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What is the International Day for Monuments and Sites?

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The International Day for Monuments and Sites was created on 18 April 1982, when it was suggested at a meeting of the Bureau in Hammamet, Tunisia, by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) that a day be established "to celebrate the diversity of heritage throughout the world." The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference adopted the concept by passing a resolution at its Paris 22nd session in November 1983 recommending that States Parties to the World Heritage Convention examine the possibility of declaring April 18th of each year as "International Monuments and Sites Day". This is informally known as the World Heritage Day. The aim of this day is "to encourage local communities and individuals throughout the world to consider the importance of cultural heritage to their lives, identities and communities" and to "to promote awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage of humanity, their vulnerability and the efforts required for their protection and conservation.

In 2021, the theme is entitled “Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures. “Acknowledging global calls for greater inclusion and recognition of diversity, the International Day for Monuments and Sites 2021 invites participants to reflect on, reinterpret, and re-examine existing narratives. Conservation of cultural heritage requires critical examination of the past, as much as its practice demands provision for the future. Debates on the omission and erasure of certain narratives, and the privileging of particular stories over others, have come to a head in recent years. Addressing contested histories hence involves complex conversations, avoiding biased views and interpretations of the past.” From 15 to 21 April 2021, ICOMOS Canada, in partnership with Parks Canada and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, is coordinating a series of events that evoke “a national conversation exploring the complex narratives around heritage, inclusion, and diversity.”

Shown on the composite photograph are four of 1,121 properties currently listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The four sites include: the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona which is known as the most spectacular gorge in the world; the cultural site of Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia which is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America; the seven properties built by the architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in or near Barcelona which includes the church of La Sagrada Família, Spain's most visited landmark and Gaudí's most important and ambitious work and is still under construction; and the archaeological areas of Pompei and Herculaneum when Vesuvius erupted on 24 August AD 79 engulfing the two flourishing Roman towns until it was progressively excavated and made accessible to the public since the mid-18th century.

On this day, 18 April 2021, we commemorate the 39th anniversary of the creation of the International Monuments and Sites Day and encourage everyone to take the time to visit and appreciate the beauty and history of local, national and international monuments and sites of cultural heritage.

André M. Levesque

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