My Heritage 1. Dec 19

Cultural mapping as a tool for heritage protection


After having designated the property zone of Chiang Mai for World Heritage nomination, the next step taken is to produce cultural maps and identify places of historical and artistic values with the help of residents living in the property zone.

Cultural mapping is an important procedure for evaluation of cultural values in different areas leading to designing the process of conservation of heritage both with and without physical existence. Cultural mapS cannot be drawn from academics or experts who nonchalantly walk around an area and decide what to be included in the maps. But a cultural maps are created from cooperation of community members who have been long-time residents of the area. To draw a reliable cultural map, they share and compare their memories and personal experiences about their communities including events, incidents, stories and changes.

Ajirapa Pradit, member of the Working Group for Chiang Mai World Heritage Initiative Project (CHWHIP) and cultural mapper for the old city property zone, said that map making could start by asking, “What do we have in our community?” and “What is the value of what we have and in what way and why?” Once the information of the present days and the past has been collected, then we can include it in our cultural maps.

However, cultural mapping does not require advanced technology. By listening to and allowing residents of a community to use a pencil or a pen to mark the location and vicinity of their community on the map, a sense of pride and dignify is sparked in them.

Cultural mapping is classified into two types; one being a cultural map of tangible heritage namely, old buildings, marketplaces, public parks and communities, and a map of intangible heritage which pinpoints the areas of traditional wisdoms, local beliefs and unique traditions.

In making cultural maps, the process has called for participation of the people in the communities and thus allowed opportunities for them to recognize the values of their homes and neighborhood. Cultural maps are empirical documents that can be used in studies related to the change and development of Chiang Mai. The maps will provide significant knowledge that help with future development projects. Cultural maps are the archive of information that contributes to the effort in making Chiang Mai a World Heritage site.

We will take you along as the Working Group go on a field work for cultural mapping and share with you interesting finds that many people have overlooked.