The growth of mass tourism, rapidly increasing urbanization, environmental degradation, natural disasters, violent conflicts, and limited economic resources are among many threats to archaeological sites. This conference—organized by the Getty Conservation Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum—sought to define more fully the values that archaeological sites hold for humanity, present and future, and to develop processes to manage and present these sites. Designed to promote a broad, international, and interdisciplinary exchange of information, ideas, and viewpoints about the protection and management of archaeological sites, the conference explored the impact of increasing public interest in sites, and the economic implications of a finite and nonrenewable resource marked with intrinsic cultural values.

The conference opened at the Carthage Museum, Tunisia, with considerations of the value of archaeological sites from the perspectives of representatives of governmental authorities, tourism agencies, national archaeological agencies, foreign archaeological missions, and the conservation profession. The panel discussions clearly affirmed that every site is valued from a number of perspectives—historic, scientific, social (including political and religious), economic, and aesthetic. An important dimension of the conference was the opportunity for participants to visit three sites—Piazza Armerina, on the island of Sicily; Knossos, on the Greek island of Crete; and Ephesus, in Turkey—to examine them in the context of the discussions. These sites were selected because they are affected by the conflicting requirements of scholarship, conservation, presentation, and tourism.

  • the differing values that various groups assign to sites have a direct effect on the ultimate fate of the site;
  • decisions taken regarding the possible uses of a site affect its values;
  • management policy should be guided by an interdisciplinary group representing the various constituencies;
  • the role and responsibility of management should be defined according to the needs of each site;
  • training should be provided for specialists responsible for site management;
  • requirements for management may change as the uses of a site evolve over time;
  • fair representation of the interests of different constituences should be guaranteed from the outset;
  • management must safeguard from the risk of decay and destruction those sites that depend on the economic benefits of mass tourism;
  • archaeological sites can be valuable educational resources;
  • governments and other national and international agencies should recognize and support new concepts of sites management.

Read the conference proceedings. (Available in English and French)

Article in the GCI Newsletter

The Archaeological Heritage in the Mediterranean Region (Summer, 1997)