Theme 2003: Underwater Cultural Heritage

The 18th of April and How to celebrate it

The International Day for Monuments and Sites was created on 18th April 1982 by ICOMOS and approved by the UNESCO General Conference. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public's awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as to draw attention to its vulnerability. For three years now, we have been reviving this day by choosing one theme shared by all ICOMOS National Committees. The topic proposed in 2001 was Save Our Historic Villages, in 2002 it was 20th Century Heritage and this year's theme is Underwater Cultural Heritage. The theme was considered particularly appropriate in view of growing international co-operation in this field and as 2003 has been declared the International Year for Water by the United Nations.

We call on ICOMOS members and professionals in the preservation field to make this day a global success. Underwater heritage, like other cultural heritage sectors, is threatened all over the world. The possibility of, often unjustified, phenomenal financial gains and the secrecy offered by working underwater, frequently with colossal technical means, exert a strong attraction. Appropriate legislation is often absent or, if it exists, badly applied or not enforced. Too frequently there is a lack of national awareness on the value of this heritage and above all on the importance for citizens to retain its full ownership. Submerged cities (traces of human existence), trade routes used by prehistoric peoples, sacred places and historic sunken ships provide information that cannot or can no longer be found on terrestrial sites and one must remember that all these are part of our common heritage.

In 1996, ICOMOS ratified an International Charter on the Protection and Management of Underwater Cultural Heritage that inspired the preparation of the UNESCO Convention on Underwater Heritage adopted in November 2001. The ICOMOS International Scientific Committee for the Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH) greatly contributed to this UNESCO accomplishment with much appreciated energy and competence.

To mark the 18th April, ICOMOS encourages its National and International Scientific Committees and members to organise activities to promote the ICOMOS Charter and UNESCO Convention and to foster the conservation and protection of all underwater cultural heritage - whether it is located under the seas, in rivers, lakes, etc.

In the coming weeks, in co-operation with ICUCH (the ICOMOS International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage), the International Secretariat will be forwarding you information material and documentation to help you organise your Committee's activities. Furthermore, we would encourage you to contact your national member of ICUCH who can provide you with additional material, contacts and advice.

The origin of the International Day on Monuments and Sites

Ideas on how to celebrate it!

On 18 April 1982 on the occasion of a symposium organised in ICOMOS Tunisia, which coincided with a meeting of the Bureau in Hammamet, the holding of the International Day for Monuments and Sites to be celebrated simultaneously throughout the world was suggested. This project was approved by the Executive Committee who provided practical suggestions to the National Committees on how to organise this day. Last but not least, the idea was also approved by the UNESCO General Conference.

In Europe, many countries already celebrate the European Heritage Days, organised in September each year under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Nevertheless, a growing number of ICOMOS National and International Committees all over the world are holding special events on the 18th April.

The ICOMOS President, Michael Petzet, and the Executive Committee propose that ICOMOS uses the 18th of April for all Committees to jointly draw attention to a particularly endangered type of cultural heritage, in conjunction with the annual Heritage at Risk report. This year it is suggested to put the spotlight on the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

However, each Committee is free to chose the theme(s) it finds most relevant to highlight on this Day. Some chose to draw attention to the triennial-theme established by the General Assembly, at present “Place-Memory-Meaning: Preservation intangible values in monuments and sites” (see the articles published in ICOMOS News and the ICOMOS web site).

Below are some suggestions of activities, which can be organised nationally to mark this event:

- Visits to monuments and sites, and restoration works, possibly with free admission;
- Articles in newspapers and magazines, as well as television and radio broadcasts;
- Hanging banners in town squares or principal traffic arteries calling attention to the day and the preservation of cultural heritage;
- Inviting local and foreign experts and personalities for conferences and interviews;
- Organising discussions in cultural-centres, city halls, and other public spaces.
- Exhibitions (photos, paintings, etc)
- Publication of books, post-cards, stamps, posters
- Awarding prizes to organisations or persons who have made an outstanding contribution to the conservation and promotion of cultural heritage or produced an excellent publication on the subject.
- Inaugurate a recently restored monument
- Special awareness raising activities amongst school children and youth
- Promotion of “twinning” opportunities between various National Committees, defining areas for co-operation; exchange of speakers; organisation of meetings and seminars, or the editing of joint publications.
- A Scientific Committee could be invited to a country to debate around the chosen theme.

The essential thing is to mark this day that it becomes not only a Day to celebrate your national heritage, but also a day of international solidarity in favour of strengthening and safeguarding heritage world-wide.

If you are organising meetings, workshops, or other activities to mark the International Day for Monuments and Sites on 18th April, please inform the International Secretariat of such activities and the chosen theme, by sending us any documents and press clippings. Information on 18th April is being published in the coming ICOMOS News and we look forward to mentioning a selection of National Committee activities in the June/July issue. Also do not hesitate to send in any suggestions or comments you may have on the principle of this day and ways to celebrate it.

ICOMOS International Secretariat
e-mail : secretariat[at]