The purpose of the UNESCO World Heritage Year in Lithuania is to emphasize the importance of Lithuanian cultural heritage sites included into UNESCO World Heritage List (Vilnius Historical Center, Curonian Spit, Kernavė Archeological Site, Struve Geodetic Arc). It is important to raise awareness on cultural heritage and its outstanding universal value, as well as to emphasize the significance of preserving it for future generations, including the importance of legal protection. In pursuit of these goals, this year Lithuania plans to host various national and international events.
The commemoration of the UNESCO World Heritage Year in Lithuania is associated with important anniversaries. In 2019, Vilnius Historical Center celebrated 25 years anniversary and Kernavė archaeological site celebrated 15 years anniversary of inscription into UNESCO World Heritage List. This year, the Curonian Spit commemorates 20 years and Struve Geodetic Arc – 15 years anniversary of being included into UNESCO World Heritage List. Lithuania has the biggest number of UNESCO World Heritage properties in the Baltic States.
The most important events
Events under the program of the UNESCO World Heritage in Lithuania are aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, as well as all World Heritage properties. The program and its events is focused on the dissemination of Lithuanian World Heritage properties and raising public awareness, especially, among young people through participatory processes.
The Lithuanian National Commission for Cultural Heritage planned to held an opening event of UNESCO World Heritage Year in Lithuania on March 18th, however the national quarantine changed all the plans. It is expected that the events will be organized after national quarantine ends. An opening event had to start a year-long cycle of events. A Deputy Chairperson of the National Commission for Cultural Heritage Andrijana Filinaitė said: “By initiating the UNESCO World Heritage Year in Lithuania, the Lithuanian National Commission for Cultural Heritage has sought to pay an attention of all civil society to the highly complicated but enormous potential of the cultural heritage field, and particularly to the properties, inscribed into the World Heritage List. The events will focus on the cognition of the World Heritage, dialogue between stakeholders, youth engagement and common awareness raising on the cultural heritage“.
The Secretariat of the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO, in cooperation with the Vilnius Academy of Arts and PLLC “Ekspobalta”, organizes an exhibition “Lithuanian properties in the UNESCO Lists” with an educational program for young people, co-funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.
The Lithuanian National Commission for Cultural Heritage, in cooperation with other institutions, organizes a series of seminars and workshops for the public, co-funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture. Special attention will be paid to the issues of cultural heritage and innovation, integrity of education and tourism and World Heritage management. Specialists from the foreign countries will participate in the events.
The most important scientific researches and the latest data will be presented, sharing working and practical experience with foreign specialists.
In order to achieve these goals, the Directorate of the Curonian Spit National Park intends to organize an international conference “Common Heritage – Common Knowledge: The Cultural Landscape of the Curonian Spit in Past and Present”. The Directorate of the State Cultural Reserve of Kernavė plans to organize a seminar “Recent Archaeological Research and Discovery at the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Kernavė Archaeological Site”. The Lithuanian Association of Restorers will organize an anniversary event “30 Years of Professional Activities of Restorers at UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites” (conference and educational workshop in restoration centers).
The program also includes initiatives related to the least known Lithuanian World Heritage Site – the Struve Geodetic Arc. The publication “Tourist route of Struve Geodetic Arc” (in Lithuanian, Russian, English and Polish languages) and preparation of tourist route – sightseeing trail are planned. The municipalities of Vilnius district and Rokiškis district also plan to actualize the points of the Struve geodetic arc, located in the territories of municipalities by various activities.
More state attention and coherent policies are expected
Another nomination – Kaunas Modernist Architecture – is being currently prepared for the UNESCO World Heritage List. The cultural heritage community and the active public expect more state attention and coherent policies, implementing the provisions of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
New approach to cultural heritage is a tool for successful management
The World nowadays faces global challenges – climate change, rapid urbanization, environmental pollution and etc. Lithuania is not an exception. Therefore, we need to take a new approach to the goals of integrity and sustainability, sustainable use of the cultural heritage, as well as social, cultural and economic balance. It is essential to pay special attention to urban areas or, as an example, to the Curonian Spit, which is extremely sensitive and vulnerable to active human activity.
Society is one of the most important players in the process
It is expected that the announcement and activities of the UNESCO World Heritage Year in Lithuania will encourage heritage and local communities to become more involved in heritage management processes. Global practice shows that the effective management of World Heritage sites and the preservation of their values depends on the involvement of local people in preservation and management processes. The tangible and intangible cultural heritage is closely linked to the cultural identity of the local people, their way of life, their traditions and etc. Therefore, heritage preservation is not a mere legal regulation – it is a moral obligation for present and future generations.