by Tom McClintock
30 April 2021
The Rock Art Network four ‘pillars’ make for strong rock art conservation in practice. This section sets out these four important areas of practice, citing a vision for what each aims to achieve, a summary of the key issues for each, a set of principles to guide practice at a more specific level and an outline of what needs to be done to improve policy and practice.
Private heritage consultant, Australia
This pillar of rock art conservation covers the need to raise awareness about the significance of rock art, the range and severity of threats to it and the need for effective responses to these threats. Public and political awareness of rock art is vital for successful planning and budgeting for conservation and management.
The vision is to have:
A range of issues and concerns affects the awareness of rock art and its protection needs:
The following principles should be used to guide public and political awareness programs:
Build respect by encouraging understanding
Rock art is not always respected and efforts need to be made to build respect through developing understanding in a way that is targeted and relevant to the groups that need to be reached. Understanding is in turn encouraged by providing high quality information about the cultural significance of rock art. Information about the legal protection for rock art will also assist to build recognition that sites are valuable, hopefully encouraging more respectful behavior.
Build awareness in people that matter
Awareness programs should strive to open new ways to educate and engage the general public, but especially the younger generation and politicians. Links between groups interested in rock art and those that have responsibilities to protect it should be encouraged and supported.
The significance of rock art relates to the content depicted and the cultural context in which the art was made. It also relates to the natural environment in which the art is found. Raising awareness should emphasise the need to safeguard both rock art sites and their setting.
The views of cultural custodians (whether traditional owners, traditional groups or local communities) should be included in rock art awareness strategies that may affect their rock art.
Public and political awareness activities should seek support from potential partners, collaborators and enablers, including encouraging both private sector and government financial support.
Ensure representation with integrity
Awareness programs should portray rock art sites not only as open air museums but also recognize their contemporary cultural values. All partners and collaborators disseminating information about rock art to the public should be aware of agreed standards for ethical practices, intellectual copyright and protocols for best practice in rock art presentation and marketing.
Targeted education and advocacy programs
1. Raise levels of stakeholder and public understanding by developing education and advocacy campaigns through appropriate media which are carefully designed to reach the target groups. Considerations for developing these programs include:
Communicate and collaborate
2. Develop communication strategies to improve outcomes and if necessary, develop a coordinated media and marketing campaign that includes radio, TV, print media, traditional and social media, and an interactive website.
3. Develop partnerships with and involvement of different sectors of society to allow powerful links between traditional owners, descendants of the artists, neighboring communities, researchers, managers, government departments, tourism bodies, non-government organizations and potential funders and combine and pool resources for wider public awareness of the value and vulnerability of rock art.
4. Collaborate specifically with local communities and direct a fair proportion of any income generated from awareness-raising, funding and promotion activities to communities to use in conservation and management activities. In conjunction with the community, develop protocols for ethical practices, intellectual copyright and protocols relating to presentation and marketing.
Develop innovative awareness-raising activities
5. Increase awareness of the existence of rock art and its importance by engaging suitable audiences in particular activities. Options include: