COVID-19 does not deter the heritage site managers of Indonesia to celebrate the World Heritage Day. Under home confinement, the site manager of five World Cultural Heritage Sites– Borobudur, Prambanan, Sangiran, Bali Province, and Ombilin Coal Mine of Sawahlunto – took turn to deliver online public lectures between 18 and 22 April 2020 on the Outstanding Universal Value of their respective sites and the challenges in managing it.
Considering limited internet connection in small towns, the initiative was delivered through WhatsApp. Shortly after the classes had been announced on social media, the registration of participant reached its full quota just in a few hours.
Each session had 200 participants in average from 27 provinces of Indonesia as well as Indonesians living abroad with various profile including students, lecturers and teachers, heritage experts and activists, media, entrepreneurs, tour guides and many more.
The World Heritage site managers delivered lecture using text, video and pictures, and responded to the questions from enthusiastic participants through group chat function. The initiative was enriched with YouTube link provided by the site managers prior to the WhatsApp class. The exchange was so dynamic that each session, which was initially planned for 2 hours, went on for 5 hours!
“The session offered us a luxury of virtual journey to the world heritage sites especially during this time of social distancing and confinement. It was a privilege to receive the abundance of knowledge about the site directly from the site managers and engage in dynamic conversation with other fellow participants. We are definitively more eager to protect our World Heritage Sites!” said NiLuh Sekar Astuti, S.Pd. , teacher of Cendekia Harapan Junior High School in Badung Bali. Niluh joined the class along with five of her colleagues from the school.
"You made it so simple. We feel on the top of the world. Our students, teachers and parents are now enriched with new knowledge." Dr. Lidia Sandra, M.Comp. Eng. Sc., Head of Griya Anak Foundation, Board of Cendekia Harapan School, Bali
“This was one of the great ways to celebrate the World Heritage Day. The information from the site managers was so comprehensive and clear that I feel very much educated” Yoesep Budianto, Researcher, Kompas/Media
“The experience was really cool. I was surprised to witness such an enthusiasm from the participants. Even when we are communicating only through text messages, I could feel the vibe. This has given us motivation to continue our public outreach on the sites. Congratulation to the organizing team!” Iwan Setiawan, Site Manager from Sangiran Early Man Site
“When I first heard about this UNESCO’s initiative, I was wondering what this would be like. A WhatsApp Class? It turns out to be a unique experience, and we are now considering adopting this as one of our future activities. Since Ombilin was just inscribed last year as a World Heritage Site, we have much to learn about the method of public outreach” Rahmat Gino Sea Games, Site Manager from Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto
The use of WhatsApp as a platform for workshop has been experimented by UNESCO Jakarta since mid-March as soon as physical distancing was announced in Indonesia. UNESCO with the support of CITI Foundation under the project “Creative Youth at Indonesian Heritage Sites” has been successfully delivering so far a series of 11 business tutorials to young cultural entrepreneurs living around the famous heritage destinations using the same method. This World Heritage Day WhatsApp classes are the extension of this UNESCO –CITI project, and was made possible with thanks to the support of CITI Foundation, World Heritage Site Management offices and the NGOs –Yayasan LKIS and CV Bawah Sadar.