01 May 2018
Posted By: Anthea Longo
Comments: 0

Why is ICOMOS important in today’s world?


ICOMOS, founded in 1965, is an international gathering of professionals and individuals who see the importance of conserving the historic environment, and preserving the cultural, artistic, and technical achievements of the past. Conservation gives continuity and understanding of different cultural and historic values. In the United Kingdom, we have good systems of management, legal and regulatory control and contracting. We have top class educational and research capabilities to ensure that materials, design, construction, architecture and planning are appropriate to human needs and safety. Europe and the developed world are almost parallel to the UK in their achievements, but the rest of the world has some way to go to manage, regulate and control, and to plan and conserve the diversity of cultural expression required by our brave new world.

ICOMOS is a non-political force that assists cross cultural understanding through developing and conserving the world’s heritage, such that, in this age of modern travel, diverse cultural influences, trade and inter-dependence between countries, it helps us all to appreciate the world’s immense diversity and the challenge of respecting cultures equitably and rationally on a global scale. Modern change in populations density, new infrastructure and wealth frequently suppresses culture by enforcing change that disturbs a people’s sense of identity, especially where change is not the result of free-will and open decision-making processes. In spite of the need to modernise, we can see how war and scientific development has enforced change that has damaged the traditional tangible and intangible environments, leaving social psychological scars and confused cultural identities. It is surely preferable to promote necessary change, through education and awareness of cultural values and ethical limits that respect human rights to be different, while supporting the resolution of functional differences and conflict through negotiation.  This is the context in which we must look at the opportunities offered by ICOMOS.


ICOMOS is a world-wide organisation of some 130 countries, each with their specialist sub-committees, and the 28 International Specialist Sub- committees (ISCs), dealing with most aspects of conservation policy, best practice and scientific understanding:-

“ ICOMOS expects the ISCs to be at the heart of scientific inquiry and exchange in their domains, and to share knowledge among them to foster a multi-disciplinary approach to heritage protection and management, in fulfilment of the goals of ICOMOS as stated in Article 5.b. of its statutes:- “Gather, study and disseminate information concerning principles, techniques and policies related to heritage protection" ”.

ICOMOS, with its headquarters in Paris, was founded some 53 years ago, and is now active in 130 countries. It manages and advises on conservation issues that cover every aspect of tangible and intangible heritage places and their values.  ICOMOS works with other agencies on the natural environment (IUCN) and training (ICCROM).    

There is growing awareness of the stature of the ICOMOS constitution, experience and purpose, in its international co-operation, its research and dissemination of knowledge, its anticipation of risk, and its education and training. ICOMOS members participates in the study of many aspects of our life systems and valued environments, and the forces that impinge upon our identity, achievement and quality of the built environment. ICOMOS assembles experts and carries out advisory missions for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It sets standards for the conservation of monuments, groups of buildings and sites, which may be archaeological or living heritage in urban and natural environments.

The disciplines for evaluation and management are set by the Operational Guidelines of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which are revised from time to time.  This sets an invaluable world standard of best practice for the recording, evaluation, design and management of national heritage, reflecting local values and encouraging legal and regulatory support systems, and developing professional and contracting skills.

As a non-political organisation, ICOMOS promotes a common understanding of approaches to building a balanced future for our environment that respects cultural differences.  It strengthens cross-cultural understanding and relationships, promoting consensus on the way forward for many countries. Most long-lasting business is built on the moral respect and understanding between peoples. ICOMOS promotes that understanding and co-operation, which is so contrary to the unethical perspectives displayed in power struggles that we see in the world today.         


ICOMOS-UK, Its professionals and the marketing of UK Conservation Skills and Experience

ICOMOS-UK is the National Committee of ICOMOS for the United Kingdom and was founded in 1965. It is an essential link for our professionals, researchers, manufacturers and academia to the international field, and the trade in ideas and goods that relate to  conserving the cultural environment. The UK is well placed to export its professional standards through membership of ICOMOS-UK and other professional institutes.

UK professionals are renowned the world over for their working methods and experience; and, with the benefit of English as a widely spoken language, they are connected to all forms of academic research into materials, history, design, management, legal and regulatory environments and the best contracting practices. UK professionals contribute to high achievement in developing countries bringing good reason and academic consensus to their works.  Increasingly, work in foreign countries is challenged by the poor management of planning policy, financial controls, and the lack of adequate legal and regulatory systems.  

One of the ways of marketing ‘UK Ltd’s’ wide ranging professional skills and experience is through a database of skills and experience of handling conservation, planning and architectural projects world-wide. Such a database would need to be accessible, would not contain sensitive personal information, and would follow the principles of the “General Data Protection Regulations”.

ICOMOS-UK believes it is important that the UK Government should support services in marketing UK skills in conservation rather than leaving it to professionals alone. There is a place for Government to assist in building frameworks, support and advice for the better presentation of UK Ltd. There are real opportunities to be realised here in this age of IT and Brexit.       

Finally, the many small organisations dealing with best practice and conservation in the UK might be better presented if they were joined by MOU’s where they negotiate and speak on interests in common.  Such organisations might include: The RIBA, the Institute of Archaeology, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC). The Institutes of Structural and Civil Engineers, services engineers, historians, specialists in museology, presentation and interpretation, the Building Research Establishment and materials specialists, ICON, academia, surveyors, historic landscape specialists, specialists in environmental monitoring, lighting engineers, fire and safety engineers etc

ICOMOS-UK is a fine catalyst for international promotion of the UKs respected conservation and related professions, and the UKs research, academic, management, legal and regulatory standards.  

We would like to move these ideas forward. Please may we have your thoughts on the above sent to hankeyd100@gmail.com  or to admin@icomos-uk.org

Donald Hankey


P/President ICOMOS-UK