Marilyn Foster: UNESCO World Heritage sites provide look into our past
All across this great world of ours are spectacular sites that must be preserved for future generations so they can understand the world from which they evolved. Many of the sites are protected by UNESCO — United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — and protect the cultural and natural history of our world that might otherwise be destroyed. It is the mission of UNESCO to “promote the cultural heritage and equal dignity of all cultures.”
Globally, there are 1,121 World Heritage Sites, including 24 in the United States. The sites might be cultural, natural or a mix of both and are legally protected by international treaties. Italy has the distinction of having the most sites in the world since it was the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Thus, a trip to Italy is a step back in time allowing us a glimpse into what was and how we came to be.
We’re touring Southern Italy in October and not only will we be eating our way through this region, we’ll tour a number of World Heritage Sites including Pompeii, the Greek Temple of Paestum and the Amalfi Coast that was granted this designation in 1997.
Within our region, Yosemite National Park was declared a UNESCO natural heritage site in 1984 joining the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park as parks to be protected under the UNESCO mission “to preserve the world’s superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry.” The San Antonio Missions were designated as the most recent U.S. cultural site in 2015 with 19 new sites now under consideration to be protected.
Also, in the United States, we have the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private nonprofit organized specifically to protect our heritage that “connect us to our past, anchor us to the present and lead us into the future.”
The National Register of Historic Places, administered by the U.S. National Park Service, maintains and oversees the official list of our nation’s historic places worthy of preservation, now totaling about a million. In Carson City alone, there are 44 listings on the registry, many of which are homes listed in the west side historic district. These homes or businesses well illustrate how important our early history was in the making of this state. This designation, however, does not protect a property from being demolished.
Our National Park Service works with the National Historic Landmarks Program to preserve sites that hold national significance that illustrate U.S. Heritage. There are about 2,600 such sites within our country. Eight sites have this designation in our state with three of these nearby: the McKeen Motor Car that often runs on weekends at our Nevada State Railroad Museum, Fort Churchill, a former U.S. Army fort built in 1861, and Virginia City Historic District.
On most of the international trips the Carson City Chamber offers through Collette Vacations and Mayflower Cruises and Tours, UNESCO sites are an important part of the itinerary. The professional tour guides offer insight into the culture of the countries that might otherwise be missed if traveling on your own. I wish I had kept a scorecard of all the sites I have been fortunate enough to visit.
I love history and like to absorb as much as I can about each destination I visit and always look forward to visiting historical sites. We all tend to live in our little “bubbles” and even sometimes forget that there is so much history in our own area. Have you ever experienced a ride on the restored McKeen Motor Car, one of the few surviving railcars?
This spring, I will have the wonderful opportunity to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg, cities full of culture and history. I want to learn more about Russia on my own than let the news define a culture and its people. I will learn more about our own country’s history in mid-September as I learn about Santa Fe, N.M., where there are a number of historic sites. I invite you to join me. Check out the Chamber’s Travel Club page at http://www.carsoncitychamber.com or visit the office and pick up a free brochure.
Marilyn will be 91 at the end of January and looks forward to visiting many more UNESCO sites.