The promotion of site management planning has long been a part of the Getty Conservation Institute's programmatic agenda. Past GCI work in this area has included presenting courses and workshops in site management and assisting in the development of management plans for sites in the field. The Institute is presently involved in site management activities at the Maya archaeological site of Joya de Cerén in El Salvador and at the Mogao grottoes in China.
To provide some perspective on the current challenges in the development and implementation of site management plans, we asked two specialists in the field to share their thoughts with us. Christina Cameron is director general of National Historic Sites at Parks Canada. Carolina Castellanos is an archaeological conservator who has worked closely with Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, with the GCI, and with others.
They spoke with Martha Demas and Françoise Descamps—senior project specialists with GCI Field Projects—and with Jeffrey Levin, editor of Conservation, The GCI Newsletter.
Martha Demas: Let's start by asking the basic question of how each of you defines management planning.
Christina Cameron: Management planning is the long-term vision that you set out for a site. Within it there are also short-term objectives. A management plan must be rooted in the values of the place and be created through a multidisciplinary team. The other essential element is that it is a public document. It is a commitment by those entrusted with looking after a site.
Carolina Castellanos: My definition is very similar. Management planning is an integrated participatory process, driven by significance. It also means trying to preserve a series of values that we have prioritized at this moment in time and that will certainly change as time evolves.
Françoise Descamps: What would you say is the impact of local culture on the development and implementation of site management plans?
Christina Cameron: I find it interesting that both ICOMOS and the World Heritage operational guidelines define management plans, and the fundamental elements are the same. One is the statement of significance. Also, almost all plans have a description of the resources and conservation strategies, as well as an approach for managing visitors. On the other hand, I think local cultures do influence that sort of template. "Significance" is often rooted in the local cultures, as are the methods of conservation, which can be traditional methods-not necessarily high science. Article 11 from the Nara Conference on Authenticity really speaks to this issue of significance and values, and I'll quote it: "It's not possible to base judgments of value and authenticity on fixed criteria. On the contrary, respect due to all cultures requires that cultural heritage must be considered and judged within the cultural context to which it belongs."
Carolina Castellanos: I agree that significance is reflected in every culture. It certainly defines and prioritizes the actions to be undertaken. And I also agree with Christina that there are essential components of management planning that can be universally applied. But I don't think planning is as much embedded in the Latin American context as it is in other places. That is reflected not only in cultural heritage but also in general policy development. There is no long-term vision. Plans tend to be very limited, with short-term objectives.
Jeffrey Levin: Are you suggesting that for certain cultures, planning is inherently short term rather than long term?
Carolina Castellanos: In Latin America, the concept of long-term planning is to some degree limited because of varied agendas and a dependency on parties in government, as well as short political terms. The idea of building for the future is certainly not embedded in the way cultural projects are handled.
Françoise Descamps: So in those countries, how do you create sustainable plans?
Carolina Castellanos: You need to go to a level of detail that you might not go to in other cases-such as approximating how much it will cost to manage a place in order to secure as much funding as possible. Also, there is no guarantee that the next political administration will have the expertise in-house to further the long-term objectives in the plan. The more precise and detailed the plans, the greater the chance that they will be continuously implemented.
Christina Cameron: In Canada, we've actually moved away from more detailed plans. For us, the issue is not so much change of political direction as it is lack of funds—like everywhere else. Our past plans sometimes were very detailed, but they were also taking us into areas we couldn't possibly afford.
Françoise Descamps: So you start with a more general document.
Christina Cameron: Yes, the management plan is really a visionary document and doesn't have a lot of hard commitment of expenditure. Saying that we are going to fix Building X or Building Y this year, or that we are going to work on the exhibit or whatever-those things are part of our annual business plans which have a three-year projection. We've got some handle on what our funds are going to be over three years. We have no handle on what they are going to be over 10 years.
Martha Demas: That's an interesting difference. Carolina, as I understand your point, you need the detail as a means of securing the continuity and commitment that wouldn't exist otherwise.
