2014: the 20th anniversary of the Nara Document on Authenticity

Background and Purpose of this Survey

The Nara Document on Authenticity, adopted in 1994, was originally intended to open the world's eyes to the way Japan conceived of its heritage. The Nara Document made the West realize that Japanese concepts for heritage conservation are not merely exclusively Japanese, but in fact have universal applicability. The document has been instrumental in beginning to reshape how heritage is perceived in the West and elsewhere. The Nara Document should be understood beyond being a mere tool for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, and be accepted as a major landmark document that has brought about a tectonic shift in the understanding of what heritage is, from varied cultural contexts. However, there is still no clear document explaining how the concepts contained in the Nara Document have altered our perception and how they may be applied to the rest of the world. From this viewpoint, it is of primary importance to reach a deeper understanding of the spirit and intent of the Nara Document.

As an attempt to do this, the Heritage Law team of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, has organized two expert meetings in close cooperation with Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs.

The first meeting was held at Himeji in 2012, as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, with the support of Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs as well as Himeji City. Five important issues from the Nara Document were identified and these were adopted as the Himeji Recommendation. (see http://whc.unesco.org/document/123338‎)

At the second meeting in August/September 2013 in Fukuoka City, sponsored by Kyushu University, these issues were further elaborated by the same experts. (see http://www.law.kyushu-u.ac.jp/programsinenglish/hsa2013conference/index-3.html)

We are currently preparing a document that would supplement the Nara Document and will be presented at the official celebration meeting to be organized in Nara City in October 2014 by the Japanese Government and Nara Prefecture.

The Heritage Law Team of Kyushu University believes that drafting an updated normative text will not be sufficient. International communities need concrete examples that clearly illustrate the concepts and ideas enshrined in the Nara Document, along with the new document to be prepared. Therefore, we are organizing a survey. With the support of Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs and Japan ICOMOS National Committee, the Heritage Law Team of Kyushu University and the experts who attended the previous meetings are calling for the submission of cases related to both the Nara Document and the new issues that have emerged during the last twenty years.

Information from the various cases obtained through this survey will be analyzed at the extended experts meeting, co-sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and Kyushu University, to be held on February 2014. The outcome of these case studies will be an important part of the official meeting in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Nara Document in Japan on October 2014. We plan to publish the new text, the outcome of case studies, and papers on specific issues related to authenticity, as a book in both English and Japanese at the very least, and hopefully in more languages.

Last but not least, the outcome of this final meeting, including the results of the case studies, will be presented at the ICOMOS 18th General Assembly in Florence in November 2014.

This survey is planned and will be conducted based on this background and future plan stated above. Your contributions are highly appreciated. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

To access the survey, click here.

Prof. Toshiyuki Kono
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Additional information