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World Heritage Volunteers

World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) is an initiative established by UNESCO in 2008, offering young adults from around the world the opportunity to actively contribute to the preservation of our shared cultural and natural heritage. Through volunteer camps in various locations globally, we make a real difference and promote international cooperation and cultural exchanges.

One of the participants in the 2024 volunteer camp talks about the World Heritage Site Speicherstadt in Hamburg. Photo: Emma Backelin.

Within WHV, we work to protect and promote unique cultural and natural heritage sites of outstanding significance to humanity. Through practical projects and conservation efforts, our volunteers help ensure that these irreplaceable sites can continue to inspire and be accessible for future generations. The World Heritage Volunteers initiative represents a unique opportunity for young people to engage with World Heritage and foster global connections and collaborative efforts.

The volunteers’ commitment is the heart of WHV. Their passion and hard work make a significant difference in the preservation of World Heritage sites, and by working as a team, each volunteer’s contribution becomes crucial. Participants also gain a deeper understanding of how conservation work operates in practice. They experience new cultures and working methods, providing valuable knowledge and skills for future projects.

Edging and cleaning of cracks on the rock carving Tanum 120:1. Photo: Hans Lundenmark.

During the volunteer camps, participants live and work together with other young adults from around the world. By collaborating on projects and sharing accommodations, strong bonds are formed, and an appreciation for different perspectives and cultures is cultivated. The volunteers’ efforts during the camp directly contribute to the preservation and communication of the values of the World Heritage site, with ongoing discussions on why this work is important.

Examples of tasks:

  • Removing soil and vegetation from rock carving sites to prevent erosion and increase visibility.
  • Cleaning accessibility installations such as stairs and platforms at visitor sites.
  • Cleaning informational signs in preparation for the tourist season.
  • Maintenance and renovation work at Vitlycke Museum’s reconstructed Bronze Age settlement.
  • Preparing and participating in Vitlycke Museum’s events.
A wattle and baud wall in the making on one of the houses in the Bronze Age farm at the Vitlycke Museum. Photo: Ann-Charlotte Rugfelt Ferm.

2023 was the first year a World Heritage Volunteer camp was held at the Tanum rock carvings World Heritage site. This was also the first time a Swedish World Heritage site hosted a World Heritage Volunteer camp. Our hope is to continuously conduct this type of World heritage activity and to develop cooperation with other Nordic World heritage sites. An exchange has begun with the Suomenlinna World Heritage site in Finland, where coordinators for each World Heritage camp co-plan and evaluate to assist each other in the work with WHV. Hopefully more Nordic World Heritage sites will engage in WHV, as more sites would facilitate the exchange of planning strategies and strengthen collaborative efforts to actively preserve and promote World Heritage.

More information about the World Heritage Volunteer initiative is available on UNESCO’s website.

For more information about the volunteer camp in Tanum, contact Emma Backelin, emma.backelin@vgregion.se.

The carvings on the relocated blocks at the Vitlycke Museum are being filled in with paint. Photo: Emma Backelin.