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Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites is proud to bring history to life by telling the stories of the extraordinary Bethlehem Moravian community, while preserving some of America’s most treasured landmarks and objects that support and illustrate our heritage.
You may have heard that on February 1, 2023, the U.S. Government officially submitted a nomination for Bethlehem’s Historic Moravian Church settlement to be designated as a World Heritage Site.
This multi-national nomination by the U.S. Department of Interior is the first of its kind for the United States. This transnational, serial nomination includes Bethlehem with Herrnhut, Germany, and Gracehill, Northern Ireland/UK.
These three sites would join Christiansfeld, Denmark, a Moravian Church settlement that was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2015.
Historic Moravian Bethlehem would join only a handful of cultural World Heritage sites in the U.S.
So, what is World Heritage and what does this mean for the Lehigh Valley and the City of Bethlehem?
Here are the Top 10 things you need to know:
Other world heritage sites in the U.S. include the Grand Canyon National Park, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, and Yosemite National Park.
These sites are located in 21 U.S. states and include two locations in Puerto Rico.
There are also two transboundary sites shared with Canada. Mesa Verde National Park (Montezuma County, Colorado) and Yellowstone National Park were among the first sites to be named to the List in 1978.
Pennsylvania is one of only nine states in the U.S. to have more than one World Heritage Site: Independence Hall, Philadelphia, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house.
Independence Hall was included in 1979 as the meeting place of the Second Continental Congress and its influence on the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and governments around the world.
Fallingwater, is about 67 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. It was chosen for Wright’s massive impact on modern architecture around the world.
The Statue of Liberty is arguably the most well-known World Heritage Site in the U.S. It was added in 1984 for its distinct art, engineering, and representation of the alliance between France and the U.S.
The structure also symbolizes migration to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Guggenheim Museum is also a part of “The 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.”
The list is maintained by the World Heritage Centre, staffed by UNESCO in Paris. The World Heritage Committee (the Committee), which makes decisions about adding sites to the World Heritage List, is made up of 21 countries, elected on a rotating basis from among the current 194 countries that have signed and ratified The World Heritage Convention. These countries are referred to as State Parties.
The largest benefit to World Heritage status is inclusion among international communities who appreciate and highly regard places of outstanding universal value.
This helps raise awareness for heritage preservation.
Inclusion also gives access to the World Heritage Fund which supports site care and emergency damage repair assistance. It also aids conservation efforts for endangered World Heritage Sites — such as Florida’s Everglades National Park.
The third major benefit is increased exposure and awareness of the World Heritage Site — which has led to tourism growth and economic stimulus.
The notion of combining cultural and natural sites was introduced by the U.S. for the World Heritage Trust in 1965.
Similar documents were presented at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment in 1972 before a plan was accepted by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1972.
The U.S. currently has 12 sites listed for their natural significance. Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was included for its cultural and natural value.
Selection criteria include cultural requirements such as “representing a masterpiece of human creative genius,” “an outstanding example of traditional human settlement,” or “human interaction with the environment.”
Sites may also be considered for natural reasons related to their significance in biological diversity or models of the evolutionary process.
To be listed as having both cultural and natural significance, the site must meet at least one of these requirements in both categories.
Being added to the exclusive list would bring Historic Moravian Bethlehem worldwide recognition. It would also attract tourism and boost the economy.
Historic Moravian Bethlehem is being considered because it meets two selection criteria. The first is its “exceptional testimony” to the Moravian Church’s principles, and the community’s way of life, architecture, and craftsmanship. Historic Moravian Bethlehem also is an example of innovative town planning, influential architectural style, and enhanced community life.
The U.S. Government has officially submitted a transnational serial nomination for Bethlehem’s Historic Moravian Church settlement to be designated as a World Heritage Site in conjunction with Herrnhut, Germany and Gracehill, Northern Ireland/UK and will now undergo a formal review process by the Advisory Bodies.
This will take approximately 18 months.
Once approved, the nomination will be sent to the international World Heritage Committee — which meets once a year — to decide if the Moravian Church Settlements of Historic Moravian Bethlehem, Herrnhut and Gracehill will be added to the List.
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