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World Bank and Getty Trust Partner to Sustain Cultural Heritage

Press Release No:98/1525
Contact, World Bank:  David Theis (202) 473-1955 
Contact, J. Paul Getty Trust:  Sylvia Sukop (310) 440-6474 

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. \ WASHINGTON, D.C., November 4, 1997 The World Bank and the J. Paul Getty Trust today agreed to an operational partnership to sustain cultural heritage in developing countries-to improve access to, conservation of, and education about cultural heritage.

The agreement was co-signed today at the Getty Center in Los Angeles by James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and Harold M. Williams, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It reflects a growing focus by the Bank in the cultural field and increasing efforts with a number of institutions to integrate cultural heritage as a force in promoting sustainable development; for the Getty, it continues a longstanding commitment to forging broad alliances on a global scale-in conservation, education, scholarship, information technology, and museology.

"In every country I have visited," said World Bank President Wolfensohn, "I have seen the importance of a sense of history and a link to the past. For real development to occur, it should be grounded in the culture of the people-drawing strength from their history. I am proud that the Bank and the Getty can help people preserve and pass on their heritage."

"We have always worked in close collaboration with other organizations around the world," said Getty Trust President Williams. "Now, by combining the experience and resources of our two organizations, the Getty-World Bank partnership will generate needed attention and support for some of the most important cultural heritage sites that are at risk."

The Bank and the Getty Trust will strengthen their activities related to cultural heritage by working together to:

  • Identify specific operations and projects where the Bank and the Getty can collaborate to protect and sustain cultural heritage-the Getty, for example, providing expertise to Bank-assisted projects;
  • Jointly undertake pilot projects in cultural heritage and develop a research and evaluation agenda to assess the performance of these projects;
  • Develop the Bank's knowledge of current international standards of conservation and documentation practices and identify potential applications of Getty expertise;
  • Mobilize financial and institutional resources for these objectives.

In addition to these actions, the World Bank and Getty Trust will engage in staff exchanges to increase awareness of the methods, resources, and operational practices of the partner organization.

The relationship between the World Bank and the Getty Trust is not entirely new. Prior to 1997, the organizations had already engaged in two cultural heritage projects, one in Djenne, Mali, and another in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Getty Conservation Institute assisted in the design of the preservation strategy and project implementation for a new $55.5 million urban development project in Mali. Approved by the Bank's board in December, 1996, the project includes a $12.1 million component to preserve cultural sites in the towns of Djenne and Timbuktu. It provides infrastructure, technical assistance, and training to 10 local governments, and preservation of historic sites covering a five-year investment program.

Other initiatives now underway, such as the Buenos Aires Exhibition and Project Partnership, and an ambitious, five-country Mundo Maya project, led to today's agreement on a formal partnership between the Bank and the Getty with a commitment to cultural heritage and sustainable development and a clear vision of the vital role both play for present and future generations.

The Role of Cultural Heritage

Culture heritage consists of those aspects of the past that people preserve, cultivate, study, and pass on to the next generation. Those achievements are embodied in material or "built" forms-sites, buildings, land-use, monuments, art, and objects-and in non-material forms like social practices and language.

Cultural heritage is that which has been valued in the past and is expected to be valued in the future. Since valuations and expectations change over time, what counts as cultural heritage changes. Aspects of cultural heritage that seem of little value to a community now may become of great value later. An awareness of cultural heritage and its possibilities is enlightening not only for the descendants of its creators, but also for the descendants of their cultures and nations. The study of cultural heritage leads to greater appreciation for the specificity of various cultures, their internal continuities, and their connections to one another. Among communities, a sense of one another's cultural heritage can lead to mutual understanding. Such enlightenment and understanding depends, however, on preservation making possible a presentation and interpretation of the past that can be shared.

Cultural heritage can provide people with opportunities to orient themselves in relation to the past and in relation to one another. It can be a source of great conflict and of powerful social cohesion. As such, it is a potent force that should not be ignored in any attempt to promote sustainable development.

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