Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

Yap stone exhibit

Yap State Historic Preservation Office of Micronesia

The Yap State Historic Preservation Office (YSHPO), located in Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), operates under the Department of Youth and Civic Affairs of the Yap State Government and has a regular budget funded by the local government and the National Park Service (NPS) and the United States Department of the Interior (DOI). YSHPO also receives occasional funding assistance for projects, technical or capacity building, and training and workshops from esteemed regional and international organizations—such as UNESCO, ICHCAP, and CRIHAP—and various national governments, including those of Australia, France, United States, and the FSM. YSHPO also collaborates and networks with other regional organizations, universities, and other bodies. To name a few, they include the University of Oregon, the University of Guam, Queens College, La Trobe, and others by conducting field schools in Yap during academic breaks.

YSHPO has five main functions: 1) collecting Yapese written and oral history, 2) registering and surveying cultural and historical properties, 3) inventorying and mapping cultural and historical sites and properties, 4) restoring and rehabilitating cultural and historic properties, and 5) performing general YSHPO administration, including NPS/DOI Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). The organization also occasionally assists and supports the operation of the Yap State Living History Museum. Of some related projects, ICHCAP has funded three in Yap: 1) Youth Meets ICH with OurYAP, an umbrella youth organization for all the youth clubs, including high school children in Yap State, 2) the Preliminary Survey on Dormant ICH Data in the Pacific with a mixture of project workers from the Waab Cultural Heritage Society (elders) and some young people along with YSHPO staff, and 3) the 2017 ICHCAP-YSHPO Joint Cooperation Project for Safeguarding Intangible Heritage by Digitizing ICH-Related Analogue Data of the FSM, which is still ongoing.

YSHPO’s restoration/rehabilitation and registration functions involve coordinating with various communities on the many islands of Yap State to identify eligible cultural and historic sites, properties, and objects for restoration and rehabilitation. Surveys of these resources are then conducted and followed up with the collected cultural or ethnographic information to complete the project files. General and grants administration and management are regular responsibilities handled by the Historic Preservation Officer, the Administrative Officer, and the Grants Manager. Often times, principal investigators or professionals are hired through contract for special projects requiring professional or technical skills and knowledge for archaeological surveys or ethnographic information collection. Certain projects funded by the NPS, DOI require professional services meeting the DOI’s Secretary’s standards for archaeology and historic preservation.

The types of restoration and rehabilitation projects normally conducted in Yap are of traditional stone platforms or foundations, men’s and community meeting houses, stone paths, stone money banks, stone fish weirs, traditional trails and historic sites, and properties such as WWII relics. Recently, one of the major restoration and rehabilitation projects implemented by YSHPO and the village of Makiy in Gagil municipality was to restore and rehabilitate the community meeting house, a traditional trail, and three stone platforms at the Mangyol Stone Money Cultural site, which is pending nomination with UNESCO and the World Heritage Center (WHC), which, at this stage, the dossier is under review for revision per the WHC’s recommendations after its initial review of the original dossier. Funding for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Mangyol community meeting house came from a US$24,000 grant from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) for which YSHPO applied and was recommended by the US Embassy to the FSM to the U.S Department of State from which the project was funded. UNESCO, NPS, and the Yap State local government also collaboratively funded the remaining features, consisting of the traditional trail and the stone platforms.

Through the generous funding from various organizations, dedicated community members, and the YSHPO staff, we have been able to work toward the important task of safeguarding Yap ICH. As we move forward, we hope to continue enhancing traditional culture and raise awareness about the unique ICH of Yap State.