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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

UNESCO and Durham's World Heritage Site

IMEMS is the academic hub for research on Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and we have championed and developed a research strategy to promote rigorous, academically-informed research to progress our understanding and appreciation of the Cathedral, Castle and their environs.

Working closely with Durham Cathedral, the Durham World Heritage Site Committee, English Heritage and other regional and local partners, IMEMS aims to stimulate and support new avenues of research on the World Heritage Site and bring this into the public domain. In 2015, IMEMS published the Durham World Heritage Site Research Framework to place academic research at the core of future management, conservation, interpretation and investigation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Each year we organise several events focused on the Site, including our annual Durham World Heritage Site Public Lecture; given in 2018 by Dr Dee Dyas on experience of sacred place in the history of Christian pilgrimage and what the future may hold in terms of helping diverse audiences engage with and enjoy sacred heritage sites.

We also provide seedcorn funding for IMEMS-sponsored research projects focused on the Site and its context, which have included using Durham as a model for examining public perceptions of, and engagements with, the urban World Heritage Site setting. We have also started curating a list of undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations and placement reports focused on the World Heritage Site.

In 2014 Durham and UNESCO established the UN’s first UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage to develop debates, policies and toolkits to evaluate the economic, ethical and social impacts of cultural heritage, strengthen its protection in crisis and conflict situations, and prevent its use to exacerbate differences and tensions.