Time for Guyana

Georgetown City Hall, dating from 1889, was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, which calls international attention to at-risk cultural heritage sites around the globe. The City Hall is a representative structure of the local traditional wooden construction, threatened by lack of maintenance and awareness of its significance. This marked the first time that a site in Guyana was included on the Watch.

As a result of the site’s inclusion on the Watch, the National Trust of Guyana and World Monuments Fund agreed to collaborate on the organization of the Georgetown International Heritage Conference, which took place on June 6-8 2016, during a significant time in Guyana’s history, shortly after the historic Fiftieth Independence Jubilee celebrations. The Golden Independence Anniversary, operating under the theme of “Reflect, Celebrate, Inspire,” offered an opportunity to reignite discussions about heritage, and recommit our efforts toward ensuring that it is safeguarded for the benefit of future generations.

The conference was conceived as a way to assist the heritage sector, with experts gathering to share knowledge and expertise to help preserve, promote and protect Guyana’s heritage resources. The main, though not sole, focus was on methods to improve the conservation of the country’s tangible built heritage. This was a major undertaking for the Trust as it became part of the Golden Independence Anniversary schedule of activities.

The heritage sector faces many challenges, including unplanned rapid urbanization, limited or no documentation of heritage resources, demands to modernize historic structures, the notion of “in with the new, out with the old” and the idea that heritage is a hindrance to progress. The speakers delivered presentations that focused on topics of interest to local professionals and stakeholders in an effort to improve the sector as it moves toward the next fifty years, and beyond.

There were seven thematic areas under which presentations were made, including Management and Policy, History and Theory, Documentation and Conservation, Heritage Sustainability, Heritage and Community, World Cultural and Natural Heritage, and the Economics of Preservation. All sessions were moderated by local professionals and video recorded with the intention of sharing the presentations with a larger audience. This publication reports on the proceedings of the conference, and include the main conclusions.

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