Threatened by global challenges ranging from climate change to recovery from crisis, the World Monuments Fund has released its bi-annual watch list of important heritage sites in need of preservation. 

From a wall of the Hurst Castle in the United Kingdom that crumbled under a winter storm, to the destruction of Beirut's historic buildings in Lebanon due to a massive explosion, the 2022 World Monuments Fund highlighted 25 historic locations to watch.

The World Monuments Fund is an independent organization dedicated to preserving diverse cultural heritage sites. It's list, launched in 1996 is published every two years to raise awareness of sites in need of preservation. The WMF says since the inception of the list, it has contributed more than $110 million toward projects at more than 300 Watch sites worldwide. 

This year's list was comprised after receiving 225 nominations which were reviewed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and an independent panel of international heritage experts.

 Those spotlighted in the 2022 list come from 24 countries and fall under four distinct categories of global challenges: Climate Change, Underrepresentation, Imbalance Tourism, and Crisis Recovery.

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Grassy mountains on Sumba Island in Indonesia is on this year's list © Krisnamurtian/Getty Images

Locations threatened by Climate Change

The World Monuments Fund said as global warming continues to intensify worldwide, “innovative methods, as well as reinforcement of traditional knowledge, are necessary to mitigate its impact on heritage places and help communities adapt.”

The list spans climate change concerns worldwide. It ranges from the Hurst Castle in the United Kingdom, whose wall crumbled during a winter storm in February 2021, to the coral stone architecture of the Koagannu Mosques and Cemetery in the Maldives threatened by rising sea levels, to highlighting the need to preserve two ancient water distribution systems in Nepal and Peru that are still in use today. 

Sites at risk due to underrepresentation

The WMF also chose to highlight sites where “inequities in heritage result in oversight and neglect of many significant places.” By spotlighting places like Texas’ Garcia Pasture in the United States, the traditional territory of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe whose ancestral lands are under threat from natural resource extraction, to the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home in Australia which remembers Aboriginal boys who were forcibly taken from their families, the WMF hopes to amplify “narratives that tell a more textured, just and complete story of humanity.”

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Africatown in Mobile, Alabama © Vickii Howek/ World Monuments Fund

Imbalanced Tourism sites at risk

Along with over-tourism which can disrupt local communities, the WMF looked at sites endangered by a lack of visitation as well to highlight “sustainable tourism strategies are needed to recalibrate the impact of tourism and ensure just outcome for local communities.”

The ancient city of Teotihuacan outside Mexico City faces challenges from the sheer amount of visitors to the site while the historic Alabama community of Africatown, which was founded by formerly enslaved West Africans after the emancipation proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, seeks to support "community-led preservation and storytelling." 

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A French-mandate building in the upper part of the Fouad Boutros corridor, after the explosion in Beirut in 2020 ©Yasmine Dagher/World Monuments Fund

Locations at risk due to Crisis Recovery

As the world watches the invasion and subsequent humanitarian crisis unfold in Ukraine, the WMF voiced its concern for violence inflicted on the people of Ukraine as well as what it could mean for its cultural sites. The WMF is familiar with how war can impact cultural landmark preservation as this year's list also highlighted sites that have been impacted by armed conflict, natural disasters and other types of destruction. 

The 2022 list includes spotlighting the historic buildings of Beirut, damaged by a large explosion in August 2020, as well as the architecture of the historic center city of Benghazi, which was damaged in the uprising in 2011.

Complete list of 2022 World Monuments Fund Watch sites

  1. The Hurst Castle, United Kingdom
  2. Mosque City of Bagerhat in Bangladesh
  3. Hitis (Water Fountains) of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal
  4. Koagannu Mosques and Cemetery in Maldives
  5. Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape in Peru
  6. La Maison du Peuple, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso
  7. Cultural Landscape of the Bunong People in Cambodia
  8. Garcia Pasture in Texas, United States
  9. Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home in Australia
  10. Abydos in Egypt
  11. Africatown in Alabama, United States
  12. Lamanai in Belize
  13. Teotihuacan outside Mexico City, Mexico
  14. Lamanai in Belize
  15. Monte Alegre State Park in Brazil
  16. Fortified Manors of Yongtai in Fujian, China
  17. Asante Traditional Buildings in Kumasi, Ghana
  18. Sumba Island, Indonesia
  19. Tiretta Bazaar in Kolkata, India
  20. Heritage Buildings of Beirut, Lebanon
  21. Benghazi Historical City Center in Libya
  22. Tomb of Jahangir in Lahore, Pakistan
  23. Alcântara and Rocha do Conde de Óbidos Marine Stations (Almada Negreiros Murals) Lisbon, Portugal
  24. Fabric Synogogue and Jewish Heritage of Timisoara, Romania
  25. Nuri in Sudan
  26. Soqotra Archipelago in Yeman

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