Cultural Mapping Update and History

AusHeritage has had a strong interest in cultural mapping since 2002. The text: A contemporary guide to cultural mapping – An ASEAN-Australia perspective will be available in 2010 and will herald AusHeritage’s first major publishing endeavour in association with the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information.

History of the project

Support for an ASEAN dialogue with AusHeritage on cultural mapping was endorsed in Ha Noi in April 2002 at the 37th meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (ASEAN-COCI). A key initiative coming out of Ha Noi was that representatives of COCI and AusHeritage should meet to explore how best to facilitate further discussions on cultural mapping. The meeting subsequently took place in Adelaide in October that year.

Jerry Reyes then with the ASEAN Secretariat and Haji Sumadi Sukaimi from Brunei Darussalam represented the Committee on Culture and Information. Australian participants at the meeting included Ian Cook as the Australian project coordinator, Vinod Daniel (Chair, AusHeritage), Keith Fernandez (AusHeritage Treasurer), Kevin Sumption (AusHeritage Member, Powerhouse Museum) and Heather Brown (AusHeritage Member, State Library of South Australia).

The Adelaide session looked at the conceptual underpinnings for developing a cultural mapping model for the region and saw the staging of a collaborative workshop between AusHeritage and COCI workshop as a way forward. A draft program for such a meeting was produced with a focus on information exchange, the sharing of experiences and the staging of a cultural mapping field excursion. The aim of the field excursion was to provide a practical understanding of cultural mapping methods and challenges.

The cultural mapping workshop proposal was approved at the 38th meeting of ASEAN-COCI, Bandar Seri Begawan in March 2003 where the aim of the event was confirmed as developing the capacity of ASEAN organisations to map their cultural assets both locally and regionally.

Exchanging and sharing ideas and experiences between ASEAN delegates and AusHeritage members was seen as an important goal for the program as well as creating opportunities to examine cultural mapping models and processes.

Formal acceptance of the program took place at a heads of delegation meeting at the Chapel Café, North Terrace precinct on Monday evening 8 December 2003 and the workshop program was formally ratified at the commencement of proceedings the following day, together with the appointment of Haji Sumadi Sukaimi and Ian Cook as co-chairs.

The week-long program included both symposium and workshop sessions. The symposium provided an opportunity to assess current thinking and trends in cultural mapping. Twenty five delegates from ASEAN-COCI including representatives from all ten ASEAN countries worked with fifty or so AusHeritage members and industry associates at the Art Gallery of South Australia and elsewhere. The workshop consolidated ideas and issues raised during the symposium and lay the groundwork for defining the scope of a model or models for cultural mapping in the region.

Recommendations developed during the final session of the Adelaide 2003 symposium and workshop

The Adelaide cultural mapping event saw a vibrant exchange of information, experiences and ideas and proved to be a useful starting point for defining a regional approach to cultural mapping.

The following recommendations were ratified during the closing session of the meeting:

1)The delegates further discuss the issue of cultural mapping and related issues with their respective national authorities and relevant agencies.

2)ASEAN and AusHeritage develop a Guideline on cultural mapping which could include a common definition, processes and contents and potential areas for application in ASEAN Member Countries.

3)ASEAN review existing regional cultural mapping projects using the information discussed in this workshop and/or develop pilot projects that can facilitate in developing an ASEAN model for cultural mapping.

4)The conference/workshop papers and any ongoing activity in the cultural mapping arena be added to the ASEAN HNA website.

5)When substantial progress is made in ASEAN member countries in cultural mapping activities in the above context, ASEAN and AusHeritage convene a forum to review such progress and develop further activities, including a possible ASEAN Model for cultural mapping.

6)A National Coordination Committee be set up in each member country to raise awareness and generate interest in cultural mapping.

7)Member Countries encourage community involvement in cultural mapping activities.

After the Adelaide Symposium and Workshop

The concept of developing a regional guide on cultural mapping emerged out of the Adelaide meeting and was enthusiastically supported by the AusHeritage Board. The need for project funds from Australia, as part of cost-sharing arrangements with COCI, was a major challenge following the Adelaide meeting. In the second half of 2004, Keith Fernandez, at the time Assistant Director, Artlab Australia and AusHeritage Treasurer submitted a proposal for a supporting grant from the then Images of Australia Branch at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The application was successful and from early 2005 there was seed funding to assist with research and development for creating the guide. Ian Cook continued to promote the project and after several planning discussions with AusHeritage Board members, Ken Taylor joined Ian Cook as co-author to draft the guide on cultural mapping.

In 2006, building on the success of Keith Fernandez’s proposal, the authors supported by the Research School of Humanities at the Australian National University (ANU) won a competitive funding grant from the International Centre of Excellence in Asia-Pacific Studies (ICEAPS) based at the ANU. These funds opened the way to consolidate planning and development discussions through face-to-face meetings with ASEAN colleagues. ICEAPS funding allowed the authors to visit all ten ASEAN countries during 2006 and 2007 to discuss the structure and content of a regional guide on cultural mapping.

Meetings took place in Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Ha Noi, Jakarta (including a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat), Manila, Phnom Penh, Singapore, Vientiane and Yangon and focused on:

- project planning and timing;
- current cultural mapping and associated activity in member ASEAN countries;
- the content and structure of the guide;
- case studies and examples of cultural mapping work;
- identifying ongoing ASEAN contacts for the project;
- the need for a workshop to fine-tune the draft of the guide; and
- the launch program and associated briefing and training workshops following publication.

Broadening the scope of the project

After a period of research and information gathering essential to such a project, the authors began drafting the Guide in the second half of 2008. One of the challenges in writing the draft has been keeping pace with the evolving body of knowledge associated with cultural mapping and achieving sufficient distance from the flurry of activity to identify important trends.

Cultural mapping has undergone massive changes over the last decade or so. In some areas of practice such as local or user-generated content we are in the throws of a global revolution in mapping and communications. Material to support a cultural mapping theory is emerging from various places across the globe. The authors are working through what some grounding principles and related material might look like to support a comprehensive exploration of current thinking on cultural mapping.

Topics such as collections mapping are interesting new developments and are likely to greatly expand in both content and scope during the next few years. On the other hand the consolidation and evolution of the literature related to community participatory mapping and spatial information systems has made enormous strides since the mid-nineties. Additionally, the rapidly emerging role of Web 2.0 and the systems it supports and which will evolve out of it, will no doubt have immense and far reaching impacts on the scope and mechanics of the discipline.

Considering these developments and the important cultural mapping work occurring across the globe, the authors have recognised that a comprehensive guide on cultural mapping for the ASEAN region or more broadly the Asia-Pacific will need to draw on best practice globally. Such an approach will not only ensure coherency but will also lead to a text that is likely to appeal to a wider audience than originally conceived.

The potential audience for this guide will be both global and local. While continuing to be of interest to colleagues in ASEAN and Australia it will also be useful for others working in various parts of the world.


A summary of contents is covered in the following:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Culture, identity and distinctiveness
Chapter 3: What is cultural mapping?
Chapter 4: Cultural mapping and society
Chapter 5: Charters, protocols and declarations. Where does cultural mapping fit?
Chapter 6: Cultural mapping, communities, ethics and the law
Chapter 7: Cultural mapping case studies
Chapter 8: Cultural mapping methods and tools
Chapter 9: Tools for community participation and engagement
Chapter 10: Financing and resourcing

For further information on the project contact:
Ian Cook at: OR Ken Taylor at: .

AusHeritage is a network of Australian cultural heritage management organisations, established by the Australian Government in 1996. The network aims to facilitate the engagement of practitioners and organisations for the Australian heritage industry in the overseas arena.

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