The Low Countries look at the future of heritage


The Dutch government is marking the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention with a series of events on June 16 and 17 at World Heritage sites across the Netherlands. The aim is to show how the nine different sites play a role in telling the history of the Dutch people and their country. The sites include the Crash museum of aviation and resistance, the Beemster polder (photo) and the Amsterdam canal ring, which was added to the World Heritage list in 2010. The Rietveld-Schröder House in Utrecht is also on the list as an outstanding example of modern architecture. The problems of heritage At a meeting in Bruges earlier in the month, two hundred international heritage experts met to discuss the problems linked to the Unesco label. The conference was organised by Bruges burgomaster Patrick Moenaert in response to a critical report by Unesco on the city, which was added to the World Heritage List in 2000. “This is a problem that confronts cities all over the world and one that we want to be discussed so that we can reach a solution,” said Moenaert. According to Unesco’s initial report, the historic centre of Bruges deserves a place on the World Heritage List because “Bruges is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form part of the town's identity.” But the city was criticised in a 2010 report, where inspectors said that “there are signals appearing which demonstrate gradual erosion of the singular universal values of World Heritage in respect of the Historic Centre of Bruges”. 

New plan During the conference, the city presented its new management plan drafted in response to Unesco’s critical report. “The plan is intended as a guide as to how we intend to protect our heritage in the coming years, while at the same time allowing us to evolve as a modern city,” explained alderman Mercedes Van Volcem. “We have defined zones where future development can take place, while always bearing in mind the visual impact on our heritage.” The World Heritage List currently includes 936 monuments.

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