Friday, January 13, 2017

The UNESCO Center in Florence

UNESCO is a familiar acronym to most travelers, since its touristic heritage sites are visited by people all over the globe. As a specialized branch of the United Nations, its Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has existed since 1945, charged with the mission to promote access to and appreciation of the world’s important places of interest. Its headquarters are in Paris, but it has offices in many of the world’s major cities, including Florence.
Considering UNESCO’s aim to promote international collaboration in the realm of culture, education and science, it should come as no surprise there is a major presence of the organization in the city of Florence. In 1982, the historical center of the city was added to its World Heritage List: not a solitary grand building or a park within the perimeter of the town, but the city’s entire historical center! This gives you some idea about the value of considering a long term Florence residence, since there is so much to appreciate in the city.

More recently, in 2005, the UNESCO Office of the Municipality of Florence was established. It is dedicated to preserving works of historical significance within its medieval walls. The UNESCO office in Florence has initiated and promoted several projects, in collaboration with private and public institutions, to turn the spotlight on the city’s artistic and architectural treasures for tourists, residents and people across the world who hope to visit someday.

Late last year, a conference brought together officials from other UNESCO heritage cities to discuss the challenges to conservation that are unique to Florence, and to share best management practices. Workshops allowed for networking among specialists in the protection of culturally important works. You might assume that you will always be able to visit the Accademia or the Duomo when you have your own piece of Florence real estate,  but no one should take it for granted that the sites will always be protected without the work of UNESCO.

An example of the Florence UNESCO center’s activities is the commemoration during the December 2015 conference about the looting of precious artworks from Florentine collections, including the Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery, and their repatriation in 1815. Napoleon wanted Florence’s Medici Venus statue for his own museum, and in 1802 it was stolen from the Uffizi collection. The academics responsible for their recovery 200 years ago were remembered during the event, acknowledging the ongoing threat to preserving a city’s unique treasures.

The motto of UNESCO is “Building peace in the minds of people”. When countries work together to educate one another about their artistic and scientific contributions to humanity, a natural appreciation of our common concerns follows. The latest headlines confirm that there is wide disparity in the rights and freedoms of global citizens. Thanks to the work of UNESCO in Florence, the Italian sites on the World Heritage List, including those in the fair city of Florence, will continue to play a part in UNESCO’s important mission.

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