The city of Kraków has been chosen to host the next UNESCO World Heritage Session in 2017. The Secretary General of the Polish UNESCO Committee, Professor Sławomir Ratajski told the Polish Press Agency that the session in Kraków will consider the Polish request for the inclusion of the historic ore-mining region of Tarnowskie Góry on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The consideration of adding the famed underground and above-ground mining facilities at Tarnowskie Góry to the UNESCO World Heritage List would make it the 15th Polish site to be placed on the list. Of the session in Kraków, Ratajski said:
It is a great honour. Kraków will host delegations from about 190 countries that are members or signatories of the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted in 1972.
Under that convention, Kraków's historic centre itself become one of the first twelve places in the world to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978.
The Secretary General of the Polish UNESCO Committee added that Poland’s organising of the session is connected to its assumption of the chairmanship of the World Heritage Committee. Delegates gathered in Istanbul unanimously approved Jacek Purchla for the position as chair. Purchla is a renowned expert on the protection and conservation of cultural heritage, and the founder and long-time director of Kraków’s International Culture Centre.
Ratajski underscored the involvement of a number of institutions in the preparation of the candidature of Kraków, including the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and city authorities. The official request to host was submitted in November of last year.
According to a UNESCO representative, during the session participants will consider how to best protect cultural and natural heritage around the world. The most noteworthy decisions are the additions of new places onto the list of UNESCO sites. The delegation can also delete from the list places that have been poorly protected or are at risk. Ratajski commented:
Each new addition is met with great media attention; it is fêted by the delegations of the state concerned. This is a great celebration, broadcast all over the world thanks to the internet.
Of Poland’s request that the mining facilities at Tarnowskie Góry be considered for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Ratajski said:
This is our proposal, but we will see whether it will be accepted (…). The application is complex and we are only waiting on the decision of the committee, which is unknown – but the application has a good chance, it is well thought-out.
In the Tarnów Mountains there are two main historical sites – the Historical Silver Mine and the Black Trout Adit. They are part of the more than 150 km of underground corridors and excavations of the former silver ore mine in the area. Tourists can visit a few dozen metres of this underground route, part of which is traversed by boat. The Association of Friends of the Tarnogórskie, which worked on the proposal, hopes that, outside the mine and adit, UNESCO protection will also extend to other mining objects in the area.
The decision to hold the session in Poland was made this year at the 40th Session in Istanbul – the last day of which was discontinued due to concerns about the unsuccessful attempts at a military coup in Turkey. Deliberation will continue in October of this year in Paris, where UNESCO has its headquarters.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee consists of 21 members, elected for 6-year terms, and meets at least once a year. After resuming its membership to the committee in 2013, Poland was eligible to apply to host the 42nd session.
So far, Poland has sat on the committee only once before – for a shortened term in 1976-1978, right after it was ratified. The current term extends from 2013-2017.
UNESCO World Heritage Sessions have been held since 1977 in cities around the world. In recent years, they were held in Seville, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Bonn. This year’s session was hosted by Istanbul. In 2017, about 1,000 delegates from 190 countries will sit in one of the most modern conference facilities in Europe – the ICE Kraków Congress Centre.
This year’s UNESCO Session in Istanbul was accompanied by an interactive exhibition Going Against the Time Flow, prepared especially for the occasion. It included the screening of the film with the working title Going Against the Time Flow, which was co-produced by Culture.pl.
The film’s production is the result of a collaborative effort of a team of experts, scientists, and archaeologists from the Polish branch of The Explorers Club, the Polish UNESCO Committee, the University of Warsaw, and the Wrocław University of Technology. The film presents and promotes the achievements of Polish scientists in the preservation and documentation of architectural monuments and shows their efforts to work with engineers in the development of new reconstruction methods based on laser measurements and 3D printing. The film consists of footage of digital laser scanning and other documentary materials from Wieliczka, Kraków, and two important sites in Syria – Allat Temple in Palmyra and the Temple of Mithras in Huarte.
Film screenings and the organised exhibition helped to promote Kraków as the host of the next UNESCO World Heritage Session in 2017 and were intended to increase the participation of Polish scientists in the reconstruction efforts of monuments destroyed by the war in Syria , such as the Allat Temple in Palymyra.
Sources: PAP, author’s information; ed: az, 20.07.2016; trans: aga, 26.07.2016