ICOMOS 2008 International Symposium Workshop

Finding the spirit of the place in World Heritage sites: Aboriginal Approaches in perspective.

1 October 2008 – Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

For thousands of years, indigenous groups on five continents have frequented recognized places to carry out rituals or undertake communication with the powers, entities, or spirits who reside at or pass through these places.  Many of these places are integral parts of cultural landscapes with tangible or intangible evidence that are a tacit witness to past actions by their ancestors, or are a manifestation of the supernatural powers embedded there.  For visitors to these landscapes, they emanate a particular atmosphere or ambiance that can in part reveal the substance, the intrinsic nature, which allows one to speak of the “Spirit of Place.” 

Today, many of these sites of international importance have been commemorated as World Heritage sites, and it is the responsibility of the authorities in charge of their management to bring forward elements that speak to this rich ancestral or spiritual dimension, to present the spirit of place.  This approach, however, is not always easy and obliges those responsible to assess the different values that are in play, whether they be social, religious, political, scientific, historic or otherwise, so as to bring out the spirit of place without diminishing it, to match the expectations and interests of the indigenous groups who are connected by history, tradition or covenant, and to permit access to the general public according to codes (protocols) which yet remain to be better defined. 

A dialogue between the groups concerned is needed to find ways to achieve this many-faceted goal.  With this in mind, the organizers of this workshop invite members of indigenous groups from around the world to join with First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada to participate in reflection and discussion on this theme as it relates to World Heritage sites, along with members of ICOMOS and Parks Canada.

As part of the scientific congress concurrent with the ICOMOS 2008 Congress, which will take place in Quebec City in late September and early October 2008, this workshop aims to provide a platform for representatives of the diverse indigenous peoples of the world who will come to present the idea of the spirit of place at World Heritage sites from the point of view of their cultures and traditions. The hope is that at the session’s conclusion, there will be substantial documentation available to produce a publication that can present new philosophies and approaches to improve the integration of aboriginal spirit of place in the management and interpretation of World Heritage sites.

Workshop Organizers

General Symposium Information

Daniel Arsenault


T  +514.987.3000  ext. 1401


Fergus Maclaren

PWGSC Government Consulting Services

T  +613.992.6196


Jim Molnar

Parks Canada

T  +819.994.6437


Québec ICOMOS 2008
580, Grande Allée est
Bureau 140
Québec (Québec)
G1R 2K2


T +418.522.8182

    1.800.618.8182 (North America only)

F  +418.529.7548

    1. 800.889.1126 (North America only)


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