The International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO have renewed their Memorandum of Understanding at UNESCO’s Headquarters. The agreement has been concluded in the framework of the thematic initiative Astronomy and World Heritage, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The purpose of the initiative is to reinforce the links between science and culture by highlighting the importance of heritage linked to astronomy.
The participants at the signing ceremony included Professor Thierry Montmerle, General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU); Mr Kishore Rao, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre; Professor Clive Ruggles, IAU Special Advisor, UNESCO Liaison, Ms Anna Sidorenko, Coordinator, thematic initiative Astronomy and World Heritage, World Heritage Centre.
Professor Thierry Montmerle expressed the IAU’s commitment to ensuring the implementation of the initiative and said: “I would like to convey our gratitude to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for its efforts in promoting astronomical heritage. Thanks to this initiative and our collaboration astronomy exists now in the third dimension — the history of astronomy is documented both through time and across continents.”
Mr Kishore Rao expressed appreciation for the fruitful collaboration, and congratulated the IAU on having made all the necessary efforts to enhance collaboration between the scientific and cultural communities, in support of the World Heritage Convention; and provide an opportunity to raise public awareness about this particular type of heritage.
The three-year agreement commits UNESCO and the IAU to promote astronomical sites and provide states party to the World Heritage Convention with expertise, as they prepare nominations for locations to be included in the World Heritage List of exceptional sites that bear witness to major breakthroughs in the development of scientific knowledge. This is a step towards the recognition of the importance of the worldwide astronomical heritage, and its role in enriching lives throughout history and promoting international exchange.
UNESCO and the IAU signed a first memorandum within the framework of the thematic initiative on Astronomy and World Heritage in 2008. It was renewed in 2010 and implemented through close cooperation between UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the IAU, sparking off a series of activities entitled “Astronomy and World Heritage; across time and continents.” It also led to the publication of a thematic work on astronomical heritage, compiled in cooperation with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), to the creation of a web portal on the history of astronomical heritage and to the organisation of numerous seminars and conferences on the subject. The portal can be found at http://www2.astronomicalheritage.net/.
The IAU is an international astronomical organisation of more than 10 000 professional astronomers from more than 90 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on them.
General Secretary, International Astronomical Union
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Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
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