Historic Ships As World Heritage Sites

Historic Ships As World Heritage Sites

A World Ship Trust 2007 Resolution

A mong some 800 buildings and natural features listed in the United Nations Educational,

Scien tific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) program of World Heritage Sites,

not one historic ship is to be found.

Ships, however, were the pre-eminent instruments that brought the scattered branches of mankind into contact with one another and opened our world to global cultural interchange and awareness.

In this process, ships came to embody, in their design as well as in their history,

the seafaring ethos that challenged the interface of sea and sky and created a naval architectural heritage that rose to heights of surpassing grace and utility.

The first criterion used for recognizing cultural sites is that the site must “represent a masterpiece of human creative geni us,”

Historic Ships As World Heritage Sites which surely applies to great ocean-going ships.

The second, “to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time,” sounds as if it were written specifically for ships.

Anyone who knows ships well understands the vital nature of the seafaring ethos, which meets the third criterion,

of bearing “testimony to a cultural tradition .. . which is living or has disappeared.”

Pondering these guidelines, Dr. Ray Ashley, director of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, thought of entering the museum’s ship Star of India as a World Heritage Site.

Star of India (laun ched as Euterpe in 1863) is an immigrant barque whose sailing helped change the human map of the Modern Age.

Clearly, she met the first three World Heritage Site criteria and also the next three, which cover illustrating a significant stage in history,

providing an outstanding example of land-use or sea-use, and being tangibly associated with events or traditions of outstanding significance. Then, Ashley had an epiphany.

The message of the historic ship reaches far beyond the diffusion of population,

Historic Ships As World Heritage Sites important as that has been in human history;

it reaches out into the diffusion of beliefs and ideas and the formulation of new ideas inspired by man’s voyaging.

As his mentor, the National Maritime Historical Society’s founder Karl Kortum, once put it, a ship sends out “emanations of lore,

humanity, history, adventure, geography, art, literature and so on.”

And so on, indeed, to the farthest reaches of human ingenuity and imagination. So, thought Ashley, let’s turn to the World Ship Trust,

the international body that recognizes historic ships of outstanding significance, and create a new class of historic sites,

one composed of vessels which have received special recognition by the Trust.

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