By Christine Roulston
Persaud visits Craigdarroch Castle.
Knowledge gained at the University of Victoria may go a long way toward helping preserve the cultural heritage of the small South American country of Guyana.
This week, Nirvana Persaud, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) fellow from Guyana, will complete UVic’s Continuing Studies Cultural Resource Management Program. When she returns to her job at the National Trust of Guyana (an agency within the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport) later this month, Persaud will be one of the few people trained in preserving the country’s cultural heritage.
“What I have learned in the program will definitely boost our operations at the ministry,” says Persaud. “We have a very small staff, and I would like to come up with ways to share my knowledge.”
One way Persaud plans to do this is through a research paper she prepared at UVic as part of her UNESCO fellowship. In it, she has devised a plan to manage Guyana’s heritage and cultural property. She hopes it will provide the framework for decision-makers as they move forward in developing a comprehensive cultural heritage plan.
During her six months at UVic, Persaud had a chance to visit several of Victoria’s heritage sites. “I would like to incorporate certain aspects of how Victoria has preserved its heritage into the plan,” she says. “Incentives for developers and homeowners to encourage them to keep heritage buildings intact, and outreach and fundraising to raise heritage awareness are all good ideas. You don’t know what will work until you try it.”
However, preserving Guyana’s cultural heritage does present some unique challenges. “The capital, Georgetown, is basically a wooden city,” she explains. “That’s part of the fantastic thing about it. But fire and termites are challenges for wood buildings. We need to have fire prevention, but so far the funding has been missing.”
Persaud hopes in the near future to play a part in Georgetown’s World Heritage status bid. “At the moment, we’re still lacking some of the resources,” she says. “But me being here is a step in the right direction.”