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World Monuments Fund lists 67 heritage sites “most at-risk”

The World Monuments Fund’s President Bonnie Burnham has announced the 2012 World Monuments Watch. Since 1996, the biennial Watch has drawn international attention to cultural-heritage sites in need of assistance, helping to save some of the world’s most treasured places. The 2012 Watch includes 67 sites, representing 41 countries and territories.

The list of most-at-risk sites includes those dating back to medieval and ancient times, as well as several modern-day structures. The 67 sites vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic, and environmental interests of communities around the world. Moreover, in addition to promoting community cohesion and pride, heritage preservation can have an especially positive impact on local populations in times of economic distress, for example through employment and the development of well-managed tourism.

Among the sites included on the list is the Cathedral Church of St Michael, in Coventry, England (commonly known as Coventry Cathedral). The site was largely destroyed by bombs during World War II,  buta new cathedral was built. The sandstone ruins of the tower, apse, and outer walls of the former Cathedral, which dated from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, were left in place to serve as a gathering place and site of reflection, coexisting with the excavated remains of the priory that once occupied the site (1043–1539). Yet their condition has suffered through lack of resources, and exposure to the elements has eroded the ruins over time. Significant water infiltration and structural deterioration call for immediate action if this important reminder of the ravages of war is to survive.

Other medieval sites in England include Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire and Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. Another historic site to make the list was the archaeological site of Tell Umm el-`Amr, or Hilarion Monastery, in Gaza, which  contains the largest monastery in Palestine and one of the most important in the Middle East. The remains of the site, first discovered in 1999, date from the early fourth to the late eighth century and provide valuable information on the evolution of construction techniques of the period. The report states that “the current political situation in the region presents obstacles to maintaining the site. An international group has developed a comprehensive plan that includes preservation, interpretation, and site access, and hopes the Watch will assist in gaining recognition in support of their efforts.”

Ms. Burnham stated, “The World Monuments Watch is a call to action on behalf of endangered culturalheritage sites across the globe. And while these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present— integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day. Indeed, the Watch reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage.”

The US-based credit card company American Express has made a grant of $5 million in support of the program over the next five years. “American Express has a longstanding and far reaching commitment to preservation,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President of the American Express Foundation. “We are proud to support the World Monuments Watch, and to partner with WMF to ensure that living monuments to cultural heritage remain safe and accessible to the public.”

Click here to see the complete list of sites at risk

Source: World Monuments Fund

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