PBS NewsHour examines how development will impact Myanmar’s architectural and archeological heritage in the first of a new series: “Culture at Risk”

April 14, 2014 at 12:35 PM EST

For years, the people of Myanmar were cut off from the rest of the world, isolated by strict military rulers. But a recent cease fire has ushered in a period of calm, which is opening up the country and creating new opportunities. Many in Myanmar are eager to embrace the modern world, but others worry that its cultural heritage may be lost in the rush to modernize.  As part of the new series, “Culture at Risk,” Chief Correspondent for Arts, Culture & Society Jeffrey Brown explores Myanmar’s efforts to preserve the colonial-era architecture of Yangon and restore the Buddhist architecture in Bagan all while building a 21st century future. The story airs Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 (check local listings).

Brown takes viewers through the grand buildings of downtown Yangon, hearing from Thant Myint-U, the founder and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust. “What we have now is a physical landscape that’s starting to change,” Thant Myint-U says, “but also this opportunity to remember this history, and to try to begin to save what we can, before it’s too late.” The pressure comes as outside investment flows into the country and all the benefits and ills of urban development begin to play out. Yangon’s population is expected to quadruple in the next twenty five years and, as developer Moe Zat Mone relays, “[w]e need more infrastructure, more hotels, hospitals, and more service apartments and office rentals.” Brown concludes his report among the archeological wonders of Bagan, the site of what’s said to be the highest concentration of Buddhist architecture of any place in the world, where balancing the demands of tourism and preservation raises additional questions for Myanmar’s future.

Online:

- Jeffrey Brown and Thant Myint-U take an extended video tour through a neighborhood with colonial-era architecture.
- A slide show about Bagan, the capital of a former Burmese Kingdom and said to contain the highest concentration of Buddhist architecture of any place in the world.

“Culture at Risk”

The NewsHour’s reporting from Myanmar is the first in a series of wide-ranging reports, titled “Culture at Risk”, that will explore both problems and solutions to visual arts that are in danger of being lost. Each installment will be led and reported by Chief Correspondent for Arts, Culture & Society Jeffrey Brown.

“Culture at Risk” will explore threats to cultural artifacts that include war, natural disasters, demographic and technological change, evolving artistic and architectural sensibilities, environmental degradation and climate change, and other factors. The series will connect news developments involving art and culture, examining the intersection of public policy and the arts, as well as decision-making around preservation and payment for the arts.   Taken together, the series is intended to present a portrait of the many ways that culture is at risk while also capturing a range of ongoing and potential responses.

PBS NewsHour’s “Culture at Risk” coverage is funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust.

The J. Paul Getty Trust is a cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to critical thinking in the presentation, conservation, and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy. Through the collective and individual work of its constituent Programs—Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Foundation, J. Paul Getty Museum, and Getty Research Institute—it pursues its mission in Los Angeles and throughout the world, serving both the general interested public and a wide range of professional communities with the conviction that a greater and more profound sensitivity to and knowledge of the visual arts and their many histories are crucial to the promotion of a vital and civil society.

PBS NewsHour is seen by over four million weekly viewers and is also available online, via public radio in select markets and via podcast. The program is produced with WETA Washington, D.C., and in association WNET in New York. Major corporate funding for PBS NewsHour is provided by BAE Systems, BNSF and Charles Schwab with additional support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Friends of the NewsHour and others.