From prehistoric cave paintings in the Amazon to a fortress built by Henry VIII, 25 of the world’s most precious heritage sites are in danger, according to the latest bi-annual watch list from the World Monument Fund. But has the solution been staring us in the face?
In 1965, a not-for-profit sprang up in New York, dedicated to preserving the world’s most important heritage sites. It was called the World Monuments Fund (WMF).
Every second year since 1966, the WMF has released its Watch List, compiled and reviewed by the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and an independent panel of heritage experts. The mission? To raise awareness about world monuments under threat.
Alongside UNESCO, the WMF arguably does more for humanity’s collective heritage than anyone else. Over the years, they’ve raised over $300 million, trained 1000+ locals to protect their cultural sites, and helped preserve over 700 monuments around the world.
The World Monument’s 2022 Watch List arrived in March and features 25 sites from 24 different countries, from Sumba island in Indonesia and Beirut’s bomb-scarred heritage buildings, to Hurst Castle in the UK and the royal pyramids at Nuri in the Sudan. The final monuments were whittled down from a long-list of 225, chosen for their historical and cultural value—and, obviously, the level of threat each one is currently dealing with.
But what’s interesting about this year’s list is the range of threats, as well as the monuments themselves. Each site has its own particular conservation battles, but the WMF has placed the dangers into four broad categories: Climate change, underrepresentation, imbalanced tourism and crisis recovery. Each of these comes with its own unique challenges, but the crucial takeaway is that these threats aren’t isolated; they overlap one another.