The site management plan (Rule 25)

The site management programme translates into a concrete management plan that combines general strategies and policies with specific goals that relate to the significance and setting of the site.

The general goals of a policy of cultural heritage management, also indicated as cultural resource management include:

  • mitigating impacts on endangered sites; 
  • preventing destruction of sites and dispersal of artefacts by denying permits to exploiters seeking private financial gain; 
  • creating local, national, and international inventories of the sites; 
  • protecting and interpreting sites in situ whenever possible; 
  • excavating sites only when there are scientific objectives or interests for public enjoyment, adequate funding, professional staff, and provisions for documentation, conservation, curation, reporting and publication; 
  • involving the public so that people can become the guardians of their underwater cultural heritage; and 
  • bringing the excitement of underwater cultural sites to the public in reputable museum exhibitions, media presentations, and publications.

Such general goals are to be combined with more specific goals for a region, which may include the targets of regional development or rehabilitation. They need to be specifically applied to the site, considering its challenges and opportunities. The management plan is also formulated to reconcile management goals at different levels. In many ways it is easier to elaborate, implement and apply a strong management plan for sites in zones or areas that have already been declared as protected areas, natural sanctuaries, or reef parks, than it is in the areas of large industrial harbours. In a marine park there are generally more options than in an area with lots of competing spatial interests. Complete, permanent site protection and management in situ is therefore not always the preferred or best option for a number of different reasons. For one thing, there are other interests that need to be accommodated, as for instance those of archaeological study that often requires the taking of a significant amount of samples, removing artefacts or structures and/or excavation.

A management plan is obviously targeted at managing over the long-term a site that remains entirely in situ, but also partially excavated sites and what thereof remains, as well as the removed artefacts.

 

Scheme of a management plan

Example of a site management plan

 

 

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Content of a site management plan

A site management plan should contain:

  • the definition of the site,
  • the administrative details,
  • the relevant organizational structure of who is responsible for what, and most importantly,
  • a discussion of the site, including:
    • an assessment of its significance,
    • a report on its status,
    • its potential and
    • any relevant threats and
    • opportunities.
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Standardised approaches and dynamic planning

 

Management of the underwater cultural resource can be defined as taking action to ensure that underwater cultural heritage is dealt with responsibly. This includes responsible action in survey and research, complemented by management at site level.

A management plan for a specific site can take different forms. Nevertheless, if a standardized approach is chosen for the format of such plans, it becomes easy to compare different sites, both within the same management region and across national borders. Due to the often very international significance of underwater cultural heritage, such possibilities are of great value for common understanding. It is therefore that efforts are being undertaken to structure the way to look at, assess and manage archaeological sites on a global scale. In this way, information gathered will be made available, understandable and of use for all researchers and policy makers, regardless of their location.

A management plan is always formulated on the basis of preliminary research. It defines what should and should not happen in the future, taking account of possible future contingencies. If a standardized form is pursued, it is important for the management plan to combine all data and assess its relative importance and specific opportunities in a transparent and understandable way. In the management plan, the results of assessment are simply reiterated. In a second part of the plan, policies and management objectives can then be formulated, whereas a third part defines actions and restrictions, and so defines the actual management. A standardized format can be used as a checklist, both in drafting an individual management plan and for the cumulative inventory of which it is a part.

Management as such is a dynamic process and that means that a management plan is a dynamic document as well. It is bound to change and will absorb new information as this becomes available. In this sense, a management plan starts very simply. An initial entry in the inventory, with a recommendation to complete certain information is a management plan in embryonic state. It becomes more encompassing as soon as more is known and as soon as decisions have been taken about specific protective measures, or about allowing specific research. Over time, the file will grow. The structure discussed below is therefore equally relevant for the establishment of an inventory as it is for each individual management plan.

A site management plan should contain the definition of the site, the administrative details, the relevant organizational structure of who is responsible for what, and most importantly, a discussion of the site, including an assessment of its significance, a report on its status, its potential and any relevant threats and opportunities.

The elements of a site management plan:

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Structure of the management plan

Structure of the management plan

  1. Executive summary
  2. Site definition
    • Description and  significance 
    • Delimitation 
    • Ownership structure and responsible bodies
    • Inventories 
    • Access
  3. Management structure 
    • Legal status of the bodies
    • Competencies and responsibilities
    • Coordination mechanism between bodies
  4. Principles for planning and actions
    • Objectives, targets, strategies
    • Masterplan of action
  5. Provisions for science and research
    Preservation mechanism
    • Status report 
    • Current and possible threats 
    • Preventive protection
    • Monitoring: planned control action
  6. Awareness
  7. Resources
    • Staff 
    • Budget
  8. Sustainable use and vision for the future
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Executive summary

 

As in a project design, an executive summary is useful for a management plan as it summarizes the main points of the in-depth report and allows the audience to become quickly acquainted with a large body of material.

