The SXNCH online symposium took place on 7 & 8 December 2020, with participation from around the world and contributions on a wide variety of mixed heritage sites. SXNCH stands for Sites at the Intersection of Natural and Cultural Heritage. The symposium was part of a project funded by the German Foreign Office to develop conservation training strategies, together with stakeholders in Petra, Jordan. This is a collaborative project between the Fraunhofer Institutes for Building Physics (IBP) and International Management and Knowledge Economy (IMW), and the University of Oxford’s, Oxford Resilient Buildings and Landscape Laboratory (OxRBL). Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the initial knowledge exchange phase of this project, which would have seen the European project partners travel to Jordan to meet their counterparts, was moved online. The resulting online symposium was seen as an opportunity to broaden the discussion and include experts and sites from around the world.
The first day of the symposium included three keynote presentations on very different subjects, which nevertheless shared the common theme of highlighting challenges, and potential opportunities, at the intersection of natural and cultural heritage. Suleiman Farajat, Chief Commissioner for the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, shared experiences from Petra, an archetype for heritage sites at the intersection of nature and culture. Eugene Jo, from the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), introduced the World Heritage Leadership Programme, an exciting initiative for building capacity in expertise on integrated heritage management. Johanna Leissner, Scientific Representative of the Fraunhofer Institutes, presented the Climate for Culture project, which begins to address the huge challenges in adapting heritage management policies to climate change. The keynote session ended with a panel discussion, moderated by Prof. Heather Viles from OxRBL. The discussion identified commonalities in the presented subjects, including a need to consider heritage places rather than heritage sites and think about multiple, intricately interlinked scales.
Following the panel discussion, participants were split into 7 virtual breakout rooms, which further explored topics relating to the general theme. These ranged from a room titled Jordanian Heritage Networking, in which the international, collaborative network for ongoing work at sites such as Petra was extended and strengthened, to rooms that investigated how specific concepts and approaches, such as cultural landscape, digital technologies, and local participation, could address challenges related to the theme. Breakout rooms on rock-hewn heritage and geo-heritage focussed more specifically on other case study mixed heritage sites around the world, whilst a room title Future of Heritage focussed on the dual challenges of education and climate change. Each breakout room included a series of impulse presentations followed by a general discussion, which directly informed activity on the second day.
On the second day, a group of volunteers from Wikimedia, led by Richard Nevell, guided participants through the creation and editing of relevant Wikipedia pages. Besides improving digital literacy skills, this enabled participants to record, disseminate, and develop the discussions of the previous day. An example can be found here. It provided a pathway to tangible output for this, and future, online symposiums and created a platform for building upon networking opportunities beyond the scope of the two-day event.