Carolina Castellanos: Yes. Because of limited personnel in most institutions, annual action plans cannot be produced. The general visionary document gets shelved because there is no time or resources to put together a comprehensive action plan.
Françoise Descamps: Clearly, if there is not detailed planning, then the significance and the value of the site are going to be compromised.
Christina Cameron: Some plans don't get implemented if planners develop them in isolation. If experts from a foreign country sort of parachute in, do a plan, and leave, the plan hasn't got the buy-in from the site manager, the local authorities, and the stakeholders. So there is nothing to sustain it, and it goes on a shelf.
Jeffrey Levin: And that is one of the arguments for including in the planning process those groups with an interest in the site—the stakeholders.
Carolina Castellanos: Stakeholders are essential participants. In the case of the local community, it is important not only to understand their needs and how they value a site differently than the academic or scientific community—who are also stakeholders—but also to make them feel like owners of the plan, which can help guarantee the plan's sustainability. As owners of the plan, they will actively promote the raising of funds for the actions outlined by the plan. If people do not get involved in a project, then you don't have the political, social, and financial support for implementation. Frequently those stakeholders are the same ones who finance certain actions of the plan.
Martha Demas: Let me play devil's advocate. As you bring in stakeholders, you begin to drag the process down, because people don't necessarily agree on the objectives or on the significance of the site. How do you strike a balance between various stakeholders' interests and moving the process ahead, so that you come up with a management plan that can actually be implemented?<
Christina Cameron: If you don't involve the stakeholders in the process of decision making, they will come at you afterward. It's up to us as the responsible authorities to set the context for discussion. The discussion isn't a free-for-all but takes place within a framework of principles. In Canada, we have a cultural resource management policy with five principles: values, public benefit, understanding, respect, and integrity. Those are the terms of reference for all of our public consultation regarding the management of cultural resources or sites. When the stakeholders understand that and think their way through it with you, they will agree that some of the ideas that come forward just can't be accommodated within that framework of principles.
Carolina Castellanos: Many times when we have problems with stakeholders, it is because we take for granted that people value the place the same way that we, as heritage professionals, do. Sometimes people are not even aware why a place is important in terms of historical or scientific significance. When you start talking in real terms about significance, it's really not that difficult for stakeholders to understand.
Martha Demas: What are some of the methods that you've used for getting at the various perspectives of the site and its values?
Carolina Castellanos: We first identify significance or values derived from the documentation phase, then talk about those values and confront them with the public's perceptions and values. For example, in a stakeholders meeting with the communities involved, people won't say that the social value of this place is X, Y, and Z. They come up with very simple statements like, "Well, I think this house looks like my grandfather's house. It looks like the house I live in today." We informally develop that idea more, saying, "Well, could that reflect continuity?" Then we take those ideas, put together a significance assessment, and disseminate that to see if people identify with it. That is the approach we used at the Joya de Cerén site in El Salvador. It was very interesting to talk about significance with people in the local communities—some of whom couldn't read or write—in a way that they could identify with. They came up with issues like, "Well, they planted the fields similar to the way we do it now." And then they'd link that to a particular interest they have around the site: "I would like tourists to come and see how I still plant the fields that way." Then we ascribed that as a value of the site.
Jeffrey Levin: Christina, does a similar sort of mediation and educational process happen in Canada?
Christina Cameron: We have a board of outside experts that advises the minister of Canadian heritage about what's of national significance. Our involvement is because of that recommendation, which we call "commemorative intent." From there, our process is similar to what Carolina described. We work on what we call a commemorative integrity statement. In order to accommodate the other values—coming at us from stakeholders—that don't have anything to do with the national significance identified by this board, we call those "other heritage values." We include them in the commemorative integrity statement, and we make commitments to protect those other values. So the process is quite similar in having a stakeholder meeting and drawing out different views.
Martha Demas: What about changing values? We know that values change over time, and yet it's difficult to integrate that notion of change when one is trying to make long-term decisions about what should happen at a site.
