Machu Picchu and Cultural Heritage: An International Symposium at the University of Virginia on the Challenges of Cultural Heritage and Architectural Preservation in a Global World

April 22, 2008
April 21, 2008 — An "International Symposium on the Challenges of Cultural Heritage and Architectural Preservation in a Global World" will take place at the University of Virginia on April 25 and 26. The symposium will bring together students, scholars, World Bank personnel and high-level administrators from Peru to discuss intellectual, policy and management issues regarding Machu Picchu and to reflect on cultural heritage more generally in Peru and Latin America.

On the morning of April 25, University of Virginia architecture students who have recently visited Peru and Machu Picchu will make presentations as part of a studio course on architectural preservation led by Dean Abernathy, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and associate director of U.Va.'s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. This semester, Abernathy has been seeking ways to expose architecture students to issues of sustainability and design, focusing on Peru. Students will present architectural projects that they have formulated with a view to a World Bank and Peruvian government project that seeks to manage tourism in the area surrounding Machu Picchu.

That afternoon, there will be a panel discussion of the wider issues surrounding the tourism project. It will include representatives from the World Bank; Germán Dávalos, general manager of COPESCO (the Peru Unesco Commission in Cusco), who are working on a Peruvian government plan for tourist and regional development. Dávalos is also president of the official commission for the site of a museum to house repatriated artifacts taken from Machu Picchu and about which Yale University and Peru are currently discussing their respective interpretations of a memorandum of understanding regarding ownership of these artifacts. Mariana Mould de Pease, a Peruvian historian and a leading critic of governmental policies toward Machu Picchu and its surrounding region will also participate in the panel discussion. The morning event will take place in the School of Architecture, while the afternoon panel will be held in Cocke Hall.

On the morning of April 26, another panel will discuss Machu Picchu and its place in Peruvian cultural heritage. One topic to be addressed is the controversy surrounding Machu Picchu artifacts taken to Yale University in the 1910s by archeaologist Hiram Bingham. This dispute resulted in a September 2007 memorandum of understanding signed between Yale and the Peruvian government in which Yale recognizes the Peruvian ownership of the artifacts, but argues for their protection as universal cultural heritage. Although signed last fall, the Peruvian government is currently contesting it. Participants include Dávalos; Eliane Karp-Toledo, wife of former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, during whose term the issue of ownership of the Machu Picchu artifacts was discussed with Yale, and author of a recent op-ed in The New York Times that was critical of the agreement; Mould de Pease, who recently made public the discovery of several maps indicating public knowledge of the existence and location of Machu Picchu well before Bingham arrived there in 1911 and a relentless advocate of Peruvian control of the artifacts; and Jorge Secada, chairman of U.Va.'s philosophy department and proponent of academic and cultural policies in Peru, who has recently been engaged in the Peruvian media in the debate surrounding the Machu Picchu artifacts.

During Saturday afternoon's panel, experts will discuss issues of cultural heritage, cultural policies and economic and social development within a wider context. Participants will include Anita Cook, an archaeologist from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., who specializes in the region of Ayacucho in Peru; Elizabeth Arkush from U.Va.'s anthropology department and a specialist in the region of Puno in Peru; Brian Owensby and Herbert Braun, specialists in contemporary and colonial Latin American history from U.Va.'s history department; and a representative from the Office of the Architect of the University. Both Saturday sessions will take place in the Kaleidoscope Room in Newcomb Hall.

The symposium is sponsored by the School of Architecture, the U.Va. Latin American Initiative and the Corcoran Department of Philosophy of the College of Arts & Sciences.

The symposium is organized by the Latin America Initiative in the College of Arts & Sciences, a project supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Study, Ariel Gómez. Along with Gómez, the committee overseeing the initiative consists of Braun, Owensby and Randolph Pope, chairman of the Spanish department at U.Va.

For information, contact Brian Owensby at 434-924-6388 or