PastForward Reading List: Culture-Nature

By Forum Online posted 09-13-2018 16:44


Editor’s note: As in years past, Preservation Leadership Forum is presenting a series of reading lists based on the major themes planned for PastForward 2018: intangible heritage, culture-nature, and resilience. Our amazing summer interns, Amy Guay and Abigail Bashor, helped us pull together the resources featured in these posts, which are intended to prepare attendees—both those traveling to San Francisco and those joining us virtually—for discussions about these themes. The culture-nature track will overlap significantly with the others, so make sure to check out the intangible heritage reading list as well as the forthcoming resilience reading list. Learn more and register for PastForward today!

At PastForward 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is partnering with the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) to present national and international perspectives on protecting and stewarding the cultural and natural resources present in historic landscapes. The culture-nature track will kick off during Forward Together: A Culture-Nature Journey Toward More Effective Conservation in a Changing World—a symposium sponsored by US/ICOMOS that will be held on November 13–14 at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco. (Registration for the symposium through PastForward registration and enjoy discounts.)


What do we mean when we talk about the culture-nature connection? For many years a tension between those striving to protect natural heritage and those working to preserve cultural heritage allowed for little common ground. Today professionals from both sectors recognize the value and opportunity in bridging that gap. New preservation practices connect cultural and natural elements and seek to be more inclusive of—and accessible to—diverse communities, broadening the reach of engagement.

The culture-nature keynote speaker at PastForward will be Terry Tempest Williams, a naturalist and fierce ethics advocate who has consistently shown us that environmental issues are social justice issues. To familiarize yourself with Williams’ work, check out her contributions to Orion Magazine: “Bearing Witness,” her piece about drilling for oil near Arches National Park; her 2014 piece about the People’s Climate March; and an interview discussing 50 years of wilderness.

Culture-Nature: An International Journey

In its April 2015 quarterly review, the World Heritage Convention published an in-depth series of articles about the connections between nature and culture. In “Nature-culture interlinkages in World Heritage,” authors Peter Billie Larsen and Gamini Wijesuriya argue that “heritage thinking in both natural and cultural fields has moved from ideas of freezing heritage as ‘static’ values and attributes to one of recognizing heritage as dynamic, interrelated and complex.” An article by Nora J. Mitchell, “World Heritage sites in North America,” considers three case studies across the United States and Canada that explore strategies for the combined management of cultural and natural resources. Mitchell asserts that the need for new language to better describe this integrated approach is growing and suggests terms like “biocultural” and “cultural ecotone.”

In a partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), US/ICOMOS developed a track dedicated to the relationship between natural and cultural heritage for the 2016 World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Hawai’i. More than 40 nature-culture sessions fostered conversations between U.S. and international experts about both natural and cultural heritage, and participants in this track released a statement of commitments called “Mālama Honua – to care for our island Earth.”

A panel discussion that featured presentations from world heritage experts as well as managers of local Hawai’ian protected sites emphasized that effective conservation depends on the integration of natural and cultural heritage.

Also coming out of this track at the 2016 WCC was “Connecting Practice,” a report that explored increasing recognition of the links between natural and cultural heritage at World Heritage Sites. A second report, “Connecting Practice: Phase II,” translated lessons learned during the first phase into practical interventions and discussed strategies for fostering a better understanding of the relationships between natural, cultural, and social values at World Heritage Sites. ICOMOS and IUCN recently announced the launch of a third phase, which will focus on evolved cultural landscapes as well as on sustaining and changing traditional management practices within the World Heritage Site structure.

Leticia Leitao of IUCN discusses “Connecting Practice” and other similar forms of engagement in a video about defining methods to support nature-culture preservation.

The culture-nature conversation continued in New Delhi, India, at the 19th ICOMOS General Assembly and Scientific Symposium in December 2017. There, ICOMOS and IUCN presented their “Connecting Practice” findings, emphasizing the demonstrated success of the study. The symposium also led to the adoption of the “Delhi Declaration on Heritage and Democracy” as well as a resolution about climate change and cultural heritage.

Also in 2017, The George Wright Forum published an issue about culture-nature, featuring articles like Susanna Kari and Mechtild Rössler’s “A World Heritage Perspective on Culture and Nature—Beyond a Shared Platform” and Andrew Potts’ “An Urgent Journey: Realizing the Potential of Integrated Nature-Culture Approaches to Create a Sustainable World.” These authors examine the challenges and opportunities of integrating cultural and natural heritage as a single instrument as well as the potential for improving sustainability through that approach.

Culture-Nature on Preservation Leadership Forum

This 2013 Forum Blog post from Will Cook, associate general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, articulated the significance of traditional cultural properties (TCPs):

A TCP determination offers a more effective way to work for the protection of such sites beyond the legal protections already afforded to structures, sites, or objects listed in the National Register. Importantly, the ability to identify and protect TCPs is an important means of ensuring that the register fully documents, protects, and celebrates the diverse American experience.

Cook also highlighted National Park Service Bulletin 38 as one of the most important tools to understanding TCPs.

In “Preserving the Cultural and Natural Resources on Cumberland Island,” Nancy Tinker documented a historic natural barrier island in Georgia facing questions about prioritizing its values around cultural and natural resources as well as using transformative experiences to preserve authenticity. More recently, Jennifer Goodman, director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, and Sharee Williamson, associate general counsel at the National Trust, discuss the importance of identifying the natural and historic resources of cultural landscapes to protect open lands.

Also on Preservation Leadership Forum

    • Climate Change and Cultural Landscapes: Observation and Options
    • The Impacts of Coastal Erosion on Tribal Cultural Heritage
If you are participating in the PastForward Challenge (Gamification) for points and prizes, please enter the following passcode for the "Blog: Culture-Nature Reading List" challenge: CNREAD.


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