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Wikipedia as Cultural Heritage?

By Caroline Camp, Esq.

Today, Wikipedia began a campaign for recognition and protection as UNESCO’s first digital World Cultural Heritage Site.

UNESCO does recognize digital heritage, but is Wikipedia a suitable candidate? The criteria for recognition as cultural heritage can be found at this link. The site must be found to be a “masterpiece of human creative genius.”

As reported in the New York Times, UNESCO rules also stipulate that Wikipedia must find a country to sponsor its nomination to either the World Heritage or Intangible Cultural Heritage List. The idea originated in Germany, and so the founder of Wikipedia is hoping Germany will step forward as a sponsor. However, neither the USA nor Germany are signatories to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Even if Wikipedia qualifies, Jared Keller at the Atlantic questions whether or not this would be a good use of resources. “UNESCO would be better suited to focus its resources on heritage sites facing more immediate challenges.”

Wikipedia may be an amazing technological and cultural phenomenon, but is this website even comparable to sites such as Chartres Cathedral, the Great Wall of China, and the Pyramids? Well, “Anyone can apply,” Susan Williams, head of external media relations at UNESCO, told the New York Times.