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Watching Out for the World's Most Endangered Historic Places

November 18, 2013

Recently, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) released its 2014 World Monuments Watch, a listing of cultural heritage sites around the world that are at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political and economic change.

Launched in 1996 with the founding support of American Express, the Watch identifies places of significance in need of timely action, from ancient archaeological sites to 20th century architecture to historic city centers to cultural landscapes.

Capilla de Virgen Concebida de Kuchuhuasi

Capilla de Virgen Concebida de Kuchuhuasi, Peru
Photo courtesy of: World Monuments Fund

The 2014 Watch List contains 67 sites from 41 countries and territories from Argentina and Venezuela to India and India to Kenya and Tanzania. These sites represent our shared cultural heritage, and they help form a link between the past and the future for local residents, tourists, scholars and global citizens.

More than 480 advocates from over 70 countries nominated sites to the Watch this year, and over 140 preservation professionals from around the globe assisted in the review of nominations, which ultimately resulted in the 67 sites selected for the 2014 Watch.

Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar
Photo courtesy of: World Monuments Fund

The World Monuments Fund is a leading nonprofit organization devoted to saving important cultural heritage sites around the world. For 50 years, working in 100 countries and territories, WMF has applied proven techniques to the preservation and restoration of important architectural and cultural heritage sites through partnerships with local communities, governments and private supporters.

Since 1996, more than 740 sites in 133 countries and territories have been included in the Watch. During that period, the World Monuments Fund has contributed over $90 million to support preservation projects at more than 275 Watch sites, and $200 million has been leveraged from other donors. During the 2012 Watch cycle, more than $22 million was contributed by local groups to support preservation projects at Watch sites.

Cathedral of Mren

Cathedral of Mren, Turkey
Photo courtesy of: World Monuments Fund

Historic sites such as Annibale Carracci's ceiling in Rome's Palazzo Farnese, colonial-era churches along Peru's Andean Baroque Route south of Cusco, and the Qianlong Garden in Beijing's Forbidden City have all benefitted from WMF's advocacy, support and expertise. And, many of these sites have been restored and preserved with help from American Express.

The 2014 Watch contains both the famous (Venice, Italy), little known (Pokfulam Village in Hong Kong), urban (Yangon Historic Center in Myanmar), remote (Gran Pajaten in Peru), ancient (the Irrigated Terraces of Battir in the Palestinian Territories), and modern (the Jeffersonian National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri). It also contains the entire country of Syria.

The sites selected for the 2014 Watch reflect a number of distinct preservation challenges, including conflict and catastrophe, lack of financial resources, development pressures (urban, rural, tourism), and the loss of cultural traditions.

Fort of Graca

Fort of Graca, Portugal
Photo courtesy of: World Monuments Fund

Bonnie Burnham, president of WMF stated, "The 2014 Watch presents a selection of monuments from around the world in need of both new economic resources and innovative ideas about how to preserve them for future generations. These sites – and countless others like them – recount our human history and highlight our achievements. It takes vigilance to keep them active in the world; yet it is often the case that the very places that provide rich character and texture to our lives need more assistance and attention than they are given."

At the press event announcing the 2014 Watch, I said that, "We're delighted to promote and enable the preservation of these endangered treasures, and have contributed $15 million to the World Monuments Fund since 1996. Historic preservation is something that we are very passionate about at American Express. We have traveled the globe with our customers over the past 160 years, and we want to ensure our world's incredibly rich history can be experienced for many years to come."

A complete listing of these sites is available on the World Monuments Fund website.

What do you think about the World Monuments Watch? Have you experienced any of the historic sites that are listed on the Watch for 2014? Please share your comments by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog with friends and colleagues.

P.S. Did you know that the 2014 Watch List includes the Cliff of Bandiagara in Mali, which is known to have been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age (tens of thousands of years ago), as well as the Damiya Dolmen Field in Jordan and the Citadel of Aleppo in Syria, which date to the Early Bronze Age (3300-2200 B.C.)?


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