Heritage Watch— 2009 Conservation and Heritage Management Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is pleased to present its 2009 Conservation and Heritage Management Award for excellence in the conservation of archaeological sites and collections to Heritage Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding Cambodia’s cultural heritage.

Founded in 2003 by Dr. Dougald O’Reilly, Heritage Watch has addressed the major issues that affect archaeological sites in Cambodia as well as worldwide: looting, the trade in illicit antiquities, tourism overload, and rapid development outpacing national policies to protect sites. Their international efforts to protect antiquities include presenting testimony for the Cultural Property Advisory Committee in support of Cambodia’s request for renewal of its bilateral agreement with the United States and garnering thousands of signatures in an online petition to convince the governments of Thailand and Singapore to sign the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

The protection by Heritage Watch of archaeological resources in the ground includes the documentation of sites, identifying at-risk areas, and rescue archaeology at Wat Jas, an Iron Age cemetery. They also track what happens to artifacts once they leave the ground, by monitoring the trade of Cambodian antiquities through auction house sales and on the internet. These efforts are strengthened with heritage training programs (including those for the police), and through published articles aimed directly at collectors and other non-archaeologists on the importance of protecting archaeological objects.

Heritage Watch strategies are aimed at both the supply and the demand end of the antiquities trade. Their innovative use of media includes radio and TV ads, in addition to educational comic books (intended not just for younger audiences but for adults with literacy challenges as well). Their excellent outreach programs include messages in airport kiosks about responsible archaeological tourism as well as at sites throughout the country. An informative website, with everything from recent projects and how visitors can help, to listing ‘Heritage Friendly’ businesses, is user-friendly and compelling.

The outstanding achievements of Heritage Watch offer a compelling example of how to ignite public interest, motivate disparate groups to find solutions and make good use of all available media in order to protect fragile and highly threatened archaeological resources. It serves as both inspiration and practical template; developed with a specific culture in mind but applicable on a global scale.

On behalf of the Archaeological Institute of America, it is an honor to present the 2009 Conservation and Heritage Management Award to Heritage Watch.

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