An Interview with Hiroshi Daifuku
by Russell V. Keune
Among Americans professionally engaged in heritage stewardship in the last half of the 20th century, Hiroshi Daifuku holds a unique position. His 27-year career (1954-1980) was with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France. He was afforded a broad perspective through engagement with the cultural heritage of most of the UNESCO member states and with all of the related international non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations.
In April 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations met in San Francisco, California to draft the charter establishing the United Nations. It also called for the creation of related but independent international governmental organizations, including UNESCO. At a November 1946 international conference in London, England, UNESCO was formally established with 20 member states. The French government succeeded in having the headquarters of this new organization in Paris. Hiroshi joined the UNESCO staff seven years after it was created.
He contributed to the pioneering development of UNESCO’s international conventions and UNESCO recommendations focused on cultural heritage. Hiroshi played a leading role in the creation of new international organizations including the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. He identified and retained consultants for a host of UNESCO- sponsored museum and cultural heritage missions to member states. He participated in UNESCO’s first international campaign of world support for the protection of a member state’s cultural heritage. He served as an international resource to the U.S. Special Committee on Historic Preservation in its research and preparation for the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. He was engaged with the formulation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention.
Having recently celebrated his 90th birthday, he and his wife Alison continue to reside in Washington.
This interview was conducted in April-May 2010 by Russell V. Keune, FAIA, who is indebted to Alison for her support and assistance with my interview. He first met Hiroshi in 1966 and has been a professional colleague since 1980 when Hiroshi moved to Washington, DC.
RVK: Let’s begin by telling me about your childhood.
HD: I was born in Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii on April 7, 1920. My father, Kuniyasu Daifuku, immigrated with his parents to Hawaii from Japan in 1899. I was born as an American citizen in the then Territory of Hawaii; under then federal law, my father could not become a naturalized United States citizen until 1952. My mother, Tomu Nagatani Daifuku, was Hawaiian born and a homemaker. I was the eldest of two children, having one sister, Elsie. When my father studied in Iowa to become a chiropractor, I stayed with my grandparents on the island of Maui. I lived with my parents when my father returned and opened a practice in Honolulu.
I attended public schools and in 1938 graduated from the McKinley High School. Encouraged by my parents, I studied the Japanese language in school but found it to be challenging, never gaining proficiency. My non-academic interests were focused on tennis (a sport I continued to pursue until well into my 70’s), reading, and cooking. My cooking skills would later provide a college summer job as a cook at a local YMCA summer camp.
Active in the Boy Scouts of America, I traveled in 1937 to the nation’s capital to participate in the National Scout Jamboree on the Mall. I recorded this experience with an 8-millimeter movie camera followed by an extensive train trip visiting many different cities.
RVK: What were your career aspirations when you entered college?
HD: In 1938, following high school, I enrolled in the University of Hawaii. Since my father wanted me to pursue a medical career, I focused on pre-med courses. However, through an elective anthropology course, I found this subject more interesting. Much to my father’s consternation—“What will you do with that degree?” I eventually changed my major to social studies, studied French and German, and graduated in June 1942 with a Bachelor’s Degree. I was especially pleased that my parents lived to see me do something “with that degree”!
I was in Honolulu on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field, and Kaneohe. I was working as a part-time laboratory assistant in Queen’s Hospital Emergency Laboratory in an experimental blood plasma producing unit. My college education was temporarily interrupted by the aftermath of the attack when our unit was activated to full-time status in order to produce blood plasma urgently needed to treat flash-burned servicemen.
Prior to my university graduation, Professor Gordon Bowles suggested I pursue a Harvard University advanced degree and that he would recommend me to his alma mater. I was accepted at Harvard and departed Hawaii in the 1943 summer by ship and train journey to Cambridge, Massachusetts. As an American of Japanese ancestry, I was met by an FBI agent at the ship’s arrival and then escorted by him on the train trip through California and Arizona. East of Arizona I was on my own. Our family had relatives in California who had established businesses and were interred in the Japanese-American camps in the western United States following the declaration of war with Japan.
