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Dive course in Norway

Dive course in Norway

Relations in the field of archaeology have changed dramatically in recent years. Firstly, there were changes to the legislation (Malta Convention: the polluter pays, mandatory archaeological investigation). Whereas central government used to initiate and implement activities in maritime and underwater archaeology, nowadays it is certainly not the only party that does so! Secondly, there has been a shift of responsibility within government. Management has been decentralised, so local authorities generally have primary responsibility, except in most of the North Sea. This has brought many extra responsibilities for local authorities.

The public is also keen to play an increasing role in decisions concerning the cultural heritage. The heritage belongs to every one of us, after all, so why should we not have a say?

This idea lies at the core of the ‘Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society’, also known as the ‘Faro Convention’ which was drawn up in Portugal in 2005. The key points in the convention are the acknowledgement of the role of the cultural heritage in achieving better quality of life for everyone in society, and the right of everyone to participate in the cultural heritage. This right was first enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued in 1956, but it is worked out in further detail in the Convention.

The interesting thing is that, thanks to greater knowledge and awareness, participation is growing. Passive participants are becoming active participants. The initiative no longer ‘automatically’ lies with the government, or with professional heritage managers and archaeologists, but with local residents, for example. They are keen to have their own heritage protected and are willing to take action to achieve this. It is up to professionals to support these initiatives, and take on a role based more on counselling and guidance. Professionals can help by providing and transferring knowledge, and also by defining the ‘playing field’, or by leading debates on ethical matters like the removal of objects without permission and the sale of items recovered from shipwrecks.

This in turn means central government, and therefore the Maritime Programme, has to play a specific role. It is important that all stakeholders have access to sufficient information and knowledge. Here at the Maritime Programme we are therefore keen to offer broad access to the requisite knowledge products and to facilitate exchange, based on our desire to work with others in developing management practices, policy and research for the maritime heritage.

Given their important role in policy, management and research, the focus of the programme will fall on the following stakeholder groups: local and provincial authorities, the commercial market, the public, amateur divers, amateur archaeologists, archaeology students and fellow maritime and underwater archaeologists in partner countries (Shared Cultural Heritage). 

Martijn Manders

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