Volume 4. Issue 1. April 2005

International Day for Monuments & Sites

On 18 April 1982 on the occasion of a symposium organized in ICOMOS (International Council of Monuments), Tunsia, the holding of the International Day for Monuments and Sites to be celebrated throughout the world was suggested and approved by the Executive Committee who provided practical suggestions to the National Committees on how to organize this day.

The idea was subsequently approved by the UNESCO General Conference who passed a resolution at its 22nd session in November 1983 recommending Member States examine the possibility of declaring 18 April each year ‘International Monuments and Sites Day’.

Our built heritage , like culture, is inherited from our ancestors and it is a profound link with our past which defines our future. The identity of a nation therefore depends on its cultural heritage. In the circumstance historic sites and their surroundings should be regarded as forming an irreplaceable universal heritage.

Throughout Guyana there still exists, particularly in Georgetown, a distinctive and wide variety of well maintained timber structures, many of which date back to the 19th century. The Prime Minister’s Residence, Sharple’s House, State House, Austin House as well as the Great Houses of the sugar estates stand testimony to the grandeur of our distinctive wooden heritage.

In the emerging field of Cultural Tourism these sites are seen as a lucrative asset and large sums of revenue can be earned once they are well maintained and managed. In many of the Caribbean islands houses in particular are transformed into living social history museums, inns and guest houses. Tours offered conjure a spectacle of the past with an intricate blend of folklore that encapsulates the history of its occupants.

Guyana, is certainly well poised to capture this market but this can only be achieved if our historic structures are preserved. Today there exists an alarming situation where historic buildings or buildings in historic districts are being erased in the quest for modernism and development.

The National Trust of Guyana, in celebrating International Day of Monuments and Sites, invites all members of the community to undertake an active role in safeguarding and promoting the nation’s patrimony for the benefit of future generations.

Ms. Indira Anandjit, delivered a Guest lecture on the importance of the preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage at Jenman’s Education Centre, the Botanical Gardens on Wednesday, 29 September 2004. The following is an excerpt from her lecture..

A unique, yet growing market in tourism is that of Culture and Heritage Tourism. Guyana has one of the most rich and varied heritage in the region. Beginning with the arrival of the Amerindians and developed and consolidated with the arrival of the Europeans: Dutch, French, English and even the Spanish along with the Chinese, Indians, Africans and Maderians.

The legacy became increasingly polyglot as each group brought to Guyana their cultural traditions and made its imprint on the Guyanese cultural landscape. The variety of these contributions provided us with the plural tapestry of which we are so very proud.

Perhaps more than any other city in the English speaking Caribbean, Georgetown evolved with a distinctive architectural style that combined elegance with practicality. These historic wooden structures are mainly from the 19th century, a period characterized by a profusion of architectural styles in Britain and Europe.

There is a pressing need for these chapters of our history to be preserved before they are erased in the quest for development. These buildings represent an asset which if well maintained could provide higher economic returns through job opportunities and more importantly an excellent opportunity to transfer Guyana’s warm hospitality to the world via the tourism industry.

In an effort to enjoy a tourism experience it is necessary to leave something about the history and current affairs of a country to help one to understand the attitude and idiosyncrasies of its people and help to prevent misunderstandings and frustrations.

So at every opportunity we should encourage high quality tourism experiences, which bring satisfaction and enrichment to visitors and a greater appreciation for our natural and cultural heritage.

The National Trust of Guyana wishes to congratulate All Saints’ Presbyterian Church on its 185th anniversary.

Constructed of local hardwoods in 1820 this church is one of the oldest structures in New Amsterdam.

In cerebrating this achievement the Trust has donated $20,000 to the congregation of the church . In addition a commemorative brochure has been produced for the occasion and is available at the Trust.

Fort Zeelandia & The Court of Policy Hall

The Trust in 2004 constructed a brick walk way around the ruins of Fort Zeealandia enabling visitors to comfortably explore this national monument.

The Court Of policy was also enhanced as all the windows of this structure, the oldest non military building in Guyana were replaced. In addition, a new access bridge was constructed.

