Vincent L Michael, Executive Director, Global Heritage Fund
Technology is a standard measure of progress but, to me, the most dramatic change in the field is not in the tools we use to learn about the past but the way in which we deploy those resources and turn world treasures into community assets.
Ten years ago Jeff Morgan teamed up with Stanford archaeologist Ian Hodder to start the Global Heritage Fund to help archaeologists conserve the sites they were uncovering. Morgan recognised that World Heritage Sites had the power to drive development, so he focused the organisation’s work in the developing world.
The real game-changer is how the community is involved. In the old days, archaeologists would do community outreach to ensure the local population understood the project. Now we involve the community stakeholders in the planning process before any work is done. This is because a planning process that integrates community needs from the beginning is more likely to succeed from both a scholarly and an economic point of view. Community involvement reduces or eliminates looting, engages a wider network of support for archaeology and conservation, and provides a training opportunity that can benefit a wide range of future projects.
It has been ten years since UNESCO recognised culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, and during those years GHF and others have promoted a process of community engagement in archaeology and heritage conservation that has changed how we will work in the future.