RISKS TO IDENTITY: Loss of Traditions and Collective Memory

ICOMOS Annual Symposium. RISKS TO IDENTITY: Loss of Traditions and Collective Memory

29 October 2015.
The Scientific Symposium will be held at ACROS Fukuoka.
Registration is required, but the fee is waived for ICOMOS members. The conference website is here.

As in previous symposia, a session of formal presentations will be followed by the discussions of break-out groups.  An area for the display of posters will also be provided.

In keeping with the ongoing theme of risk management, this year’s symposium deals with a vulnerability of cultural heritage that is intangible rather than physical, but is significant in terms of the effects—both positive and negative— on peoples’ lives.  The theme of IDENTITY: Loss of Traditions and Collective Memory, is relevant to every region of the world, no matter how well conserved cultural heritage places may be. Indeed, some of the most meticulously conserved historic districts and building ensembles often pose risks to both visitors and local residents in the change of function they represent.

We must keep in mind, as the geographer David Lowenthal once noted, that every time we establish, renovate, or expand a heritage site, we create something new. That new feature of the landscape or urban fabric can have positive effects in strengthening identity through appreciation of the significance of conserved and effectively presented heritage sites.  Alternatively, it can merely serve as themed stage setting for other activities such as shopping, vacationing, or dining—as is the case with many historic urban centers around the world.  In these cases, nostalgia-tinged leisure may not only overlay the local significance of the sites, it may also transform them into places that are viewed as essentially alien to the local communities, whose involvement may be reduced to employment in tourism—catering to the needs of outsiders, rather than enhancing their own collective memory.

There are many risks to identity and collective memory that can be occasioned by cultural heritage projects, and as noted in the 2014 Nara+20 document, there are five main themes integral to addressing these risks:

  • The need to recognize the diversity of heritage practices
  • Understanding that heritage values evolve through time
  • Acknowledging the rights and responsibilities of multiple stakeholder groups
  • Addressing heritage conflicts and conflicting interpretations
  • Integrating principles of sustainable development into heritage practice

These are significant challenges for the heritage field. We invite abstracts of 250 words to address the themes identified in Nara + 20, plus the following and other related approaches to addressing risks to identity and collective memory.  Given the location of the symposium we encourage case studies related to these themes that address issues particularly relevant to ASEAN1 countries:


  • Inclusive inventories and documentation of community heritage
  • Online heritage toolkit for interpretation and intangible heritage
  • Community participation programs
  • Conflict resolution and consensus building techniques
  • Maintenance and monitoring of effective interpretation
  • Use of traditional skills in conservation
  • Practical standards for the substitution of modern materials and methods
  • Guidelines for retrofitting practices
  • Architectural conservation of colonial and post-colonial buildings in ASEAN countries- implications for intangible heritage values
  • Adaptable tools for safeguarding evolving intangible heritage
  • Risk preparedness: how do emerging responses, policies and guidelines impact or sustain intangible cultural heritage values?


  • Education and awareness-raising
  • Frameworks for public participation
  • Rights of associated communities alongside local communities
  • New concepts of diasporic heritage
  • Economic and social impacts of heritage tourism on community life
  • Collective memory as a main factor in community resilience
  • Modern identity and the question of authenticity
  • Lack of intergenerational dialogue
  • Cultural homogenization and deterioration of historic landscape
  • Are conflicting interpretations inevitable?
  • Increasing exploitation of heritage for political legitimization
  • Fundamentalism and the destruction of the religious heritage of others
  • Conflict arising over “historic” boundaries
  • Concepts of collective memory and their expression in the built environment in the ASEAN nations

[1 ASEAN comprises ten countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN has ten Dialogue Partners: Australia, Canada, China, EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, ROK, Russia and the United States.]