“Why Does the Past Matter?” Conference

Thursday May 7, 2011
“Why Does the Past Matter?” Conference
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

SAFE Board member Elizabeth Gilgan presented a paper titled “Raising Public Awareness: Saving Antiquities for Everyone: A Case Study” at the international conference, “Why Does the Past Matter?,” May 4–7, 2011.

Elizabeth explained SAFE’s approach to combating threats to the world’s cultural heritage, emphasizing the importance of public involvement in protecting vulnerable antiquities. Inspired by the environmental movement, SAFE works to raise awareness about the consequences of the illicit antiquities market and other threats: looting and widespread damage to irreplaceable resources, and a loss of knowledge and understanding that would otherwise benefit current and future generations. SAFE doesn’t stop at raising awareness—it also provides many ways for people to take action and make their voices heard.

In the presentation, Elizabeth described SAFE’s many methods of outreach. SAFE uses its website, blog, and Facebook pages, as well as YouTube and Flickr, as the main tools for raising awareness. SAFECONNECT, SAFE’s social network, provides an online community for organizations and individuals concerned about preserving cultural heritage worldwide. Educational initiatives such as student design competitions and an Ancient Cultures in Danger poster for classrooms help to reach the next generation. Many different events and campaigns provide ways for people to get involved and take action: museum tours focused on specific collections, candlelight vigils to commemorate the Iraq Museum and support all cultural heritage, book signings, parties, and campaigns to help combat major threats to individual sites or types of heritage all provide ways for people to take action. Collectively, these individual actions can lead to a change in the societal mindset, to one that does not accept needless destruction of the world’s cultural heritage.

—Marni Blake Walter