03.07.2014 - Culture Sector

UNESCO Promotes the Protection of WWI Underwater Cultural Heritage

Bruges Scientific Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage of WWI

Scientific Conference on the Occasion of the Centenary of World War I

26-27 June 2014, Bruges, Belgium

The First World War left behind thousands of submerged heritage sites that, until recently, have enjoyed little legal protection. As the centenary of World War I begins, however, many of these precious sites now fall under the scope of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Facing pressures including salvage, trawling and apathy, this submerged heritage of the war is a powerful but threatened reminder not only of that conflict, but also of its consequences. Care, preservation and awareness will be needed for these sites to fully assume their function as witnesses of history and means of education.

To this end, scientists, diplomats and legal experts from 36 countries came together in a scientific conference from 26 to 27 June to discuss the preservation, research and protection of World War I underwater cultural heritage. This conference served not only as a reminder of educational and cultural value of the underwater cultural heritage of the First World War, but also as a forum to discuss the current state of the submerged sites of the war and current research efforts.

The many papers presented highlighted the broad range of submerged sites related to World War I, ranging from barges at Gallipoli to battleships and cruisers at Jutland and Scapa Flow, as well as the urgent need for action to preserve these sites for the future. Accordingly, the expert attendees of the conference produced a set of recommendations to guide future efforts relating to the underwater cultural heritage of the First World War. It is hoped that these recommendations will lead to an increased awareness of WWI underwater cultural heritage, and to a better organized international efforts to preserve, research, and utilize this heritage to further UNESCO's goals of education and peace. 


The full text of the recommendations and an accompanying press release are available here: 


Press Release


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