The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Yale’s Global Cultural Heritage Initiatives and the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, have convened a major international conference, which took place on the 17th-21st October 2018, in collaboration with University of Pretoria, South Africa, with a unique focus on the benefits of both Wildlife and Heritage Conservation.

The conference served to highlight the value of these two parallel branches of conservation; demonstrating that through their adoption successful sustainable development on national and international level can be achieved.

We understand the profound and long-lasting impact of both environmental and cultural heritage loss on communities, and the contrasting positive role that nature conservation and heritage protection can have in rebuilding and recovering these areas following war or disaster. As such, the conference aimed to stimulate a cross-disciplinary approach; raising public awareness and working with organizations from a variety of backgrounds to take a holistic approach to the protection of heritage in its diverse forms.

The conference reflected on the experiences in conservation, both cultural and environmental, within a wider African context, and also engage the value of Wildlife and Heritage Conservation during recovery from conflict or crisis. Through shared discussion we hoped to isolate key successes and identify templates which other nations could utilize during their own recovery or development.

Through developing academic and professional partnerships, we hope to construct a network of individuals and organizations in Africa and beyond who are unified in their resolve to protect the world’s heritage. Through discussion and the sharing of expertise across a variety of disciplines we hope to combat the global threat to heritage using a multi-lateral approach which can be enacted through-out the societal stratigraphy, from community to governmental level.

The conference provided an opportunity to draw parallels between the two conservation practices in nature and culture which, though harmonious in ethos, rarely collaborate to share practices. Through studying mechanisms used within Wildlife Conservation, such as the IUCN’s Endangered Species Red Lists, in comparison with the ICOM red lists, Cultural Heritage Preservation professionals may ultimately be able to create their own priority lists for conserving the world’s shared heritage too. This ‘prioritising’ of heritage protection is intrinsically valuable in that it will provide a framework for identifying, categorizing and targeting conservation efforts in a more objective and international manner, following the success of models used in Wildlife Conservation.

Kigali Workshop: Nature and Culture Conservation (29th-31st August 2016)

Preceding the 2018 Pretoria conference, a planning workshop took place in Kigali, Rwanda in August 2016.  This mini-conference was co-organised by the V&A and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the National Museums of Rwanda and the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. The meeting served to highlight key areas of interest and research for the 2018 conference, raising aspects of debate, such as: ‘Who owns culture?’, ‘How do we organise collections for the future?’ and ‘Natural Solutions and sustainability in preserving heritage’.