Gibraltar is aiming to protect its rich heritage with a consultation paper that sets out a potential vision for future policies and initiatives. Launched to coincide with World Heritage Day, and published for both public and stakeholder input, the paper is entitled “Safeguarding Our Past, Enriching our Future”.
It has been prepared by the Heritage and Antiquities Council, which is chaired by heritage minister John Cortes, who said in his foreword, “Gibraltar has a rich and unique heritage. It is of international significance, as recognition by UNESCO of our World Heritage Site shows. Gibraltar’s heritage is vital in defining our identity. It is a reference point in times of change; it helps us understand where we have come from, where we are going, and why we do things in the way that we do. Heritage touches all our lives.
“Our world is dynamic and changing all the time. Where we live is the result of the interaction between us and the natural environment through time; it is the product of change. We should not stifle change. It is how we manage it which is crucial.”
Cortes said the aim of the document is to “refresh the approach to looking after our cultural and natural heritage, for the benefit and wellbeing of all. It sets out a philosophy for integrated heritage conservation management as mainstream policy, a policy based on understanding and public participation.”
Noting that people are at the heart of this vision, he invited all stakeholders and all those interested in Gibraltar’s heritage to send in their comments and suggestions.
“The whole approach to heritage has developed and improved during our time in government, and it is now time to reflect this in our vision for heritage for the future, which will benefit the community, attract visitors, and promote us further internationally.”
According to the government, there have been several landmark events in recent years focused on heritage preservation. “The first was the declaration of the Gorham’s Cave Complex as a World Heritage Site, a huge occasion for Gibraltar and its international reputation. Another was the passing of the landmark Heritage and Antiquities Act, which vastly improved the way in which this heritage is protected. The Act listed more monuments and buildings than ever in its schedule, established strict licensing requirements, and set up the Heritage and Antiquities Council (HAAC).”
In addition, many heritage gems that had long been totally neglected have been restored and now form part of the heritage options available for tourists and residents alike.
These include the Nun’s Well, which has been cleaned and restored, with the surrounding areas landscaped; the Almond Tower by the Moorish Castle, the Lime Kiln on the Upper Rock; the nearby City Under Siege Exhibition, which has been revamped and relaunched; Harding’s Battery area, with an outdoor interpretation centre; and the Central Hall, which has been restored and “given back the dignity that it had as a church, complete with stained glass windows”. In addition, said the government, serious work continues at the Northern Defences and in the Mount.
“Promotion of our heritage has now taken off in the way of the 21st century with an online presence. The Gorham’s Cave Complex, for example, has 15,000 followers on Facebook. The Gibraltar National Museum now has a virtual tour online. The ministry of heritage recently launched the Gibraltar Heritage website, which is full to the brim with information and is now a point of reference to researchers. This online presence is in this day and age much more significant than physical visitors, in particular as some heritage sites, such as Gorham’s itself, are sensitive to footfall.”