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San Antonio's Office of Historic Preservation Is Mapping the Culture of World Heritage


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When the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the San Antonio Missions as World Heritage Sites, city officials understood the prestige wouldn't exist in perpetuity if they just sat on the honor.

There's still more work to do. From carefully monitoring development to bolstering the community's history and culture, officials with the Office of Historic Preservation are working to identify "places of importance identified by the community through oral histories, mementos and memories."

OHP Director Shanon Miller says her office is creating a cultural map of District 3, but doing so isn't possible without the community.

“We can’t do this without the residents. The idea is to capture the intangible heritage and make it tangible,” Miller says in a press release. “We want to engage residents and create a record of locations important to them that can be then applied to heritage management.” 

Residents who want to contribute can attend a Cultural Mapping and Story Collection day at Mission Library (3124 Roosevelt Ave.) every Sunday for the rest of January from 2 to 4 p.m. The first event was held last Saturday.

Since December, the OHP has already mapped spiritual and culinary traditions, along with what it calls intangible heritage customs. 

UNESCO endorses cultural mapping for community engagement and considers it a tool "for transforming intangible culture into a medium that can be applied to heritage management by creating a map of places where traditions important to the community take place."

That can be a fishing hole or a ceremonial site or even the kitchen of an important community member, according to the OHP.

“Creating a cultural map is a positive community communication tool that will become a resource when making decisions regarding cultural preservation,” Claudia Guerra, OHP Cultural Historian, says in a press release.

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