Accepted Paper:

Democratising World Heritage? The case of Blaenavon, South Wales  


Dominic Walker (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

I will explore approaches to the democratic management of World Heritage Sites, and how the concerns of locals may be made compatible with the conservation of 'outstanding universal values'.

Paper long abstract:

The 'outstanding universal values' of UNESCO World Heritage Sites are traditionally valued over and above local viewpoints. Although UNESCO has more recently recognised the need to involve local communities in the management of World Heritage Sites, tensions may continue to exist between the views of heritage experts and local communities. Using as a case study the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, a World Heritage Site in South Wales, I will explore how the management of World Heritage Sites may become more democratic.

The main economic base of the Blaenavon area—coalmining—declined through the 20th century and mining finally ceased in 1980. Attempts to address economic and social decline has revolved around the industrial heritage. As part of these regeneration processes, the industrial landscape was nominated for inclusion on the World Heritage List, being inscribed in 2000. Attempts are being made to make commensurable the pursuit of conserving the posited outstanding universal values whilst addressing local values and needs. However, tensions have arisen within the local community due to the ways in which they have been involved in managing the heritage. I will argue that a more democratic and truly collaborative approach to managing World Heritage is needed in order to more effectively achieve aims such as community empowerment and 'social inclusion'. In this way, the authority usually afforded to heritage experts may need to be renegotiated.

Panel S03
Who needs experts? Counter mapping cultural heritage