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Site definition

  • Description and  significance

    However important the administrative details or the description of the management structure may be, it is the description of the site itself and the ensuing discussion of its significance that drive the management plan. It is because of its significance that the site is managed in the first place. The plan should therefore begin with the description of the site’s character and its extent, especially if that is different from the later administrative delimitation of the management plan. Just like a project design for an ‘activity directed at a site’, a management plan should refer to all previous studies of the site. They form the basis on which the plan is developed and are preliminary to the plan’s development in that sense.

    Most of all, previous studies and preliminary work form the basis for a discussion of a site’s significance. Here, it suffices to reiterate that significance is subject to change. It develops as more information becomes available, and  as more people learn about the site, nationally and internationally. In a way, significance can also be created. The more media coverage it obtains or the more attention it attracts, the more significance is attributed to the site. Significance needs to be assessed anew whenever new developments take place, such as the drafting of a management plan. Of course it should also build upon earlier information and assessments, but it should be up-to-date. New stakeholders may be identified or may have identified themselves, through the many ‘verifiable links’ that the site might gradually reveal.

    • Delimitation

    The precise position and delimitation of a site are important. They define where and to what extent actions and restrictions that are part of the management programme will be applicable and facilitated.

    • Ownership structure and responsible bodies

    Sites’ ownership conditions can be simple but also complex. They, as well as the conditions of jurisdiction, should be stated in the management plan. Their organizational form must also be explained, e.g. the duties and responsibilities of an operating agency with respect to proprietors and users. If a site is located in a marine park, a nature reserve or an otherwise reserved area, this should also be mentioned.

    • Inventories

    The management plan should also contain information on the whereabouts of all items, artefacts and research samples collected on the site, as well as indications of the location of all documentation assembled in the course of the project. This information should be kept in the form of inventories that are regularly updated. Ideally – and according to Rule 33 – all documentation and find material should be kept together, but in practice this is not always the case. Due to changing views on heritage significance, a site may not have been recognized as such, whereas data and material have nevertheless been collected. 

    • Access

    Access to the site is a central issue that cannot just be reduced to a matter of allowing or prohibiting access.  Managing access to significant heritage sites may imply costs, but it may also provide substantial benefits. These include understanding and support for heritage protection, but also imply an economic perspective in terms of direct or indirect income obtained from a sought after experience. Managing access in the context of regional and touristic development is therefore a central issue to the management plan.

    Factors such as economy, tourism and leisure diving could have a positive impact on a site, but also present a possible risk for its management. Some underwater archaeological sites, especially those in coastal waters, can be preserved in situ as underwater museums. This can result in great benefits in terms of education, recreation and income. In such cases, special guidelines should be included in a site’s management plan.

    Access to a site is partly a matter of how to get there, but for the management plan it is more important to note what access restrictions should be put in place. The issues to be considered are: Is there an owner of the site that needs to give permission? Is the site located in a park, a nature reserve or a military area, with special rules? Are there limits on motorized navigation, or its speed? Is anchoring allowed? Is access limited to certain hours of the day or certain periods of the year? Or is access subject to other limitations? All facilities and obstructions for access are relevant to the management plan. The plan itself may contain the objective to facilitate access or to implement access restrictions. However, every site should be managed for the best benefit of society.

    Accessible sites strongly require periodical monitoring of their conditions. The site should be well-maintained, for example, by checking on site stabilization, corrosion progression, pollution by oil or rubbish, signs of looting, and control of biofouling adherences. This can be done by an underwater archaeologist or by members of an interested community, as for instance diving instructors, local guides, volunteer associations, or fishermen. Under the guidance of professionals and the competent authorities these can become guardians of the cultural heritage with which they associate. Coastguards can become a supportive element as well, especially for notifying relevant authorities regarding suspicious ships or boats around sites.

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Management structure

  • Legal status of the bodies

The legal status of the different individuals and entities that are mentioned in the management plan, and especially those that figure under ‘administrative details and management structure’ is an aspect that needs to be listed, as it has a bearing on the way their different interests and policy objectives can be addressed. The entities involved can be:

  • professional organizations, 
  • governments and government departments, 
  • academic institutions, 
  • non-profit organizations, 
  • museums, 
  • vocational groups, 
  • individuals, and/or 
  • partnerships of the above.