Christina Cameron: There are periodic reviews of plans that allow you to add values, but it argues in a way for the precautionary principle, which I consider good cultural resource management policy. A good cultural resource manager is sensitive to not destroying things. Now, if significant new values are added, you really are obliged to go back through the process.
Carolina Castellanos: I don't think any of us working in the field see plans as static. If a place changes in terms of its significance, then you go back into the process. For instance, at Joya de Cerén, if further excavation happens there, it may significantly change our interpretation of the place. It possibly could go from a little isolated village to a more complicated pre-Hispanic human settlement.
Christina Cameron: One striking, if simple, example is in Paris. It's a sculpture—a copy of the flame from the Statue of Liberty—that was given to the city in the mid-1980s. It happens to be sitting over the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed, and now it's basically a shrine to Diana. People leave flowers and her pictures there, and I'm sure that most people think it was erected for her. It's a very interesting appropriation of a symbol—and it works. But the original meaning has been lost. Now, if that were in a site, you'd want to continue the interpretation of the original commemorative gesture, but you'd have to add this other value.
Françoise Descamps: And in order to deal with changing values, we shouldn't be intervening at a site in a way that can't be reversed later.
Christina Cameron: That is good cultural resource management.
Martha Demas: Carolina, I know you've dealt with one group of stakeholders a bit—archaeologists. What are some of the obstacles, if any, in dealing with archaeologists, and has their field changed as a result of the introduction of ideas of conservation and management?
Carolina Castellanos: In my experience, one of the problems you frequently encounter is archaeologists and conservators saying, "Oh, I know what needs to be done, why do I need to plan?" They also can have a definite preconception of what can and cannot happen. At the site of Chan Chan in Peru, for example, there is a large area called a huachaque, which in pre-Hispanic times was devoted to agricultural use. One big decision was whether that area could be used for agriculture today, given the many social and economic issues around the place—and given that people were, in fact, farming on it. The archaeologists' first position was, "Are you out of your mind? That's archaeological soil." However, through the development of the plan and the long involvement of archaeologists with the communities around the place, they started to accept that there's no conflict in using this land under very specific regulations that consider the scientific significance of the area.
Jeffrey Levin: Don't archaeologists also have a role in helping to interpret a site?
Carolina Castellanos: Archaeologists have a responsibility to inform the public of what they did and to interpret what they found. I've been on archaeological digs and people just yell at you—"Hey, stop stealing the gold!" That's what people think you're doing. You have a responsibility—not only to the fabric, but also for disseminating information. I do think, however, that the more you get involved with archaeologists in the field, the more they recognize how the public appreciates and values a place—and that the public is not their enemy. If they inform the public, they will get an ally instead of an enemy. But they are sometimes the most difficult stakeholders in the planning process.
Françoise Descamps: And not those who work in tourism?
Carolina Castellanos: Most of the time, tourism people are misinformed. The more you work with them and they get information about a place, the easier it becomes to reconcile their needs. There are certainly big economic confrontations in terms of investment, but I also think that the more they get involved in the analysis of conditions, the more they recognize what is just not appropriate.
Christina Cameron: Also, the tourism industry has an enormous vested interest in the sustainability of the site.
Jeffrey Levin: How much of a danger is there of tourism driving development? Or, as Carolina suggests, if tourism officials are better informed, do they begin to understand that the needs of a site may be in conflict with overdevelopment?
Christina Cameron: For years, my organization saw the tourism industry as the enemy. It was their fault that our national parks were declining in ecological integrity and that some of our historical sites were overrun. Then we decided that this wasn't getting us very far, and we started working with the tourism industry. Now we have significant national and international partnerships, and a multipronged strategy. We sit in director positions on the product development side of the Canadian Tourism Commission, and we have influenced the Commission's mission statement so that words like authenticity, sustainability, respect, and heritage are in there. We have worked hard with tour operators and the National Tour Association. We have been working on guides' guides that tell people bringing tours to our places what to expect, how to approach it, what are the fragile parts, and so on, so that they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. We've also taken that message out through what used to be basically trade shows in Japan, Britain, and Germany. We try to market areas where we have lots of capacity and not enough visitors, spreading the load. One tour operator, American based, just gave us a sizable grant for a new visitor center at Grand-Pré, a national historic site in Nova Scotia, which is an Acadian site that a lot of Americans go to. He said, "For years I've taken people there, and I know you need a new visitor center. I am happy to contribute." He's created a philanthropic foundation through which he supports significant places that his company visits. You can turn tourism around, but you won't do it by ignoring it.
