The Inaugural UCH Regional Conference in Manila, 2011

The Asian Academy for Heritage Management held the Inaugural Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage in Manila, the Philippines from November 8 – 12, 2011. A wide range of people involved with underwater cultural heritage attended including those from universities, government agencies, museums, NGOs, IGOs, the private sector and the community. Keynote speakers included: Dr Pilar Luna Erreguerena, founder of the Underwater Archaeological Division in Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History; Dr Emad Khalil, director of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage at Alexandria University, Egypt; and Dr. Tim Curtis, head of the Culture Unit in UNESCO Bangkok office, responsible for the coordination and implementation of UNESCO’s Culture Program in South East Asia.

General Background 

There is a specific UNESCO definition of the Asia and the Pacific region which does not reflect geography but refers to the execution of regional activities of UNESCO. It includes the following forty-eight countries:

Afganistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan, Khazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

Interested organisations and individuals from these countries are particularly encouraged to participate in this Conference. The Conference Organisers also recognise that individuals and organisations in UNESCO regions outside the Asia and the Pacific region may also be interested in the conference and encourage participation from all of the countries around the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

This conference will provide an opportunity to exchange and disseminate information about underwater cultural heritage and underwater archaeology in Asia, the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.


To access the UNESCO webpage on Underwater Cultural Heritage in Oceania including a downloadable booklet – click here

For a paper on the legal principles for protecting the underwater cultural heritage click here

For a commentary on the Ethical Issues associated with Underwater Cultural Heritage including a downloadable Underwater Archaeology Ethics Press Kit – click here.

For information about the Australian Historic Shipwrecks Program including the Historic Shipwrecks database see here.

Shipwreck Asia is an online database of shipwrecks and ship remains classified by the geographical regions where they have been found – click here.

For a number of interesting and useful links see the SAFE (Save Antiquities For Everyone) webpage  on Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The Belitung shipwreck exhibition controversy

New York Times article click here

Washington Post article click here

The Chronicle of Philanthropy article here

Science Insider article here

BBC interview here

Archaeological Institute of America calls for Smithsonian to cancel exhibition here

Smithsonian postpones controversial exhibition here

Science Magazine interview with Smithsonian Secretary Dr Wayne Clough reveals that in fact the Belitung exhibit was cancelled, and not merely postponed as the SI press releases first indicated see here.

A strong letter in favor of the preservation ethic by Elizabeth Bartman (the president of the Archaeological Institute of America) in Archaeology click here.