At Harvard I studied with Professor John O. Brew, director of the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, who was to have the most influence on my academic and professional career.
RVK: How did World War II affect your life?
HD: I was able to complete two years of graduate academic study before being drafted in 1945 into the U.S. Army. After basic training, I was sent to Europe, arriving after Germany’s surrender. I was assigned to a Marburg replacement unit. Shortly thereafter I was assigned to the Information and Education Section informing veterans about the GI Bill of Rights’ college opportunities. With my academic background the Army offered me a position as a War Department civilian employee. I accepted the offer and was assigned to a U.S. Military Government unit in the 19th-century spa city of Bad Homburg, Germany. I was able to apply my German language skills and college studies in statistical analysis. I concentrated on German social classes and their reactions to ongoing public opinion polls addressing a broad array of social issues in the U.S. occupied zone of Germany. It would be my first international work experience. As a civilian employee, my wife was able to join me in Germany for the duration of my stay.
In 1947, I returned to Harvard to complete my Master’s Degree. For my Ph.D. dissertation, Dr. Brew suggested that I use the large collection of artifacts that had been excavated by the Peabody Museum between 1935-1939 at Site 264 at the Hopi Awatovi Pueblo in Arizona. The title of my dissertation was “Jeddito 264: A Report on the Excavation of a Basket Maker III-Pueblo I Site in Northeastern Arizona”. In 1951 Harvard University awarded me a Ph.D. in Archeology, and my dissertation was published in 1961.
RVK: What were your first professional positions?
HD: With Dr. Brew’s recommendation, I became an anthropology instructor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. However, at the end of my three-year contract there were no permanent departmental faculty positions available and I had to leave the university. I was able to secure the position of assistant curator with the Wisconsin State Historical Society Museum and Library.
My responsibilities with the historical society centered on improving and upgrading exhibits and the interpretation of its collections. It had amassed significant collections representing Native Americans, early settlers, and Wisconsin Civil War era-materials.
RVK: What led you from Madison, Wisconsin to Paris, France?
HD: Dr. Brew’s 1953 visit to Madison marked the beginning of a life-changing career. He had been appointed to UNESCO’s International Consultative Committee for the Museum and Monuments Division and stated that there was a UNESCO Museums and Monuments Division vacancy. He believed my academic background, professional experience, and foreign language skills combined to make me a well-qualified candidate. I was interested and he recommended me. Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from UNESCO informing me that I had been nominated for a position in the Museums and Monuments Division, Department of Culture. I accepted the position of program specialist, Development of Museums; there had been no personal interviews.
RVK: What was this international transition like for you?
HD: The U.S. State Department recommended that I visit Washington, DC to meet members of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO together with representatives of organizations such as the National Park Service (NPS), American Association of Museums (AAM), Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Trust). It was the beginning of a long association with many individuals I met on this trip. I also became aware that UNESCO, this relatively new international organization, was not well known by the U.S. museums and monuments communities.
I arrived in Paris in January 1954 without my family, since we wanted our school-age child to complete his school year in Madison. My only previous visit to Paris was a brief family holiday trip from my post in Germany. Nine years after World War II ended, France and Paris were still recovering from the German occupation trauma. The city was largely devoid of private cars and buildings were uniformly gray with accumulated coal soot from the heating fuel used for decades.
RVK: What was the office like when you arrived?
HD: In 1954 the Museums and Monuments Division had as its chief Jan K. van der Haagen who had been in the Dutch Ministry of Culture. Piero Gazzola was the monuments program specialist. He was an Italian architect restorer and would later be the first president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). Madame Raymonde Frin was the editor of the UNESCO quarterly MUSEUM. There were four secretaries - two French and two English—and an Iranian clerk/research assistant. All were qualified in their native language and bilingual.
There were advantages in being appointed to the staff in the early years of this small international organization, making it easy to know other department colleagues. Over time I developed an especially close working relationship with colleagues in the Fundamental Education Division, sharing common interests in museum education. I had a professionally satisfying sense of participating in the overall development of the organization and its programs.
