Letters of Intent for 2015

LoI 2015-225
Focus Meeting: Astronomical Heritage: Progressing the UNESCO–IAU Initiative

Date: 12 August 2015 to 14 August 2015
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Contact: Clive Ruggles (rug@le.ac.uk)
Coordinating division: Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage
Co-Chairs of SOC: Clive Ruggles (University of Leicester)
Anna Sidorenko-Dulom (UNESCO World Heritage Centre)
Chair of LOC: ()



T1. The implementation of the Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative: achievements, issues and prospects
T2. What makes astronomical heritage valuable? Issues in identifying potential Outstanding Universal Value in cultural properties relating to astronomy
T3. Dealing with movable and intangible heritage in a World Heritage framework
T4. Recognizing the twentieth-century heritage of astronomy
T5. Preserving dark skies in a World Heritage framework
T6. Establishing the credibility of archaeoastronomical sites
T7. The “Route of astronomical observatories” project: classical observatories from the Renaissance to the rise of astrophysics
T8. The “Odyssey of human creative genius” project: technological heritage connected with space exploration
T9. The “Windows to the Universe” project: protecting the world’s leading optical observatories
T10. Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural heritage relating to astronomy



The Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and the IAU, whereby the two bodies undertake to work together to implement UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative (http://whc.unesco.org/en/astronomy), was first signed in 2008 and was renewed in 2013. Since 2008 the IAU has played a vital role in a wide range of activities, coordinated up to 2012 through its Working Group on Astronomy and World Heritage and during the 2012–15 triennium directly under the auspices of Division C. The SOC co-chairs have been responsible throughout for coordinating the Initiative from the IAU and UNESCO sides.

The main deliverables to date have been the Thematic Study on the Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy (2010)—developed by the IAU in collaboration with UNESCO’s independent advisory body, ICOMOS, which presents an overall vision of astronomical heritage through a wide range of case studies and helps to establish criteria by which World Heritage List nominations relating to astronomical heritage sites can be judged—and the Astronomical Heritage Web Portal (http://www.astronomicalheritage.net), a dynamic, publicly accessible database, discussion forum, and document-repository on astronomical heritage sites throughout the world. By the time of this meeting a second Thematic Study, addressing key issues such as the protection of dark skies through a number of extended case studies, will have been published.

The bulk of the proposed sessions and topics within this focus meeting fall into two categories: those dealing with broad questions in the assessment of astronomical heritage (T2–T6); and progress and issues with projects focusing on particular potential nominations (T7–T9). T1 addresses issues in the implementation of the Initiative itself, while T10 is of particular interest given both the venue of this meeting and the expected publication, by the time of the GA, of at least three major new works relating to Hawaiian cultural astronomy.

Certain issues, such as authenticity and integrity—of vital interest, for example, to modern observatories seeking assurance that heritage recognition would not in any way compromise their continuing ability to do cutting-edge science—and conservation and management issues, will enter into most or all of the different topics. Broad questions can often be addressed most clearly through relevant case studies, whether or not the sites concerned are on the World Heritage List or a national “Tentative List”.

It is anticipated that this focus meeting will run in tandem with (i) a meeting of UNESCO’s Steering Group of Focal Points nominated by UNESCO Delegations to oversee the implementation of the Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative in their own countries, and (ii) an inaugural meeting of the International Steering Committee on Astronomical Heritage (ISCAH), set up jointly by ICOMOS and the IAU, which will be responsible for formulating policy in the assessment of various types of astronomical heritage.

Keynote speakers will include Dr Mechtild Rössler, Deputy Director (Programmes) at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and Prof. Michel Cotte, advisor to ICOMOS on science and technology heritage issues.