Carolina Castellanos: Any process driven by interests—be they tourism or political interests—can be dangerous. Part of planning for a place has to be constantly focusing on the benefits of heritage conservation for human development. Part of mediating and reconciling this process is always leading people back into that arena. I insist on the benefits of heritage conservation and management for human development.
Jeffrey Levin: Could you amplify a bit on what those benefits are in terms of human development?
Carolina Castellanos: Most of that is the general appropriation of a sense of identity, belonging, and well-being that comes when communities start feeling that a place belongs to them. In the case of Joya de Cerén, a strong emphasis is now placed on tradition and continuity. Today the communities feel a sense of pride in farming and working the land. Previously they felt that becoming an industrialized area was the only way to go. A clear benefit of the conservation of this place is providing more means for people to decide how they want to go about their lives.
Martha Demas: What has always been problematic in my mind is how we can talk about values of sites and the benefits of these places for people in developing countries, where basic survival is what's most immediate. What I hear you saying is that there is spiritual nourishment that these sites can provide, giving people a sense of their identity and their place in the world.<
Carolina Castellanos: Certainly there is a spiritual appropriation that happens in these places. People want to feel proud of who they are. People also like to see precise economic things derived from places. If you open a new tourism route that covers part of a community, tourists will look at the houses and at the fields. Then that endorses the value of keeping that way of life—if people choose to do that. That's the other thing—I don't think we should dictate how these places should look. We don't want them to make them cultural theme parks. It will be interesting to study those government policies that actually endorse and support traditional ways of life.
Christina Cameron: We have something similar in Canada, not so much in our mainstream sites but in our aboriginal sites. Some work we've been doing with our First Nations has validated, in a way, their history and their demand to present their history, giving them an opportunity to share that with a broader group of Canadians and tourists.
Françoise Descamps: One thing that was very important in Joya de Cerén was that people really wanted to be dynamic in their own life without touching the site. They had interest in what the site could bring them—but they had an instinctive way to protect the site itself, too.
Carolina Castellanos: Fostering a sense of identity, in the case of Joya, is significant, because El Salvador is recovering from a long civil war that split the nation. It is very interesting how they are reconstructing themselves and what role archaeological heritage plays—which is why they place such a strong emphasis on how their children are going to be educated. They say, "We are not going to be teaching them anymore that we're peripheral Maya. We are different people and should feel proud of who we are." Joya de Cerén represents continuity and how we have come to be what we are nowadays as Salvadorans.
Christina Cameron: I can relate that to an experience I had this spring, when I went with the minister of Canadian heritage up to a community of 200 people at a place called Deline, which is on Great Bear Lake. The explorer Sir John Franklin wintered there one year, so the place has historic significance. But the site that we were recognizing was, in fact, a huge cultural landscape of 6,000 square kilometers. The people there cared so much that the government recognized the value of this place, not for Franklin but for the cultural values they attached to that land. Most of these people do not speak English or French. They speak "Slavey," and their young chief, who spoke English, said, "All this time we've been trying to figure out where our place is in Canada, and this gesture has helped us to understand that we do have a place in this country." The cultural landscape concept is helping bring a social identity and pride to communities.
Martha Demas: Can we talk about the actual management plan itself? After you've gone through this process, you end up with a plan that reflects the decision making. Who is this plan addressed to? What should a management plan include?
