Heritage for Peace - Centenary of World War I

The Centenary of the First World War (1914-1918) is a unique opportunity to draw attention to the preservation of the World War I underwater cultural heritage and to its message for peace and reconciliation.

An estimated 10 000 wrecks from the First World War can be found on seabeds around the world. This includes warships as well as civilian vessels, sunk by accident or due to naval blockades. Some of these wrecks are well preserved, but many have been destroyed or severely damaged by non-scientific salvage, commercial exploitation, looting, scrapping or trawling. 

Despite the fact that this heritage bears witness to one of the most significant conflicts in recent history, underwater cultural heritage from World War I has not yet been comprehensively studied. UNESCO calls on its Member States, and on society in general, to help preserve this unique submerged legacy - a legacy which is at once a powerful reminder of war, and a convincing voice for peace.  

As of 2014, World War I’s submerged heritage progressively falls under the protection of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.


Evening Conference


UNESCO Initiatives on Underwater Cultural Heritage from the First World War:

  • Cambodia and WWI - The Underwater Heritage, May - December 2016, National Museum of Phnom Penh. 

  • Publication ‘Underwater Cultural heritage from World War I’ - 
    A book featuring contributions of international experts on World War I underwater heritage was published and serves as resource book for the education initiative. Read
  • Virtual Access Project - the Danton - In collaboration with DRASSM (French Department of Underwater Archaeological Research) and the French firm Dassault 3D Systèmes, a 3D virtualization of the Danton, a sunken French battleship from WWI is being produced. This shall increase responsible access to underwater heritage and the understanding of the consequences of war to foster support for peace.

  • Jutland Underwater Cultural Heritage Conference - In cooperation with the National Museum of Denmark, a conference was organized in summer 2016 to discuss responsible access to underwater cultural heritage and to highlight the importance of underwater heritage from World War I.
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