Heritage today, gone tomorrow: in-situ preservation of underwater cultural heritage in law and practice

Author: Debra Shefi

Shefi, Debra, 2013 Heritage today, gone tomorrow: in-situ preservation of underwater cultural heritage in law and practice, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Reflecting current trends in practice and research toward a universally recognised best practice for underwater cultural heritage (UCH) management, international guidelines encourage the utilisation of in situ preservation as the 'first option' in securing these non-renewable resources. In situ UCH management is identified as the prime standard by both the 2001 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and the 1996 International Council on Monuments and Sites' (ICOMOS) Charter on the Protection and Management of Underwater Cultural Heritage. At present, however, neither UNESCO nor ICOMOS explicitly define the suggested 'first option'. As such, the scope and context of in situ preservation is open to interpretation, and can be construed to exclude a number of in situ management techniques currently employed by heritage practitioners - including relocation and underwater repositories. As many practitioners rely on the 2001 Convention and its Annex to support domestic legislation, or as the stand-alone reference in lieu of domestic law, it is imperative that the interpretation of the 'first option' is not at once inclusive and unequivocally defined. This study therefore examines whether an assessment of international conventions and guidelines, domestic laws inclusive of heritage materials and practitioners' publications relating to UCH, with a specific focus on in situ preservation, can identify discordance between practitioners interpretation of the law and applied practice. The analysis occurs with the examination of three genres of literature forming the basis of UCH management (international and domestic laws enacted as of July 2012 and practitioner publications) and an assessment of five case studies applying various in situ preservation techniques within site management. The data and discussion of results will demonstrate if and how managerial terminology requires clarification within the assessed literature. More specifically, conclusions will aid in the development of a more robust and well-supported definition of in situ preservation, which can be applied as a global best practice for UCH management.

Keywords: in situ preservation,underwater cultural heritage,underwater cultural heritage management,underwater cultural heritage legislation,in situ

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2013
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer McKinnon