Building peace in the minds of men and women

Waterscapes and Historic Canals as a Cultural Heritage



Registration is now open. This international conference - scheduled to take place in Venice, Italy, from 14-15 May 2015 - is organized by the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Civiltà dell’Acqua International Centre, in cooperation with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti.

The control and management of water flows are among the most significant human activities aimed to transform the natural environment. Canals and rivers are linear paths of high cultural value where it is possible to identify specific and unique cultural landscapes. The relationships between human settlements and European historic waterways are widely documented not only from archival sources (including historic maps and charts) related to water courses and catchment areas, but also by an equally rich cultural and artistic heritage; a heritage that celebrates the cultural use of water, charging it with symbolic values that enhance the practicalities of controlling and managing the flow.

The 2015 International Conference: Waterscapes and Historic Canals as Cultural Heritage is an integral part of the set of activities UNESCO is developing for EXPO 2015, in particular to contribute to the “Venice to Expo 2015” initiative promoted and coordinated by the Venice Expo Comittee.

A first workshop “Memory, Identity, and Slow Tourism along the European Waterways” held in Venice and Battaglia Terme (Padua, Italy) in October 2012 was organized by UNESCO Venice Office, Civiltà dell’Acqua International Centre, and the River Navigation Museum of Battaglia Terme, in order to discuss a preliminary series of issues concerning the European Historic Canals and their related heritage as an opportunity to promote a “responsible” tourism.

This second conference will in particular highlight the crucial importance of waterscapes and historic canals as visible infrastructural networks constituting a significant part of European history. Even today, many European historic waterways maintain structures of great importance in the field of industrial archaeology, such as bridges, lock systems, hydraulic factories, warehouses and river ports. In addition, it is important to consider the high aesthetic value of river and aquatic landscapes, or waterscapes.

Another issue promoted will be the enhancement of historic waterways and their related territories as resources for developing a sustainable tourism, responding to the growing demand for cultural and environmental protection as well as for high quality recreational experiences.

This event will gather many perspectives on waterscapes and foster new strategic planning not only in specific riparian contexts, but also in the whole stratification of rural and urban landscapes crossed by historical hydrography. It will develop a research line related to European Waterways as a cultural heritage.

Finally, it will focus on more detailed aspects concerning waterscapes interpretation, cultural tourism along historic canals as well as fluvial waterfronts’ management.

* * * * *

UNESCO is taking part in Expo 2015 as part of a joint team of United Nations (UN) specialised agencies and programmes coordinated by FAO. With a record estimated 20 million physical and one billion virtual visitors, Expo 2015 represents a unique opportunity for the UN to showcase its achievements in areas relating to the general theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ and to present the Post-2015 Development Agenda.