Most of the professionals had years of experience in their respective fields. Many had taught in colleges and universities or worked for their national governments. Many were authors of scientific or academic articles, monographs, and books. It was useful to have the hindsight of some staff members who had worked for the League of Nations prior to World War II.
UNESCO was then housed in the former luxury Hotel Majestic, now dingy and run down, located near the Arc de Triomphe. It had served as the German Army of Occupation headquarters during World War II. My first office was a small hotel room overlooking an interior courtyard. The furnishings consisted of discards from other French government offices.
RVK: How did you adapt to living in Paris?
HD: With Paris still recovering from the war’s impact, it was challenging to find a suitable apartment for my family’s June arrival. It was one of the coldest winters in recent history, making me aware of the limitations of Parisian apartment heating systems. The fine metro and bus system afforded easy movement about the city. It took awhile to become accustomed to food shopping complexities with an array of separate markets and shops for meat, fish, pastry, vegetables, fruit, etc. We eventually became accustomed to the local lifestyles, even with much of Paris closing down for the month of August while the Parisians went on their annual extended vacations.
I was most fortunate in having a French division colleague who took me and my family under her wing, and generously and graciously introduced us to the ways of Paris and France. Raymonde Frin would be a lifelong professional colleague and family friend.
RVK: Had other Americans preceded you in the division?
HD: Yes. I replaced an American, Kenneth Disler. A number of Americans played important roles in early UNESCO history. Dr. Grace M. Morley, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, was engaged early on to advise on developing a new museum division plan. She would later become the first division’s chief. The second UNESCO director-general, Luther H. Evans, was an American and a former Librarian of Congress. During the course of my career I worked for three other UNESCO director generals –Vittorino Veronese (Italy), René Maheu (France), and Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow (Senegal). Mr. Maheu was the most supportive of the cultural programs. RVK: What was it like as an American working for this international organization?
HD: With French and English being the official UNESCO working languages, I was fortunate to have a good grounding in French prior to beginning work. It was important to be bilingual in the UNESCO working environment. While German was not an official UNESCO working language, it was also most helpful to have fluency in this language. Throughout my career, I realized and experienced the number of UNESCO civil servants who never become fluent in both official working languages.
Unique among the division’s professional staff, I used a typewriter for most of my work. All Europeans dictated to secretarial staff. International communications were a mainstay of our everyday work, almost all being conducted by airmail letters and telegrams. We operated on a different time schedule than that of today’s modern communications era. The first Xerox machines to arrive in the 1960s were considered quite a technical advancement. International telephone calls were very expensive, used only in the most urgent and important situations. During my tenure there were no fax machines, computers, cell phones, or e-mail.
In 1958 UNESCO moved into a new spacious modern office complex at Place de Fontenoy designed by an international team of architects including the American architect Marcel Breuer. It was a pleasure to have comfortable offices with new furniture, windows with surrounding garden views, and meeting and conference facilities.
RVK: What types of work did you do on your arrival?
HD: My initial focus was on the division’s museum work. I was assigned to complete a museum manual on organization and programs started by my predecessor. Individual chapters had been written by specialists from a diverse array of countries. The editing process was my first introduction into the complexities of harmonizing many textual contradictions that reflected the author’s experiences within their specific national systems.
Within the next 12 months my activities and responsibilities grew quickly. Next I was responsible for planning, organizing, and conducting the first in series of UNESCO-sponsored, month-long, regional seminars and training sessions for museum personnel. The first was held in Jos, Nigeria for African museums. This led to my ongoing museum involvement throughout much of Africa. At this time many former European colonies were in the process of gaining their independence. The second regional conference, held in Mexico City, focused on Central America and the Caribbean.
When I arrived at UNESCO, it had grown from the original 20 to 62 member states, and during my work I had contact with all of them. When I left in 1980, there were 150 member states. My responsibilities included writing and publishing technical materials. I was a regular contributor to the UNESCO Museums and Monuments Series and later the UNESCO Courier. Later, as part of an agreement between UNESCO and the Encyclopedia Britannica, I wrote the historic preservation entry for the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year from 1967 through 1980.
