“Every human culture has a sky, and strives to interpret what people perceive there. The understanding they develop inevitably comes to form a vital part of their fundamental knowledge concerning the cosmos and their place within it. Astronomy is not just a modern science but a fundamental reflection of how all people, past and present, understand themselves in relation to the Universe.” (Clive Ruggles, New Scientist, 17 Jan 2009)

The Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative

This thematic initiative, adopted by UNESCO in 2005, aims to identify, safeguard and promote cultural properties connected with astronomy.

More broadly, the initiative aims to establish a link between science and culture on the basis of research aimed at acknowledging the cultural and scientific values of properties connected with astronomy. Its stated goals are:

  • to offer a methodological framework for associated actions;
  • to open the pathway for cooperation between States Parties and academic communities; and
  • to share knowledge.

A longer-term aim is to facilitate State Parties in revising tentative lists and in preparing proposals for nomination to the World Heritage List. The ultimate aim is the successful inscription of new cultural properties whose outstanding significance to humankind derives in significant part from their connection with astronomy.

For more information see the Initiative’s page on the World Heritage Centre website.

The UNESCO-IAU Memorandum of Understanding

The IAU General Secretary, Karel van der Hucht, and the UNESCO Director General, Koïchiro Matsuura, with the Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and IAU.

Photo: International Astronomical Union

A formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 2008 Oct 30 between the UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, and the IAU General Secretary, Karel van der Hucht. This details the co-operation which is to take place between UNESCO and the IAU in order to implement the Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative.

A copy of the MoU (2.4mb PDF file) may be viewed or downloaded here.

For the associated Press Release see here.

The Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group has responsibility for discharging the IAU’s commitments under this Memorandum.

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