Monday 25 February 2013

UNESCO “Common Heritage of Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam”

The opening of a new exhibition “Our Common Heritage: Exploring the World Heritage Sites in Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam” took place at the National Museum, Phnom Penh on 19th February 2013. This exhibition is the fruition of efforts made under the UNESCO-Japan Fund in Trust project, “Revitalizing World Heritage Site Museums in Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam”.
The exhibition is composed of four groups of panels – The first introduces the concept of the World Heritage Convention, its history and the location of the participating World Heritage sites and museums, as well as the Outstanding Universal Values of these sites; the second and third panels will showcase the commonly developed themes such as “Nature and Myth” and “Trade and Exchange.” The last group shows a theme specially created by the national museum itself – Khmer Ornament. The aim of this exhibition is to provide visitors with new narratives by shedding light on the historical interconnection between various World Heritage sites and related populations of sub-region. 
It is a shame though that it reportedly does this only through the medium of highlighting - as if that were at all necessary - the sites embodying "Outstanding Universal Values" rather than the more numerous ordinary archaeological sites of these regions and what they can tell us about society as a whole, not just the elite that built the palace and temple complexes of the colonial architecture. This is a problem which results from the UNESCO-approach to the heritage which plays down the importance of archaeology by emphasising the more visible built heritage, portable antiquities and written documents as identity-building elements.  Dumbed-down disneylandism over scholarship.

Cambodia two WHL  sites (Angkor, Temple of Preah Vihear - Koh Ker on "tentative list"),

Lao People's Democratic Republic, two WHL sites  (architecture in colonial Town of Luang Prabang, 'Champasak Cultural Landscape ',

 Vietnam, WHL sites (Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Hanoi, Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, Complex of Hué Monuments, Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary)

Vignette: Wikipedia.

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