A Program of Participation in the Activities of Member States (PP) had been adopted in 1953 by the UNESCO general conference. An increasing number of assistance requests were received from new member states, recently European colonies. With independence, many national museum and monument departments lost their senior administrative staff as they returned to their countries of origin. We sent consultants on missions to help analyze problems and provide longer-term project plans.
It soon became a practice during a UNESCO general conference for numerous delegations to discuss with me future assistance needs for projects or local institutions. The program was flexible; if a project were canceled or postponed, funds could be transferred to other opportunities. I became adept at tracking the division’s un-obligated funds that would have been lost if not committed by the end of the fiscal year. I kept a reserve list of member state museums and cultural site needs and worthy cross-border initiatives among member states and related non-governmental organizations. When year-end funds became available, I was often able to quickly develop contracts to support numerous small but significant efforts.
PP was flexible and very useful to the museum and preservation community. The program covered grants for travel and meetings, equipment and fellowships, short-term consultants to advise on program development, and regional and international conference aid. UNESCO’s financial commitments regularly stimulated other governmental and private sector support.
When newly independent countries found it difficult to purchase museum equipment requiring hard currency, the receiving country was required to make duty free purchases, so that quality equipment could then be obtained at less cost.
RVK: A UNESCO basic responsibility is the preparation and diffusion of international standards. What role did you have in these developments?
HD: Our division served as the secretariat for processing the proposing, preparing, and adopting both UNESCO international conventions and recommendations. The first convention I worked on was the UNESCO International Convention Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export of Cultural Property. The process would begin with a member state, or states, proposing the need for a convention. An intergovernmental experts committee would then be appointed representing member states. Our division would support the development of a working outline for such a convention. UNESCO would then call an international specialists conference from all interested member states to discuss, debate, and adopt the actual recommended convention language.
In the international arena, I observed that European participants in this process often tended to focus on broad philosophical aspects. Many other national representatives, including the United States, focused on more practical and operational aspects. With UNESCO’s legal department, our office coordinated the final document preparation.
This document would then be presented to a UNESCO general conference for consideration and adoption. It then became the responsibility of individual UNESCO member states to ratify the convention. When a specified number of countries had ratified the convention, it would go into effect.
The last convention I worked on was the UNESCO International Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, commonly known as the World Heritage Convention (WHC). U.S. experts played active roles in forming both conventions, and the U.S. ratified both conventions.
UNESCO recommendations established general principles and norms for cultural property preservation. As with the conventions, our staff provided secretariat support for the development and array of such recommendations. One example was the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas. Adopted in 1976, the U.S. made significant contributions based on its experience with legally protected historic districts. The developmental process was similar to that for conventions except member states were not required to ratify UNESCO recommendations. Member states were invited to adopt them or use them to revise their national regulations in accordance with recommendations.
RVK: How did your career path expand?
HD: In 1962 my responsibilities expanded to include the conservation of monuments and sites. In 1967 I became chief, Monuments and Sites, and later chief, Operations and Training Section, Cultural Heritage Division, Department of Culture.
With most of my professional experience prior to arriving in Paris being based on American models, I very quickly became attuned to many international variations. I soon began to see and experience the interesting contrasts between American experience and much of the rest of the world. It was also interesting and educational to witness American colleagues and foreign professionals interacting in international forums.
UNESCO was regularly invited to the congresses, general assemblies, and special meetings of a number of international organizations such as the International Council on Museums (ICOM), the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (Rome Centre), and the International Union of Architects (UIA). I often served as the official UNESCO representative to such gatherings. At these international sessions my network of personal and professional contacts was ever expanding. I came to know many of the leaders in national government cultural programs, together with a host of practicing professionals in all heritage stewardship disciplines. Program participation afforded me a unique perspective and understanding of their specific interests and how they addressed them.