Three interpretive markers were also erected to sensitize visitors of the history of the island and its monuments.

Fort Kyk Over Al

This national monument was greatly enhanced with the construction of a walkway allowing visitors easy access to the ruins of the historic Dutch fort.

In addition, an interpretive marker was erected to sensitise visitors to the rich history of the monument. The base of the arch was also repaired after being vandalized by persons who removed bricks from the base and the stair of the brick arch. To consolidate this structure a brick parapet was constructed around the arch.

Preserving the Urban Fabric of Georgetown: the Planning & Development of the City

On Friday 1 October 2004, Mr. Rawle Edinboro, the Town Planner of the Central Housing & Planning Authority delivered the second guest lecture as part of the Trust’s activities for Heritage Week 2004. The following is an excerpt of his lecture at the National Trust.

“Certainly, Georgetown with its remarkable collection of historic properties stand to gain in its development as a city once effective urban heritage preservation is practiced. The properties include public open spaces, urban landscapes and streetscapes, engineering structures such as bridges and canals, buildings and trees.

Through architectural preservation, historic buildings in the city, as assets, can be used to bring cash benefits through tourism for example, in the process, the development of the tourism sector would be stimulated. Certain historic buildings can be put to economic use while still maintaining their historic character. This principle of adaptive re-use can help in the generation of much needed funds to restore historic buildings. Jobs for local skilled craftsmen can be generated with the implementation of building restoration programmes, thus contributing to economic well-being of people. The general aim should be to use heritage to fight poverty and better the social and economic state of the city. In seeking to seize opportunities to better the economy our city and people’s lives through heritage preservation, the many challenges of conservation must be tackled in appropriate

ways. Firstly, our society needs to recognize more than there is an urgent need in maintaining and preserving what remains of our rich urban heritage, particularly the wooden ensembles of our city. In this regard the work of the concerned agencies must be supported by a strong public awareness/education programme and a framework for energizing all the stakeholders and engendering workable solutions.

Well defined public sector preservation strategies are also of importance. For example, government facilities such as schools and public institutions should be encouraged to rehabilitate and upgrade historic properties. It is also important to address infrastructure needs while preserving the urban fabric. Thus, rehabilitation and on-going maintenance of historic streetscapes and canals as major elements of the historic character of Georgetown should be top priority for city government.

Public agencies involved in dealing with the management of the city must have the requisite institutional capacity to effectively and professionally deal with urban preservation issues. Since 1951, the then Georgetown Town Planning Scheme recognized that in order to establish architectural control within the area of Greater Georgetown there was need for a city Architect “who shall advise on all matters pertaining to the condition of buildings, public gardens, grass verges, planting and maintenance of trees on public ways, siting and character of posters, hoarding advertisement and other objects on public display, and other amenities”. Fifty-three years later our city is still without a City Architect! It is failures, such as this, to built institutional capacity that constitutes a serious threat to well-meaning preservation efforts.

It is also essential that our legal framework be fine-tuned to allow the agencies to deal more effectively with urban preservation issues. Community involvement in the conservation process is also of importance in the work of the public agencies.

In the case of the private sector, strategies aimed at promoting the preservation of the city’s urban fabric should deal with the following issues: –

§ Having clear design guidelines and regulations to guide development in the historic districts of Georgetown (management tools).

§ Providing incentives (perhaps tax-based) for rehabilitation.

§ Showing public recognition and appreciation of noteworthy restoration or maintenance works.

§ Strengthening partnerships between the private and public sector in the execution of preservation programmes.

§ Developing good effective hazard mitigation measures in the event of fire (also of relevance to strategies for public sector preservation).

In facing up to the challenges of dealing with the preservation of Georgetown’s urban fabric, we have to deal with certain key planning issues, such as:

1) The clarity of the urban environment the need to safeguard losing important views, open spaces etc.
2) Bringing order to our chaotic urban core the core of the historic district.
3) Utilising good planning and management tools to protect and enhance the quality of the built-environment.