On Wednesday, renowned scholars and leaders from more than 30 universities from around the world gathered on West Campus as part of the United Nations Global Colloquium of University Presidents to discuss challenges and strategies related to the preservation of cultural heritage.
Those in attendance came not just from the sponsoring universities — Yale and five of its peers — but also from foreign institutions like the University of Ghana and Shandong University. They discussed, among other things, how to address natural or man-made disasters, how to respond to climate change and how to formulate conservation training and education. The conference on West Campus came after several campuswide events, many of which focused on the preservation of cultural heritage, including workshops, panel discussions and high-profile speakers, such as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UNESCO Director Irina Bokova. University President Peter Salovey said the various parts of Yale involved in researching cultural heritage allowed for an effective conference that fit his vision of a more unified Yale.
“We are uniquely qualified to host such a conference,” Salovey said. “The cross-collaboration that I am pushing even further as president between the arts, collections, humanities and sciences leads to innovative thinking on policy issues such as those involving the protection of cultural sites and artifacts in the face of war and terrorism, climate change and natural disasters, looting, natural aging and tourism.”
Stefan Simon, the director of Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, said the most important outcome of the conference was a unanimous commitment from university officials present to collaborate more deeply. Chief of Staff to the President Joy McGrath said she expects follow-up conversations to take place in the coming weeks and for initial projects and collaborations to take shape in the near future as well.
McGrath said that toward the end of the conference, following expert presentations, scholars and presidents in attendance broke into two respective groups to discuss the theme and ways to collaborate around it.
“One interesting idea about why collaboration is so necessary in this field is that because it is a new field, no one university can bring the discipline or technology or educational programming to bear on this complex problem,” McGrath said.
In explaining the importance of the preservation of cultural heritage, Simon said it provides certain groups of people with a source of identity, economic growth and reconciliation.
Deputy Chief Communications Officer Michael Morand said in keeping with Salovey’s vision for a more engaged campus, the University prioritized holding more than just “high-level closed door meetings” over the past few days. He added that the University viewed the UNGC as an opportunity to involve the Yale community through various public events, such as the Ban talk.
Jon Atherton, communications officer for West Campus, said five satellite workshops facilitated by the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, held earlier in the week, provided the stimulus for discussion among university leaders at Wednesday’s conference.
“The process is to engage the wider community and then take those themes into the room for discussion on Wednesday,” Atherton said.
Executive Director of the Office of International Affairs Donald Filer said more than 200 faculty, students and staff helped the University prepare for the UNGC and activities leading up to it.
The IPCH currently comprises six laboratories.