“Heritage map tool to create awareness about our history”

POSTED: 03/29/11 2:58 AM

Archeologist Jerzy Gawronski presents first copy to government

St. Maarten – St. Maarten has since yesterday a unique tool at its disposal that makes all information about the island’s heritage, its prehistoric archeological sites and its historical archeological sites available to decision makers, developers and educators at the touch of a button. Yesterday morning, Amsterdam’s resident archeologist prof. dr. Jerzy Gawronski handed over the first copy of the Sint-Maarten Heritage Map to the Acting Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, Claudette Forsythe-Labega.

The map is not only available in hard copy, but also as an interactive and multi-layered digital database. This database contains 88 archeological sites, 10 intangible heritage sites, and 464 elements extrapolated from the historical 1910 Werbata map. According to prof. Gawronski this is the best map ever produced for historical and archeological purposes.

The 464 elements are subdivided in 353 historical line-elements like roads, stone walls and foot paths, 92 clusters of buildings like mansions, slave houses, ruins, fortresses, public services and religious buildings, and 19 beach bays.

During a brief presentation at the Claude Wathey Legislative Hall, resident archeologist Jay Haviser thanked Gawronski and his team members Bas van Sprew and Sander IJzerman for their work. The project is a joint effort of the Ministry of Vromi, the St. Maarten Archeological Research center Simarc, the National Archeological and Anthropological Memory Management Foundation from Curacao and the office of Monuments and Archeology of the city of Amsterdam.

Forsythe-Labega received the map on behalf of Minister Rhoda Arrindell who had engagements elsewhere.

The Heritage Map and the value maps that indicate the historical and archeological value of certain sites is a tool St. Maarten will use form the development of its archeology policy and for the integration of archeology and spatial planning.
The data that are now available to decision makers at the department of Vromi as well as to real estate developers will ensure continuity for construction projects while at the same time enabling the island to maintain high standards for cultural heritage preservation.

St. Maarten needs to update its archeological policy because the Malta treaty has gone into effect and because the Netherlands updated its Monument Law – the basis for St. Maarten’s legal heritage system.

The Malta treaty holds that conservation and protection of archeological values are essential elements of local and national policy that have to be embedded in all processed of spatial planning. An important principle added to the treaty is that the destroyer pays. In other words, the costs for necessary archeological work prior to the start of a construction project have to be brought up by the developer.

The Heritage Map will however protect developers against unexpected surprises, because it provides complete information about sensitive sites and therefore also about possible objections against proposed developments. In this sense, the heritage Map works as a cost-cutting tool for developers.

In an explanatory note with the maps, Gawronski and his team write that the soil of St. Maarten contains a rich archeological archive. “This cultural heritage is part of the island’s and its people’s collective public memory and therefore needs to be safeguarded and treated with care. At the same time, for the island’s economic development spatial planning and construction processes need to be facilitated.”

To achieve both goals, Gawronski says, a uniform and practical policy is essential. “Basically, the archeological policy contributes to a sustainable and high quality development of St. Maarten.”

The Heritage Map swill be used by the government, in particular by the departments for spatial development, building permits, heritage and archeology, but it also serves educational purposes and will be integrated in Simarc’s school program.

The current map contains seven categories of data: archeological sites and places of memory documented by Simarc; five categories taken from the 1910 Werbata map: historic locations of mansions and military, religious, administrative or other historic buildings; historic foot paths and wells; ruins; historic graveyards and graves; beach bays and landing places.

“This is a tool to create awareness among the population about our history and about our historical sites,” Forsythe-Labega said after receiving the map. “Minister Arrindell is very excited about this.”

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