RVK: Did the United Nations contribute to UNESCO’s programs?
HD: The UN and its related agencies, such as UNESCO, met regularly on the development of policy and the coordination of expanding programs, particularly in their formative years. Many of the newly independent states quickly joined the UN and UNESCO, and proceeded to request aid from their former colonial powers, the UN, and its agencies. One result was to have the donor-developed countries propose that projects to aid undeveloped countries, be focused in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and later the United Nations Technical Assistance Program. Over time these two UN programs would become sources for program and financial support of cultural heritage initiatives. Initially many of them were focused on tourism development to further national economic development.
RVK: UNESCO was a pioneer in establishing international campaigns to generate global support to protect, preserve, and interpret cultural properties. What was your experience when the first campaign was launched in Egypt?
HD: In 1954 this first campaign was generated by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics agreeing to finance the construction of the new Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. It would be the largest development project in modern Egyptian history. The water impoundment behind the dam would create an enormous lake inundating significant heritage sites in both Egypt and Sudan.
As member states, these two countries in 1959 requested UNESCO’s help in dealing with this threat to their cultural patrimony. It represented the largest and most significant such request to UNESCO up to this time. In 1960 the UNESCO director-general launched an appeal to the member states for an International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia. This campaign would continue for 20 years, with unprecedented project and staff budget requirements.
The Advisory Committee appointed by the UNESCO director-general consisted of internationally recognized cultural preservation experts. The primary task was to define which of Egypt’s projects would be UNESCO’s primary focus. The Abu Simbel and Philae temple complexes were the largest of those selected. These experts also recognized that hundreds of other identified sites should be saved, or excavated, before being irremediably lost.
Bordering the Nile River, the Abu Simbel temples had been cut into the sandstone cliffs by King Ramses II (1292-1225 BC). The campaign committee reviewed several proposals in detail to save the temples from flooding. It recommended that the best solution was to cut, move, and re-assemble the temples on the plateau above the lake to be created by the dam.
With the Philae complex, the decision was to have the cut-stone temples dismantled and reassembled on the neighboring island of Agilkia. This required the construction of a temporary barrier around Philae, dismantling all of the structures, placing the stones on shore for storage, reshaping Agilkia into a Philae replica, and reconstructing the complex.
While I participated in advisory committee meetings, my primary personal campaign role was being responsible for UNESCO’s coordinating all archeological investigations in Sudan impacted by the lake.
RVK: The United States played a significant role in the funding for this first UNESCO international campaign. Could you describe what the U.S. did?
HK: All Vrioni, who headed the campaign, was a skilled fundraiser. Coming from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he had extensive experience in foreign aid programs. He undertook a mission to the United States where he personally presented this UNESCO international campaign to President John F. Kennedy. At the time, the U.S. government was conducting the international Food for Peace Program. Under this program, Egypt, as an eligible country, could purchase U.S. agriculture products using their national currency. The funds would then remain in blocked accounts in Egypt and only be used for projects in Egypt approved by both Egypt and the U.S. The President proposed to contribute the equivalent of $20 million (US) in blocked Egyptian pounds with the concurrence of the Egyptian government. These funds would support much of the required work, especially at Abu Simbel. They also financed American institutions’ campaign costs in Egypt. Given the importance of this joint U.S. /Egypt contribution, it encouraged other countries to contribute to the campaign and sponsor expeditions to take part in the search for past civilizations and archeological salvage documentation.
RVK: What were some other international campaigns that followed?
HD: This was the first of many UNESCO sponsored international campaigns. It and those that followed contributed to member states having a greater understanding and appreciation of a coordinated ongoing effort to survey, identify, designate, and support the preservation of internationally significant sites. By 1972 this would be manifested in the UNESCO-sponsored WHC. Subsequent campaigns in which I was engaged included the City of Venice, Italy; the Bronze Age site of Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan; the sites and monuments of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal; and the Buddhist monument of Borobudur in Central Java, Indonesia.
