[Conference] Heritage Protection: The Asian Experience

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Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this heritage conference in January next year.

The Pan-Asia Conference on “Heritage Protection: The Asian Experience”
Date:  Friday 25th and Saturday 26th January 2019
Place: At The Siam Society Under Royal Patronage, Bangkok, Thailand

At a time of rapid economic, technological, and social changes, the Siam Society Under Royal Patronage, a leading Thai civil society organisation in the field of cultural heritage together with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Authority of Thailand, is hosting a conference entitled “Heritage Protection: The Asian Experience”, held in the English language, in Bangkok, on 25th – 26th January 2019. The conference will bring together Asian thinkers, professionals, and practitioners in the field of cultural heritage protection who will examine the meaning of “Culture”, “Cultural Heritage”, and “Cultural Heritage Protection” in Asian nations.

A well-developed corpus of conventions, guidelines, and internationally accepted best practices for cultural heritage protection already exists, which largely arose out of successful European experiences in heritage protection in the 19th and 20th centuries; hence, it is only natural that heritage protection theories reflect such European experiences. This conference invites Asian speakers to describe cultural heritage from an Asian perspective, recognising the diversity of cultures and cultural heritage protection experiences across the Asian continent.

The speakers will look at various aspects of the Asian experience of cultural heritage protection within diverse Asian settings to determine: what are the main obstacles to successful heritage protection; what works and what does not; what lessons can be drawn for Asian people from Asian experiences? Furthermore, they will suggest cultural heritage protection strategies most likely to be effective within the Asian socio-cultural and political contexts, focusing on community involvement, the role of law, and entrepreneurs’ contributions.

The conference will be divided into four sub-themes, each addressed in one of the four half-day panel discussions:

  • Heritage is the living present of the past.
  • People taking ownership of heritage.
  • How to put law to work on behalf of heritage protection?
  • How can entrepreneurial energies complement heritage protection?

Speakers from twelve nations will participate on the panels, each delivering a 20-minute oral summary of the main points of their respective papers. (The abstract of each paper will be published in the Conference Booklet to be distributed to all the attendees.) A moderator will pose questions, solicit audience participation, and conclude the sessions. At the end of the conference, two seminar rapporteurs will synthesize key points and themes that arose during the four sessions. A book compiling the conference papers will come out in 2019 for widespread distribution throughout the Asian region.

Please find the program and more information about speakers and registration at the attached file or visit the conference webpage at conference2019.siam-society.org

Hong Kong news stronger heritage protection laws

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Chinese University of Hong Kong law professor Steven Gallagher discusses the weaknesses in Hong Kong’s current heritage laws.

Current Hong Kong laws fail the test of heritage protection
South China Morning Post, 25 July 2016

Many news stories have focused on disputes and issues involving Hong Kong’s “cultural heritage”.

Recently an underwater archaeology group discovered an ancient stone anchor and bronze cannons in the waters off Hong Kong and called for more government support for archaeological investigation. The demolition of Ho Tung Gardens and the delays caused to the Sha Tin to Central rail project by the discovery of the archaeological remains of a well at the former Sacred Hill in To Kwa Wan are still fresh memories.

High rents and greedy landlords have been accused of forcing out artisan workers and favourite food restaurants, representing loss of intangible cultural heritage. The issue of Queen’s Pier is also ongoing.

The body tasked with protecting heritage for us all, the Antiquities Advisory Board, has been criticised for being ineffective, weak and secretive, and the discovery of the remains of HMS Tamar is being ignored as much as possible.

Full story here.

Is it time for Singapore to have transparent heritage impact assessments?

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Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221

An editorial in Singapore’s Straits Times by two scholars in Singapore’s ancient history discuss the need for heritage impact assessment to help mitigate the irretrievable loss of archaeology from construction work. Personally, it seems strange to me that most of the archaeological work in Singapore has been characterised as rescue archaeology, as opposed to systematic operations that should be required when constructing on what is known as an archaeologically rich and significant area. This suggests that there is little coordination between the heritage and public works agencies, and hence, a need for a transparent heritage impact assessment process.

Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221

Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221

Digging up Singapore’s history
The Straits Times, 21 February 2015

The archaeological excavation at Empress Place, which Minister Lawrence Wong visited last week, is the latest in a series of excavations started 30 years ago.

Other places recently excavated include the back of the Victoria Theatre before its renovation, and the space between the old Supreme Court and City Hall before it was built over to connect the two buildings for a National Art Gallery.

The driving force behind these excavations, 30 years ago and today, remains the same. It is to search for and recover any historical artefacts before redevelopment takes place. The limited, albeit detailed, Chinese and South-east Asian historical records suggest that a settlement existed at the mouth of the Singapore River since the end of the 13th century, which grew during the 14th century into a kingdom and port-city called Singapura, lasting for a century. Apart from Sir Stamford Raffles and John Crawfurd, the second governor of Singapore, who gave early 19th century eyewitness accounts of the remnants of this settlement, there has been no further confirming evidence.

It was only in 1984 that such evidence was recovered when the old National Museum invited Dr John N. Miksic, an archaeologist then teaching in Indonesia, to conduct a trial excavation on Fort Canning, a site which had been extensively developed and landscaped. Against the odds, an undisturbed layer of soil and earth datable to the 14th century was found around the old Keramat Iskandar Shah. Further excavations over the years have confirmed the conclusions drawn by historians from historical texts on Singapore’s 700-year legacy.

Full story here.

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Preserving heritage builds community

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Trowulan Source: Inilah.com 20141122

Grassroots efforts to help preserve, maintain and promote the archaeology of Trowulan and the Majapahit Empire has led to real benefits to the community, including economic activity.

Trowulan Source: Inilah.com 20141122

Trowulan Source: Inilah.com 20141122

Pelestarian Majapahit Tingkatkan Ekonomi Warga
Inilah.com, 22 November 2014
Article is in Bahasa Indonesia
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Historic Melaka digs way into more of its past

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07 June 2007 (Travel Video Television News) – While this news piece reports nothing new, it ties up the restoration of the fort in Malacca with tourism and the bid to list Malacca as a world heritage site.

Historic Melaka digs way into more of its past

The Malaysian government is setting its focus on Melaka’s treasures.

Malaysia’s historic state Melaka is digging its way into its past to uncover more artifacts buried since the Portuguese landed in the then world sea port trading post in the 16th century.

The unexpected discovery of a fort’s remnants dating back to the 15th century is expected to enhance historic Melaka’s listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Read more about Malacca’s place in the Malaysian plan for tourism and heritage.