March 1, 2020

Ocean Sciences 2020 – Ocean Decade Heritage Network

Posted by Laura Guertin

One of the sessions that I found really informative at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego was a Town Hall on Tuesday, February 18, titled “The human dimension: integrating cultural heritage into the Decade of Ocean Science.” I had attended a session about the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting [blog post] and read an article in EOS, but I was not as familiar with the cultural heritage focus for the decade.

The Ocean Decade Heritage Network (ODHN) was established in June 2019 “to raise awareness in the cultural heritage community about the Decade and coordinate related activities towards this opportunity.” In the initial Roadmap published for how to move foward with the Ocean Decade, “heritage” was not even a part of the 51-page document. But it didn’t take me long during this short Town Hall session to agree that interdisciplinary maritime/marine archaeological activities are absolutely key components of the Decade.

What is the connection to cultural heritage? This slide from the Town Hall captures some of the overall points:


The session then continued with fascinating snapshots of examples of cultural heritage, from shipwreck studies under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (see example) to triibal cultural landscapes (see example) to the Maritime Heritage Resources in Hawaii (see link). I look forward to spending more time digging through the National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage website to learn about additional projects.

Maritime cultural heritage, the physical remains of past human interactions with the sea, are an inseparable part of the marine and coastal environments. Investigating these interactions at the broadest level can inform the present, allowing us to understand future patterns where we face marine pollution, sea-level rise and other hazards, and contribute data to ecosystems management. — from the OSM20 Town Hall description

The are six societal objectives of the UN Ocean Decade, and the session leaders clearly broke down how cultural ocean heritage connects to each one:


I’ll end this post with two calls to action: [1] read further about the cultural heritage connection to the Decade with this open access article in The Journal of Maritime Archaeology by Trakadas et al. (2019) and through the ODHN website; and [2] be sure to share this connection with others, especially with students in our classrooms and outreach programs. It is critical that the human connection (past, present, and future) not be lost or in the background during the Decade.