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Workshop ‘Caribbean World Heritage Sites in the light of today’s global challenges: the case of Historic Bridgetown and Its Garrison'

Last month (February 5-8 2024), the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, hosted a workshop entitled ‘Caribbean World Heritage Sites in the light of today’s global challenges: the case of Historic Bridgetown and Its Garrison’.

The workshop was organised by Maaike de Waal, with a financial contribution by the Faculty of the Archaeology SEED Fund. It aimed to consult local specialists, researchers, students, government officials and other stakeholders, to create a common background and a relevant network for holistic and synergetic study of the Bridgetown World Heritage Site, to define urgencies, opportunities and challenges, to set a research agenda, to stimulate new (co-authored) publications, and to provide a concrete basis for a grant proposal to allow further academic study of the topic of Caribbean World Heritage Sites, starting with Bridgetown. An important part of Bridgetown, Barbados’ capital city, has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 2013.

The participants represented a myriad of organizations, including The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, Barbados Museum & Historical Society, the Barbados National Commission for UNESCO, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, the Barbados National Trust, the Barbados Ministry of Tourism, FutureBARBADOS, architect firms, the Barbados National Art Gallery, the Barbados National Register of Historic Places, Heritage First Barbados, Breda University of Applied Sciences, and Leiden University. Together, we worked on listing and discussing the key aspects relating to different natural and cultural challenges that are affecting the World Heritage Site of Historic Bridgetown and Its Garrison. Keynote lectures included ‘Building a modern city: putting people first’ (Georgina Callender), ‘Hope and Heritage - Collective reimagining of the future of Bridgetown’ (Alyssa-Amor Gibbons), ‘Environmental hazards and challenges to Barbadian heritage’ (dr. Janice Cumberbatch) and ‘Storytelling and re-framing heritage’ (dr. Ilja Simons). On the last day, dr. Karl Watson guided us through Town, as Barbados’ capital city is locally called, leading us from pre-contact Bridgetown via the earliest town lay-out and historic buildings, to the newest monuments and town developments, bringing todays issues and challenges very much alive. Presentation of the first insights of the workshop has been scheduled for the upcoming ATLAS conference on ‘Leisure & Tourism 2030: Navigating the Future’ (Breda, June 2024), a start has been made to compile an article in which all participants will feature as co-authors, and more research and outreach activities will follow.

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