Context in Delhi

Context Special Adviser Chris Johnston travelled to New Delhi, India in December for the ICOMOS 19th General Assembly & Scientific Symposium – a fantastic opportunity to catch up with fellow heritage professionals and enthusiasts, and reflect on the various aspects of our cultural heritage, its conservation and management.

Chris co-chaired stimulating discussion in a special colloquium for ICICH – the International Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage –with Clara Arokiasamy (UK) on the Assessment of Intangible Cultural Heritage in World Heritage: a critical appraisal of the use of criterion vi. Presentations raised many interesting and challenging issues for ICICH as it seeks to advance recognition and respect for intangible cultural heritage within the place-based work of ICOMOS.

Keynote speaker Dinu Bumbaru spoke of the three dimensions of cultural heritage – place, territory, geography as the first dimension, people, community, society as the second, and time, memory and history as the third, emphasising that heritage is the carrier of memory. He revealed that only 12 places on the World Heritage List are inscribed solely under criterion (vi): ‘to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance’. Most might be described as places of memory, and often dark moments in human history. In his conclusion, Dinu advocated that a challenge for ICICH – and us all – was to reveal the ‘intangible cultural heritage’ within the other selection criteria.


As co-convenor of Australia ICOMOS’ National Scientific Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Chris also presented at the ICICH annual meeting on the newly launched Australian ICOMOS Practice Note on Intangible Cultural Heritage and Place, for which she was one of the co-authors.

Kathakali performance in Kerala.