The legal status of such entities is closely related to their competences and responsibilities.

  • Competences and responsibilities

    The management plan for a cultural heritage site will not change the general competences and responsibilities of agencies and authorities involved. When a site is in a military area, for instance, the plan will not change the competences of the military. Nor will it change the competences of the heritage authority (the competent authority according to Article 22 of the Convention). But the management plan can address the specific way these competences will be used to realize the objectives of the plan. In other words, specific responsibilities can be agreed upon in the context of the specific management plan, for the purpose of its objectives. The site management plan should contain a description of all these entities as well as a binding agreement of their competences and responsibilities in the context of the plan. The relevant demands on qualifications of staff come into view as well.

  • Coordination mechanism between bodies


    As a site management plan always involves different bodies, with different interests and missions, it is essential that it specify modalities of coordination. There may be one leading party that commits itself to inform the others and coordinate with them bilaterally as appropriate. Or, it can be agreed to have coordination meetings at regular intervals, during which the realization of the plan is evaluated on the basis of monitoring reports and during which the contribution of all partners is critically assessed. It is important to agree on coordination schemes from the very start. The coordination mechanism should include a system of informing and involving stakeholder groups, nationally and internationally, as they may arise. It may be appropriate to give this role to an experienced public archaeologist.

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Principles for planning and actions

  • Objectives, targets, strategies


The objectives of a site management plan are anchored in general strategies and policies, such as a general commitment to protect the underwater cultural heritage according to the 2001 Convention. Other strategies and policies, however, such as culture in development, urban and regional planning, recreation and tourism are at stake as well. Such policies will all have their specific targets, which the management plan for an individual site can help to meet. Note, however, that the site itself is the main ‘object’. Deciding what is best for that particular site, considering its specific significance and opportunities is the main ‘objective’ of the site management plan. Several aspects, such as preservation, access, provisions for science and research should be integrated with this objective, as well as a vision for the future and sustainable use.

  • Masterplan of action

    All actions that have been undertaken or are planned for a site should be listed in the management programme and in relation to the long-term objectives. This should be done in an action plan in the form of annual short-term (2 to 5 years) and long-term work plans (5 to 30 years) to guide the decision of the competent authority.


    When drafting the outline of the plan, it is important to involve all competent authorities and institutions responsible for conserving the site. It is imperative that the outline of the plan be continually updated to make it possible to react to changes and developments. In addition to mentioning needs for restoration and current construction, questions of security, fire safety, use, stationary and flowing traffic as well as protection of the environment should be addressed.

    The masterplan should be accompanied by a catalogue of measures and a time schedule listing interventions and monitoring times to guarantee follow up.

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Provisions for science and research


Protection of heritage builds on scientific evaluation through research. In archaeology, research often implies excavation or intrusive sampling, which compromises the integrity of the site that the management plan tries to preserve. Nevertheless, it would be counterproductive not to make provisions for research in a management plan. These can be extensive, but can also be highly restrictive and subject to very stringent considerations. An example could be the limitation of access to timber to parts of the year when tunnelling organisms such as Teredo Navalis are least active, or when other environmental threats are least. Though some restrictions are appropriate, research is necessary for proper site management and monitoring. Other research may have wider implications. Research must always be accommodated for and provisions facilitating research must be in place.  It is important to remember that one of the functions of remains of the past, however, is that they offer the source material for writing and rewriting history. This cannot be done without research.

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Preservation mechanism

 

Preservation or protection is the broadest objective of the management plan that also encompasses other aspects. However, management is certainly more than preservation as such. Preservation and protection are, after all, carried out for a specific purpose, that is the use, research and enjoyment of the cultural heritage by present and future generations. In other words, a management plan will aim at balancing benefits with acceptable levels of degradation, in view of the available possibilities. The two questions that need to be addressed are: how can the continued existence of the most vulnerable parts of the site (or the most significant ones) be warranted, and how can the most be made of opportunities.

  • Status report

The site’s condition needs to be monitored and a status account should regularly report on the following aspects: Are conditions deteriorating since the site was first discovered? Is the site stable? If assumptions are made, they need to be substantiated. Some additional research or monitoring may be necessary to draw up the actual status. The status report is important because it provides the base-line from which the effectiveness of measures in the management plan can be measured.

