Those who don't really know NW Scotland might not have picked up on the "significance" of the title of this news item about St Kilda which was posted on the site today - "New milestone for St Kilda Centre in Uig". http://www.stornowaygazette.co.uk/news/local-headlines/new-milestone-for-st-kilda-cen tre-in-uig-1-3703797
Well of course Uig is on the island of Skye and not St Kilda! The article refers to the fact that "project is the official UNESCO case study on "remote access" to World Heritage Sites in general."
. And here is an article on a 2011 conference about using St Kilda to study the possibilities of "Remote Access" from the UNESCO site itself - http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/820.
Here is the Agenda - http://www.kilda.org.uk/RAWHSC%20Nov11%20Programme%20Final.pdf
And here is a paper containing the conclusions of the conference - http://www.unesco.org.uk/uploads/Brief%204%20Using%20remote%20access%20technologiesSe pt%202012.pdf
(A very disappointing paper in my view which seems more concerned with establishing UK credentials in these technologies than in considering the pros and cons!)
Forum members might find it interesting to consider a world in which more and more sites are accessible by "Remote Access". We have been lucky enough to visit St Kilda but we could each come up with a list of WHS we are probably never going to visit (Wrangel, Okapi etc!). To what extent could "seeing" ("experiencing"??) WHS via the most sophisticated media technology one could conceive of provide a worthwhile experience? Could it even "replace" a genuine visit? We all know of visits to sites which were not that successful - bad weather, many areas closed off, poor explanation, short of time, too many people etc etc. Why bother - look at it in 4D (Sound or smell?) via your virtual reality glasses and - voila - another site "ticked off" in glorious weather with a world famous actor as your "audio guide" reading with real meaning a brief prepared by the greatest experts on the site and giving you access to every important location - even with aerial views etc etc. And all to you alone as the only person "there"!! What more could anyone want?
The supposed benefits of the technology seem to include improved protection of fragile sites. And there lies a worrying possibility - that such technologies might be used as a means to close off sites from visitors - or at least to severely restrict numbers and/or open locations.
Another suggestion is that the technologies could be used to "enhance" the experience. That itself is "worrying"! I can't remember which WHS in China it was but a Visitor Centre there is being constructed with state of the art video etc and it seemed to be envisaged that visitors would spend most of their time in that centre before being taken on a "train" or similar to pass through/by the real site itself!!!
A fundamental question about remote access of course is the existential one about what is the personal benefit of actually having been to a WHS. Is one a "better", more "knowledgable" or "complete" person for having done so? The old saying about it being better to travel hopefully than to arrive has a lot of truth in it. Perhaps we do need both - the real visit with its "journey" and its potential disappointments as well as its successes - and also the chance to really see these sites under the very best conditions and with the very best explanations.