What a Difference a Decade has Made

The cause of preserving the world’s great monuments has several components, all of which the World Monuments Fund addresses. Primary energy must be given to actual physical preservation of edifices that are becoming decrepit. They must be made structurally strong; and they must be made legible. But WMF cannot work on all the monuments in the world. Part of our mission is to educate people about preservation and awaken popular interest in making the grandest artifacts of the past permanent. The project of raising consciousness is served by our educational programs, by this magazine, and most of all by the World Monuments Watch list. The sites that appear on the list tend to get a great deal of attention in their own countries, to be newly and well appraised by the people who live in proximity to them. Governments lend their support to the conservation of monuments to which they had paid little attention.

Things that might have been knocked down are saved from the wrecking ball. The Watch list is a call to arms, and over the last ten years, it has proved an exceptionally effective one. Seventy-five percent of the more than 400 sites that have been on the Watch list are on their way to being out of danger, with more than $160 million spent to ensure their salvage. The word “watch” is not a matter of happenstance. The Watch list focuses on the efforts of a vast body of observers, people from within and outside the conservation community. They keep their eyes peeled, vigilant at signs of rot or abrasion in the world’s most beautiful and important sites and structures. The Watch list is about seeing what is happening in such places before it is too late, about analyzing the dangers that afflict any particular location, about recognizing what makes something great and what makes it fragile. We need the eyes of thousands of educated witnesses to the process of decay; the fine quality of their attention ensures that such decay is arrested or reversed. The Watch list has created a forum to organize and prioritize the world’s multitude of worthy sites and projects, seen by a galaxy of bystanders.

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