RVK: As you mentioned earlier, UNESCO played a leading role in encouraging and facilitating the creation of new private and intergovernmental organizations such as the International Union of Architects (UIA), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property (Rome Centre) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). What was your role in these developments?
HD: I was pleased to play a role in the creation of both ICOMOS and the Rome Centre.
ICOMOS came into being as two initiatives converged. UNESCO’s advisory committee recognized that demand for specialized services related to monuments preservation was growing. It was beyond our capacity to meet the need. The committee recommended that UNESCO explore the creation of a new non-governmental organization (NGO). I participated in the initial conversations to explore this idea with the French Ministry of Culture. Soon thereafter in 1964 the II International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments met in Venice, Italy. The Congress produced the initial version of the Venice Charter and recognized the need for this new NGO system. I was given the assignment to organize steps to bring it into being. ICOMOS was founded at a June 1965 conference in Warsaw, Poland.
I was then assigned to support the development of another NGO that would be responsible for supporting studies in cultural property conservation. I worked with Dr. Harold J. Plenderleith as a consultant for the project. He was then the keeper of the Research Laboratory in the British Museum and the author of recognized conservation books and publications. By 1959 the Rome Centre in Rome, Italy was established with Dr. Plenderleith as its first director. The U.S. government quickly joined, being initially active through the Smithsonian Institution and later the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (Advisory Council).
RVK: Your responsibilities included retaining consultants for a wide diversity of UNESCO-sponsored projects throughout the world. How did you go about locating them and what did you learn from the experience?
HD: I made an effort to go regularly on UNESCO missions and represent UNESCO at meetings of related international organizations. These experiences allowed me to know experts in various fields who might be engaged as future consultants. It was very useful to meet them in person, get to know them, learn how they reacted to people (especially those of other cultural backgrounds), and how their professional colleagues evaluated them. This was important for the success of any UNESCO-sponsored project because consultants had to get along with the local staff; be able to revise long-standing existing practices when necessary; introduce new equipment; provide additional training; and/or provide fellowships for newly recruited staff. In the international arena, I considered consultants’ personalities nearly as important as their expertise.
For example in 1956 our division received a request from Indonesia for a consultant to advise on preserving and presenting textiles in their museums for a six-month mission. After prior consultation with several experts in the field, I suggested John Irwin of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Following protocol, I discussed the proposed consultant from the U.K. with J. L. Nevinson, Assistant Secretary of the UK National Commission for UNESCO. He concurred with my selection and the mission took place; both the consultant and local staffs were pleased with the results.
RVK: Your career afforded you the opportunity to have many interesting new international experiences. What are some examples?
HK: I represented UNESCO at a 1956 Athens conference on Greek museums. The country was still in the reconstruction stage following the war and experiencing national political upheavals. Recovery of tourism was just beginning. When we visited the Parthenon, there were few visitors. For me the conference was important because participants were focused on sharing their experiences rather than looking to international experts to advise them on what they might do. It was a timely experience in having them come to see local museums as a backdrop of what might be done as a part of rebuilding their communities.
My first visit to Morocco was to represent UNESCO at an archeologists meeting of the Arab League. As was often the case, there were political overtones to the gathering. General Gamal Nasser had recently led a coup d’etat against the Egyptian monarchy, had taken over the government, and in 1956, had converted Egypt into a one-party state. A strong Pan-Arab movement was developing among the Arab peoples during this period. A French Protectorate and a monarchy, Morocco, as the meeting host, afforded an interesting contrast to the changes in Egypt.
It was the first time that many archeologists from the eastern Mediterranean countries had been to Morocco. Here women from upper classes invariably wore veils when outside of their homes. At meeting receptions and dinners only men were allowed on the ground floor. The women looked down from balconies built above the reception halls; it was understood that we were not to look up. For many of the delegates and for me this was a new cultural experience. In a site visit to the ancient capitol of Fez, the old walled quarter was as fascinating to the eastern Mediterraneans as it was to me. Young boys in their early teens were working as skilled craftsmen. They were still weaving traditional patterns on primitive looms using either sheep’s wool or camel hair. We also visited an ancient university built during the medieval period that was still in use.
