An abandoned synagogue in Egypt. A crumbling train terminal in Buffalo, New York. An Antiguan government house pummeled by earthquakes and hurricanes. These threatened cultural spots are among 25 sites that were named in the latest World Monuments Watch list, which identifies heritage sites in desperate need of conservation.
As Grace Halio reports for ARTnews, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) releases the watch lists every two years, and has thus far issued a call to action for 814 endangered sites. The organization has also dedicated more than $100 million to preservation efforts, reports Condé Nast Traveler.
This year’s selection of at-risk heritage locations, which are listed on the WMF website, face a range of pressing threats. Some, like the Souk of Aleppo in Syria, have been nearly devastated by warfare. Prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the centuries-old souk was a bustling market. But in 2012, the souk was consumed by a fire that broke out during a battle between Syrian forces and insurgents.
Natural disasters and climate change have jeopardized a number of sites on the watch list. The WMF’s inclusion of “Disaster Sites of the Caribbean, the Gulf, and Mexico,” for instance, calls attention to areas that were pounded by multiple hurricanes in August and September of this year. The entire Italian hill town of Amatrice, which was largely reduced to rubble by a 2016 earthquake, is named as a site of concern. The Blackpool Piers, a historic seaside destination on the English coast, is rendered vulnerable by rising sea levels.
In the United States, 12 Civil Rights sites in Alabama including churches, homes and a hotel, have fallen victim to urban development, which uprooted the communities that once surrounded them, and also are troubled by limited resources to maintain the heritage sites. ("[W]hereas several sites have been able to rely on the African American Civil Rights Grant Program of the U.S. National Park Service in 2016 and 2017, future funding for this vital grant program is now at risk of being lost," the WMF notes.)
The Jewish Quarter in Essaouira, Morocco, is suffering from neglect. Once home to a thriving Jewish community, the neighborhood began to decline when Jews left Morocco en masse after the founding of Israel. “Some structures remain abandoned, crumbling or demolished due to safety concerns,” the WMF explains, “while others have been converted into boutique shops and hotels, with little regard to the history of the area and the architecture.”
The WMF publishes its watch list every other year to bolster public awareness of at-risk heritage sites—and to highlight unique opportunities to protect and preserve them.