Scientific Conference on the Occasion
of the Centenary of World War I
A special Scientific Conference and Commemorative Event on Underwater Cultural Heritage from World War I was organized by UNESCO, with support from the Government of Flanders (Belgium), from 26 to 28 June 2014 in the Bruges Courthouse, on the occasion of the Centenary of World War I. The event included a two-day scientific conference and a commemorative event and the World Underwater Federation (CMAS) called on divers and the general public to undertake activities focusing on submerged heritage from the 1914-1918 period taking into account responsible access to submerged heritage sites.
From 2014 onwards, the submerged heritage from World War I will begin to come under the scope of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Given the importance of the conflict and its global political implications, UNESCO took the opportunity to remind the general public of the significance of this heritage by organizing, in cooperation with the Government of Flanders (Belgium), a Scientific Conference on World War I underwater cultural heritage on 26 and 27 June 2014 in the Provincial Courthouse in Bruges. The conference brought together expert scientists, academics and relevant NGOs from all over the world to discuss the naval history of World War I, the current state of World War I underwater heritage, and the many dangers threatening it.
Although World War I underwater cultural heritage is very extensive -- researchers estimate that there are thousands of sites that have yet to be discovered -- most of it has been insufficiently researched, displayed, and understood. Public knowledge of this heritage is virtually non-existent. However, these World War I wrecks hold invaluable historic information in their hulls and are irreplaceable sources for historical inquiry into the naval - and indeed the general - history of World War I.
The Scientific Conference touched upon the different aspects of World War I underwater heritage -- historical and archaeological research, legal protection and new methodologies for the preservation of large-scale metal underwater cultural heritage sites -- thereby making a substantial contribution to the coordination and defragmentation of research efforts and strengthening scientific networking.
The first day of the Scientific Conference focused on the historical value of the wreck sites and on their possible contributions to the historical research on World War I and its underwater cultural heritage. On the second day, efforts were made to find new solutions and possible measures to help better preserve and protect World War I underwater heritage, which has suffered from many natural and man-induced destructions, like trawling, pillaging and industrial scrap metal recovery.
Special issue 'The Great War and the Sea”: this issue is available in Dutch, German, French and English. Printed copies can be ordered upon payment (within Belgium: 10.00 EUR, incl. postage/for other countries: 10.00 EUR, excl. postage). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for orders and information regarding the payment.
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