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Voices of the pioneers: UNESCO's World Heritage Convention 1972‐2000

Christina Cameron (School of Architecture, Faculté de l'aménagement, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada)
Mechtild Rössler (Policy and Statutory Implementation Unit, World Heritage Centre, UNESCO, Paris, France)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 27 May 2011




In partnership with UNESCO's Oral Archives Initiative, the authors have set out to capture the voices of those who have played a significant role in the creation and early development of the World Heritage Convention. The recorded interviews with the men and women who were active participants in this early period are designed to supplement the existing literature and voluminous documentation from the statutory and expert meetings. The uniqueness of this World Heritage research project is the important role that the voices of the pioneers will play in illuminating the successes and failures, the struggles and triumphs of the early years. This paper aims to share some of the findings.


The selection of the first group of interviewees has been made on the basis of the importance of the person's involvement in World Heritage matters, age, diversity of interests and geographical distribution. The interviews are structured with specific questions to identify key issues and cases that have affected the development of the World Heritage system. Topics are explored and teased out, adapting to the experience of each interviewee.


To date, the authors have interviewed 31 participants from all geographical regions of UNESCO. The interviews have created a rich and diverse tapestry of information, concepts and opinions on the early days of the World Heritage Convention. Participants in the project have been generous with their time and passionately candid in their views. In this paper, the authors offer a glimpse into the results of this research by presenting some samples from three interviews.


The interviews provide a unique and original viewpoint on the creation and early implementation of the World Heritage Convention. Preliminary results point to a deeper understanding of the forces that led to the creation of the convention and the leadership role played by certain individuals in transforming these ideas for international cooperation into reality. At the completion of the project, this data set of interviews will be deposited in the UNESCO Archives for consultation by future generations of researchers.



Cameron, C. and Rössler, M. (2011), "Voices of the pioneers: UNESCO's World Heritage Convention 1972‐2000", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 42-54.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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