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UNESCO World Heritage Interpretation Strategy of Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto

In the landscape of cultural heritage preservation, UNESCO Jakarta commissioned Southeast Asia Museum Services (SEAMS) with a significant project starting in 2021-2022.

This collaboration aimed to address crucial challenges and implement a comprehensive Interpretation Plan for the Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto (OCMHS), a site recommended by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2019.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee underscored the need for an overall interpretive strategy and plan for OCMHS to define interpretive themes and highlight the rich social histories of local people and workers from Europe, Indonesia, and Asia. A baseline assessment conducted in 2022 identified several issues within the OCMHS interpretation, including the absence of signage, overlapping themes, poor-quality materials, inadequate social history interpretation, insufficient visitor facilities, lack of staff training and equipment, and the absence of an overall digital heritage strategy, website, and professional social media.

The Interpretation Plan is designed to tackle these challenges through five key objectives:

1. Increase Public Awareness: Effectively convey the significance of Area A of OCMHS through five interpretation themes to raise public awareness and appreciation.
2. Incorporate Social Histories: Provide a comprehensive and inclusive understanding by incorporating the social histories of local people and workers from Indonesia, Asia, and Europe into the site's interpretation.
3. Enhance Visitor Experience: Improve visitor facilities, wayfinding, and access, while developing high-quality interpretation resources for a deeper understanding of the site's cultural heritage.
4. Create an Inclusive Interpretation: Accommodate various learning styles and ensure accessibility for diverse audiences, including national and international visitors, adults, children, and individuals with disabilities.
5. Engage with Local Communities: Represent local stories in the interpretation, fostering community involvement in the preservation and interpretation of their cultural heritage within Area A of OCMHS.

While the Interpretation Plan is specifically tailored to the Mining Site and Company Town (Area A) of the OCMHS World Heritage Site, its methodology and overall approach are scalable to Area B and Area C of the property. Envisaged within a five-year planning cycle (2023-2028), the Interpretation Plan will undergo periodic reviews and updates as required, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness in the ever-evolving landscape of heritage preservation and interpretation.

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