultural agencies, local artisans, cultural heritage practitioners and other related parties.