RVK: Which Americans in the cultural heritage area did you come to know and interact with?
HD: Among the prominent Americans I came to know through their organizations were people such as Ronald F. Lee, Charles E. Peterson, and Ernest A. Connally of the National Park Service; Robert Garvey and Terry B. Morton of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and in the case of Robert Garvey, later the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; and Peter Powers and Paul Perrot of the Smithsonian Institution.
When Ernest Connally, NPS, was serving as the first American to be elected the secretary-general of ICOMOS he visited Paris on a regular basis. He contributed a great deal to the development of the cultural heritage criteria for the World Heritage List.
Peter Powers and Paul Perrot were very active and supportive in the initiation and development of the Rome Centre.
My longest and closest relationship was with Bob Garvey. Beginning with his role as the executive director of the National Trust, he served as a U.S. representative at the meetings leading to the ICOMOS formation and was elected one its first vice-presidents. In the development of the 1966 Act, he sought my advice on European countries and cities that a special committee of leading Americans might visit to gain an in-depth understanding of contemporary national and urban preservation practices.
Together with other UNESCO staff colleagues, we provided recommendations for both their itinerary and leading individuals in each of the countries and cities they might visit. I was fortunate in being invited to accompany the Rains Special Committee on Historic Preservation on most its 1965 European tour. Traveling by train the delegation visited Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, and West Germany.
Among the committee members I was privileged to get to know were Senator Edmund S. Muskie, Maine; Congressman Albert Rains, Alabama; Lawson B. Knott, Jr., administrator, General Services Administration; William L. Slayton, commissioner, Urban Renewal Administration; George Hartzog, director, National Park Service; Gordon Gray, chairman, the Trust; and Carl Feiss, FAIA, AIP, urban planner and Trust trustee. Their observations and findings from this experience formed the recommendations incorporated in the 1966 book With Heritage So Rich.
RVK: Why did you leave UNESCO and what kinds of activities have you pursued since?
HD: In 1980 I reached UNESCO’s mandatory 60-year retirement age and retired. After 27 years of living in Paris we wanted to return to the United States. We moved to Washington, DC because it was an international city, and our daughter was attending George Washington University.
I was pleased that John C. Poppeliers was offered and accepted a position within UNESCO’s Department of Culture after I retired. He had previously been chief of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record at NPS.
Professionally I served as a consultant on UNESCO Cultural Property Missions to Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Turkey. The Aga Khan Foundation invited me to serve on a special mission to China that was focused on the country’s Muslim heritage sites. I especially enjoyed returning to Hawaii in 1988 as a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii on cultural heritage conservation.
I volunteered weekly at the US/ICOMOS secretariat advising the staff and answering foreign correspondence. I maintained an ongoing engagement with the ICOMOS International Wood Committee. I became a regular attendee at Washington’s monthly Historic Preservation Roundtable.
I also developed an interest and skill in building large-scale model historic sailing ships and have been pleased to build models as gifts for all six children.
RVK: Four years after you retired, the United States, as a 1946 charter member, left UNESCO in 1984 and did not rejoin until 2003. What your feelings regarding that decision?
HD: As an American who had devoted his entire career to UNESCO, I was most disappointed. I believe the United States should have remained a member and taken a leadership role in resolving issues that motivated its withdrawal. It had enormous negative impacts—both within UNESCO and here. UNESCO’s budget was immediately reduced by 25 percent. Americans were no longer eligible for employment as new staff or to serve on committees or in consultative roles.
The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO was disbanded. US/ICOMOS was a commission member at the time and had been for many years. The global network of established working relationships and contacts was severely disrupted for the next nine years. While I was pleased to see the United States rejoin, there is presently no major American staff presence within the museum and monument programs.
The United States—through preservation and related organizations and individuals mentioned above and many, many others—made immeasurable contributions to world cultural heritage through UNESCO. Its developing years were the foundation for these intervening years, through today and into future centuries.