  • Current and possible threats

Along with the status report, it is essential to assess threats and opportunities. They can relate to archaeological interventions, commercial exploitation, development pressure, climate change, natural disasters, tourism, and population development, among many others. Obviously, many threats will – if handled well – create opportunities, while thoughtlessly seizing opportunities may pose serious threats. This applies to archaeological research and excavation as much as it does to tourism and public access. A management plan aims at balancing threats and opportunities, and aims to ensure that threats become opportunities.

Threats and opportunities can be related to:

  1. Archaeological interventions
  2. Commercial exploitation
  3. Development pressure 
  4. Climate change
  5. Natural disasters
  6. Tourism 
  7. Regional development
  8. Demographic development
  • Preventive protection

Characteristics of underwater sites like depth, currents, visibility, accessibility and most of all, the fact that it is an environment where external breathing support is needed, make protection against interferences complex and sometimes impossible.

Many preventive measures can be taken. Some are purely administrative, but have important implications all the same. The site can be excluded from the planning of other developments, or from fisheries’ permits. It can be included in the patrol routes of government vessels, whose primary functions are navigation safety or border control, or in operational permits for recreational diving schools and tour operators on the condition that they keep a close watch.
Furthermore, ranges of less costly and more expensive techniques to protectively cover the most vulnerable parts, and to prevent degradation of certain materials, have been developed over the last decades, as was touched upon earlier in this chapter. Every underwater archaeologist should be aware of the possibilities. Note that a management plan aims at improving the conditions for preservation; it does not need to instantly implement every possible measure. Rather, it should envisage regularly monitoring the effect of measures taken and fine-tuning accordingly.

  • Monitoring: planned control action

A management plan should never be static. It is generally conceived of in terms of a cycle. Measures are taken, evaluated, fine-tuned, altered or withdrawn. Monitoring and evaluation are therefore part of a management process and should be included in a management plan. It can take different forms, targeting specific issues, measuring specific parameters of change or reacting to specific events. However, periodic monitoring should also address the overall condition of a site. It should do this in relation to the ‘base-line-study’ and to the periodic status-report.

Different types of monitoring can be:

  1. Periodic reporting
  2. Reactive monitoring 
  3. Preventive monitoring
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Awareness

Education, information and public awareness building

The divulgation of information and the creation of awareness should be addressed in a management plan. Heritage protection has come into existence due to the awareness of the public. There is a strong appetite to learn more about history and archaeology. Underwater archaeology projects can spark an individual’s imagination and these opportunities can be seized to gain understanding and support. This is even more the case if a site is also a renowned touristic attraction. In addition it is indispensable to publicize any project or project developments among the research community, funding bodies, sponsors and heritage agencies. The public and in particular divers should also be informed when a site is covered, or access is restricted or made impossible, also explaining the reasons for these measures. This often helps to gain their understanding and support.

A site management plan should therefore include the public information strategy and set the frame for keeping the public informed about a site.  It is advisable to diffuse information and to create awareness locally, regionally, nationally and internationally as underwater cultural heritage and maritime remains are international in nature, with stakeholders and verifiable links far afield. Means of communications will vary considerably in function of the audience addressed, from mass media, the Internet, brochures, videos and exhibitions, to workshops and signs. Nonetheless, they should include information about the site’s importance and how communities, divers and the public at large can help to protect it. The impact of networks and international collaboration should not be underestimated.

If this is appropriate in the context of the concerned site, it might also be an option to organize archaeologist guided tours, specific events and festivities, including commemorative days.

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Ressources

 

A management plan should contain a section on the resources needed for its implementation. Part of this could be secured from commitments by the entities that back up the management objectives. Other parts, such as basic research and monitoring, will need dedicated budget and staff from other sources. Costs and benefits should be balanced. Integration with policies of regional development, public order, navigation safety or border control, and involving the leisure industry in the plan, can show that proper management does not have to be expensive. If done well, it will not only produce cultural benefits in the long-term but also financial benefits.

  • Staff


Reference should be made to the availability and the qualification of staff for all measures planned for in the management plan.

  • Budget


A budget or funding plan should be included in the site management plan.

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Sustainable use and vision for the future

 

A management plan is generally conceived for a specific period, after which it can be evaluated and adapted. In the formulation of its objectives, it will benefit from developing a vision for the future in a longer perspective. Such a vision would inform how to balance present and future use with sustainability. This is not the same as preservation, as sustainability implies the economic balancing of costs and benefits for society.

Illustrations

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