Call for Papers: Communicating World Heritage Values Conference


Communicating World Heritage: Research and Global Policy Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham in association with World Heritage UK Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham will hold a special international meeting to discuss research and global policy focusing on the communication of World Heritage values, 7-8 October at the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge.  The event will be immediately followed (9-10th October) by the third annual conference of World Heritage UK where practitioners will join to explore the many ways to communicate World Heritage to different audiences.

The conference will take place within the Ironbridge Gorge which, in 1986, became one of the first UK sites to be awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO.  The designation of the Ironbridge Gorge as a World Heritage Site recognised the area’s unique contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the impact of which was felt across the world. The surviving built and natural environment with its museums, monuments and artefacts, serve to remind us of this area’s unique contribution to the history and development of industrialised society.

As part of the meeting on Communicating World Heritage Values we are seeking papers for four open sessions. The session themes are linked to an AHRC Collaborative doctoral research project (2014-2017) between the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH), University of Birmingham and Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT). The four researchers who will be leading each session have been examining the relationships that World Heritage Sites share with different communities of interest in communicating World Heritage Values. The research themes were Education within the World Heritage Site (Jamie Davies), Specialist groups and World Heritage- Ironbridge Gorge as an Industrial World Heritage Site (Joe Raine), Tourism within Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site (Coralie Acheson) and the communities of Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site (Malgorzata Trelka).

This call for papers is for papers for the four sessions:

  • World Heritage Tourism Session
  • World Heritage and Communities Session
  • World Heritage Education Session
  • World Heritage and Specialist Groups Session

We welcome abstracts for papers on all categories of World Heritage Sites (Cultural, Natural and Mixed), case study sites from the UK, EU or internationally, as well as those on tentative lists.


World Heritage Tourism Session

The World Heritage Convention only mentions tourism once, and it does so in the context of threats of a magnitude potentially great enough to warrant putting a site on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. When tourism is not being discussed as a direct threat to World Heritage Sites, it is typically considered in terms of providing appropriate facilities for visitors or with the potential economic benefits that tourism can bring both to individual sites and their surrounding areas. However, there is a need to consider how tourists engage with and experience World Heritage in broader terms. The Budapest Declaration outlines a number of strategic objectives, of which the fourth is to “increase public awareness, involvement and support for World Heritage through Communication” (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2002, emphasis original). This theme is expanded on in the ‘awareness-raising and education’ section of the Operational Guidelines (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2015, VI.C). Although there is a clear emphasis on communication of the key themes of World Heritage through education, the general public, including tourists, are also identified as a significant audience.

This session will examine the theme of World Heritage and tourism in relation to the experience of World Heritage sites by tourists, exploring the nature of communication to tourists and the many and varied ways they may interact with the sites they visit. As tourism is characterised by its short term nature, is it possible for individuals to gain anything more than a surface level experience of World Heritage, and is this different to the sort of experience they might have at sites not inscribed on the List. We are seeking submissions of papers with a focus on exploring the ways in which tourists encounter World Heritage and how they may differ from other communities of interest at these sites. Papers of both a theoretical or case study basis are welcomed. Broad themes for the session include:

– The ways in which World Heritage values are represented to tourists and the resulting effects on tourist experience;

– The role of World Heritage status and values in the construction of tourism imaginaries of destinations; and

– How significant is World Heritage in tourist narratives of place?


World Heritage and Communities Session

Within the wider global trend of the democratisation of heritage, the ‘rhetoric of community’ is becoming increasingly a matter of concern. The considerable interest in the role of local communities in the preservation of their heritage can be seen in the academic discourse as well as in policy.

In the World Heritage process, communities were added as one of the main strategic objectives of the Convention. Recent changes to the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the Convention recommend involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making, monitoring, and evaluation of the properties and their Outstanding Universal Value.

There are a range of approaches to heritage management in different parts of the world and within these, the role of ‘people’ in management of World Heritage properties is given different levels of importance. Although there have been numerous research projects concerning the role of communities in heritage conservation, this crucial area of understanding has not yet been explored adequately. We are seeking papers with a focus on exploring the relationship between ‘community’ and World Heritage; this can be approached theoretically or through a case study.

  • What are the main obstacles in the World Heritage system which prevent communities from engaging actively in the conservation process?
  • What is the interaction between universal values and ‘local knowledge’ or does this interaction exist at all.
  • What does a World Heritage site means to its local communities and what does it do for them?


World Heritage and Specialist Groups Session

One of the greatest resources of heritage, from globally recognised monuments to local landmarks, has been able to call upon is the passion, knowledge and time of volunteers, enthusiasts and special interest groups. Many heritage sites across the UK owe their existence to the dedication of individuals and groups who fought to save them and continue to rely on volunteers who offer their time for free in a wide variety of roles from front of house to costumed interpreters.

World Heritage Sites are no exception. Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site itself owes much of its development as a heritage site to the vision of passionate enthusiasts and continues to work with a significant number of volunteers and an established friend’s organisation. The relationship of these highly-engaged groups with the sites World Heritage Status is comparatively underexplored, however. Does the site’s World Heritage Status figure in the way they think about the site, do they feel it is unimportant or do they feel it serves to disconnect them from heritage they have a real connection to?

For this session we are seeking submissions that explore;

  • What is about heritage that evokes so much passion among enthusiasts and volunteers and is it possible for World Heritage to invoke similar enthusiasm?
  • What is the current relationship between specialist groups and the idea of World Heritage?
  • How can volunteers and enthusiasts be engaged in the World Heritage aspects of World Heritage Sites?
  • What is the future for enthusiast groups and volunteers? Will the current model continue to be work or will things have to change?

World Heritage Education Session

Article 4 of the World Heritage Convention states that each State Party has ‘the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage’ (UNESCO 1972); it is through Outreach and Education that this ‘transmission’ is undertaken.

Article 27 enshrines the Educational duties of WHSs, as it states that ‘the States Parties to this Convention shall endeavour by all appropriate means, and in particular by educational and information programmes, to strengthen appreciation and respect by their peoples of the cultural and natural heritage’ (UNESCO 1972).

It is important to remind WHSs and stakeholders, that Education and Outreach is a duty and obligation. This is a timely reminder as many World Heritage Sites are undergoing a period of change through restructuring and the rewriting of their Management Plans.

World Heritage Education can occur through formal learning programmes at site level, nationally through state parties and globally. World Heritage Education however remains under researched. This is a symptom of heritage education in general which remains under researched in comparison to that of museum education.

Therefore we are seeking submissions with a focus on either of the following research questions:

  • What is World Heritage Education?
  • How can the concept of Outstanding Universal Value be communicated to young audiences?
  • What is the relationship between heritage education, museum education and World Heritage Education?
  • How can educational visits to World Heritage Sites enhance learning?
  • How are World Heritage Sites learning resources for classroom based learning?
  • What are the challenges in World Heritage Sites developing learning programmes?


Abstracts must be 300 words or less and must be accompanied by an author biography.


Submissions should be uploaded at:


For further information and if you have any questions please email:

Jamie Davies

Teaching Fellow in Cultural Heritage, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage


Call for Papers Timescale

Call for papers open: Monday 13th March 2017.

Call for papers closed/Deadline for submissions: Monday 15th May 2017.

Decision to be made by Monday June 5th 2017.

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