Christina Cameron: The focus is on the site. The person responsible for making sure the plan is implemented is the supervisor or super something there. The plan informs all of the subsequent activities at the place—from events to exhibits to interpretative programs. The plan is where people go to analyze whether or not what they want to do is appropriate for the site. It should be simple and well illustrated. You can't get away without some "bureaucratese," because of the nature of the business. But the language should be as simple as possible.
Carolina Castellanos: In terms of the plan's content, you basically have your significance statement, why this place is important. Your general vision for that place is a critical element. Then you generally define the strategies, and you also set a framework for what can and cannot be done. That comes from the consensus of the different stakeholders.
Christina Cameron: You also need to state a general conservation philosophy. In 1993 I went to Angkor Wat, where there was no management plan. I was appalled to see the different archaeological projects. Nobody was in charge. I'm not a conservation specialist, but it was evident to me that there was a lot of destruction happening because there was no conservation policy or framework in place. That brings me to the problem I have with World Heritage—that they have not endorsed a set of conservation standards.
Martha Demas: What, typically, is the impact of World Heritage designation on a site?
Carolina Castellanos: World Heritage guidelines say that sites should have a management plan, but 90 percent do not have a plan at the time they are included in the list. The first thing that happens is that a site gets nominated. Then there's a vast promotion that a place was designated as a World Heritage site. Then they have a massive amount of tourism coming to the place without any plan to manage that tourism. So you have a negative impact in the first years. If they don't really produce a plan, then they hire an outside expert to produce a plan just to comply with the need to have a plan—though the plan is not, in reality, implemented. Unfortunately, in Latin America, being designated a World Heritage site does not bring about a new way to manage it effectively. You get experts coming and going, and they all produce reports, but instead of using that expertise to build a vision for the place, the reports just pile up.
Christina Cameron: I have sat on the World Heritage Committee, either as a committee member or as an observer, since 1986, and I'm not surprised by your comments. Often the nomination says there is a plan, but frequently I suspect it's done in a government office far from the site and doesn't have the buy-in of the site manager—or the operational infrastructure—to actually implement the plan. I agree that there is a revolving door of experts, and I see it in the requests for funds from the World Heritage Fund. I'm one of the members who wants to see requests coming from the member states themselves, because that means they will insist on getting something out of it. Otherwise, it is an excuse for someone from another country to go on a trip, see a place, and write a report. I don't think the process is rooted in the commitment of the site manager. The question that I am often asked—and I don't have an answer for it—is "What does it mean in terms of managing, now that we're a World Heritage site?" Because World Heritage hasn't adopted a set of international conservation standards, we fall back on our own national conservation standards, which are different in different parts of the world. There's a real failure on the part of the World Heritage Committee and Convention not to have endorsed a set of standards that answer that question.
Jeffrey Levin: The continuing theme that I see here is stakeholders. As you both describe what's missing in the World Heritage process, there is, once again, the need to involve the stakeholders.
Carolina Castellanos: I know of one recent nomination where you had people working there, including the local government, saying, "Nobody asked us if we wanted to be a World Heritage site. We're not prepared to be a World Heritage site. We don't even have the capacity to manage the site now."
Christina Cameron: Only when you build a nomination with the kind of planning process that Carolina and I have been talking about—involving stakeholders and building a consensus around where the values lie—do you have a chance at sustainable management of the site's values.
Carolina Castellanos: I'm happy to say that in the case of the city of Trujillo in Peru—which I think is going to be nominated this year—they went through a participatory process, first deciding if they wanted to be a World Heritage site. They sat down and did a thorough analysis—do we think Trujillo merits being a World Heritage site? They decided, yes, it does, because we have these values. Now, they had a lot of problems putting together the plan. Managing an archaeological site is certainly not the same as managing a historical center. The interests around it and the uses around it are completely different. But the people of Trujillo managed to pull together a plan before the nomination was sent. The process did not happen in an office in Lima. It happened in Trujillo itself. The people there moved it forward. That guarantees at least more commitment to actually managing the place once it becomes a World Heritage site.
Christina Cameron: That's the way to go.