Final update on the UNESCO Foundation Course in Tobago


After three fantastic weeks, the UNESCO Foundation Course on Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in Tobago has come to an end. After diving on the wreck of the Dutch Admiralty ship Huis te Kruiningen, students were tasked to come up with a significance assessment and a management plan of the wreck site, to give a public presentation during the final ceremony and to give a poster presentation of the site in a larger context of the past, present and future. It was amazing to see how determined the students were to finish their task in time and with good quality!

The final day started with a role play session, discussing the possible development of Scarborough harbour to be able to house more cruise ships. Divided into groups with different roles - local citizens, Trinidad House of Assembly (THA), constructors, environmental and heritage foundations – an intense discussion arose. The students delved deep into the subject by discussing economic growth, environmental impact and the sustainability of the present community with their own habits and culture. This role play session was set up to give the students a role they will normally not have, but which is the role of stakeholders they do often talk with. We believe that this creates a better understanding of different positions.

Group of people sits in a circle underneath a roof
Image: ©RCE
Group of students during the role play session on the possible cruise ship terminal in Scarborough Harbour, Tobago
Two persons stand in front of a wall with posters on them
Image: ©RCE
Students created posters on the Huis te Kruiningen-site in past, present and future context

Looking forward

The posters of the course and the work the students undertook, will be visible in the library of Scarborough. The management plans will be handed over to THA. Now, trainers and students are on their way home, with more knowledge, with new colleagues and friends and hopefully with a bond that will help them carrying out the work that is waiting for each of them in their own country. The protection of the underwater cultural heritage is important and can only be a joint responsibility. We can now say to the countries involved: Aruba, Curacao, Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, Suriname, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago: capacity is available. Make use of these archaeologists and cultural heritage managers as much as you can. They can make a difference!

TTT - Trinidad and Tobago Television - has aired an interview with two students of the course. You can watch the interview on Youtube.

A big thanks to Chris Underwood, my fellow trainer in the course for all his efforts, wisdom and friendship! Thanks to UNESCO for being able to organise this all under their flag and for assisting the students to come to Tobago. And thanks to THA and the people of Tobago, for making this an unforgettable experience.

The need for capacity building

The training was financed and coordinated through the International Heritage Cooperation programme and the International Maritime Programme of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), a full body of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. We see lack of capacity  in underwater cultural heritage management as a serious threat in the preservation of this valuable resource. As this training again shows, this can be easily overcome. By joining several countries together in this training, not only capacity is built, but also a platform to cooperate in the region. In the end, it is also (former) maritime nations with shipwrecks in many places in the world – like the Netherlands -  that profit from well trained, informed and experienced partners from coastal states. This is why we invest!

MAn standing in front of a presentation screen
Image: ©RCE
Chike Pilgrim, student from the host country Trinidad and Tobago, presents part of the narrative to the public