Managing Heritage

Sustaining heritage in the face of disaster: the importance of intangible values from Nepal to Australia

Premiership Room B, Melbourne Cricket Ground 06/10/2016 3:00 pm - 3:20 pm

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Catherine Forbes

The impact of the 2015 earthquakes on the cultural heritage of Nepal was substantial. Not only were the tangible values of the built heritage, artworks and collections of movable heritage affected, but also the intangible values associated with these sites, the spiritual and social values, rituals, festivals and stories, all of which are very much part of the daily life and custom of the Nepali people. Since the earthquakes many of the intangible values have been identified as key to a sustainable recovery. Seasonal festivals have continued as an important part of the healing process for the people. Traditional community based structures (guthi) are being revived to ensure that the people associated with particular sites are included in their recovery, ongoing management and care. The knowledge and skills of artisans responsible for the carvings, decorative and ritual elements of the temples, are being recognized, not only for their capacity to accurately reconstruct the buildings, but also for their importance in ensuring that the stories and traditions associated with the sites can continue to be passed on to future generations. With reference to the World Heritage property of the Kathmandu Valley, this paper discusses the importance of intangible values to the recovery of Nepal’s cultural heritage. It also considers the lessons learned for the conservation, recovery and sustainability of Australia’s heritage.