The Working Group

The creation of the Working Group

The world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Convention is renowned for its work protecting and promoting sites that celebrate the heritage of humanity. Examples include the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico, and the Statue of Liberty in the United States of America. However, astronomical heritage is currently under-represented. All too often, neglect and mistreatment cause irreversible harm.

In 2005, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee approved the Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, a thematic initiative aiming to identify, safeguard and promote cultural properties connected with astronomy. The places in question do not just include sites (such as observatories) important in the development of modern scientific astronomy, but also much older constructions whose design or location relate to celestial objects and events, reflecting the ways in which ancient cultures attempted to make sense of the world—the cosmos—within which they dwelt.

Following the signing of a formal Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and the IAU in October 2008, this Working Group has been created in order to progress the initiative. Its top priority is to help to establish guidelines for States Parties to the World Heritage Convention who wish to nominate sites for inscription on the World Heritage List on the grounds of their relationship to astronomy.

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