Date: 26 and 27 June 2014
Place: Provincial Courthouse, Bruges, Belgium
Invitees: academics, researchers, historians, underwater archaeologists, relevant NGOs
From 2014 onwards, the submerged heritage from World War I will begin to come under the scope of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Given the importance of the conflict and its global political implications, UNESCO will take the opportunity to remind the general public of the significance of this heritage by organizing, in cooperation with the Government of Flanders (Belgium), a Scientific Conference on World War I underwater cultural heritage on 26 and 27 June 2014 in the Provincial Courthouse in Bruges. It will bring together expert scientists, academics and relevant NGOs from all over the world to discuss the naval history of World War I, the current state of World War I underwater heritage, and the many dangers threatening it.
Although World War I underwater cultural heritage is very extensive -- researchers estimate that there are thousands of sites that have yet to be discovered -- most of it has been insufficiently researched, displayed, and understood. Public knowledge of this heritage is virtually non-existent. However, these World War I wrecks hold invaluable historic information in their hulls and are irreplaceable sources for the historical inquiry into the naval -- and indeed the general -- history of World War I.
The Scientific Conference will touch upon all the different aspects of World War I underwater heritage -- historical and archaeological research, legal protection and new methodologies for the preservation of large-scale metal underwater cultural heritage sites -- thereby making a substantial contribution to the coordination and defragmentation of research efforts and strengthening scientific networking.
The first day of the Scientific Conference will focus on the historical value of the wreck sites and on their possible contributions to the historical research on World War I and its underwater cultural heritage. On the second day, efforts will be made to find new solutions and possible measures that can help to better preserve and protect World War I underwater heritage, which has suffered from many natural and man-induced destructions, like trawling, pillaging and industrial scrap metal recovery.
Researchers, academics, historians or underwater archaeologists who are interested in cooperating with UNESCO by presenting their papers at the Bruges Scientific Conference should forward their proposals to Ms Ulrike Guérin, Programme Specialist for the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, who can be contacted via e-mail: u.guerin(at)unesco.org or by phone: +33 1 45 68 8. We are looking forward to seeing you all at the Scientific Conference on World War I Underwater Heritage in Bruges.