A Century Of Mobile Heritage: Exhibition At UNESCO HG Highlights The Importance Of Our Automotive Heritage

November 25, 2016 By Mike Lee
Last updated on November 25, 2016

As part of ‘Paris Week’, the five-day finale to World Motoring Heritage Year 2016 that ran from 16th to 20th November, FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) organised an exhibition titled ‘A Century of Mobile Heritage’, at UNESCO’s Head Office in Paris.

The exhibition aimed to illustrate, through a selection of two- and four-wheeled vehicles from disparate eras of our international automotive history, how historic cars and motorcycles are a crucial part of our human heritage. The historic vehicles were chosen not only for their ages, their importance, and their international provenance, but also for being strikingly original and well-preserved, rather than restored.

Hence the spectacular display of two- and four-wheeled vehicles ranged from the 1892 Panhard et Levassor Type P2D said to be the oldest running car in the world, through cars of the 1920s and 1930s (including the actual 1928 Bugatti Type 35B that won the very first Monaco Grand Prix, a 1937 Delahaye 135 Compétition and 1938 Packard Eight 1602), right up to cars of the 1960s (Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ, CD Peugeot, Porsche 911 ‘SWB’). Meanwhile, the historic motorcycles on display comprised a 1930 Majestic and M.G.C., plus the powerful, flat-twin BMW R75/5 of 1969.

The exhibition was open to the public, from Monday 14th to Friday 18th November. There was also an invitation-only gathering on the evening of Thursday 17th November, jointly hosted by FIVA and UNESCO, that welcomed more than 500 attendees – including many UNESCO ambassadors from across the globe. On the following day, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, visited UNESCO headquarters to meet UNESCO Director General Mrs Irina Bokova and the UNESCO staff. On that occasion he was gifted FIVA’s 50th anniversary book by Dr Khalil Karam, the Lebanese Ambassador to UNESCO.

Among the speakers at the Thursday evening event were the UNESCO Ambassadors from Lebanon and France, as well as Francesco Bandarin, the Assistant Director General for Culture at UNESCO, plus FIVA President Patrick Rollet. Some of their comments were as follows:

Francesco Bandarin,Assistant Director General for Culture at UNESCO, welcomed visitors to the evening by drawing comparisons between the missions of UNESCO and FIVA: “We have a key word in common, and that is heritage, and it speaks of protection, restoration and conservation. The other common word, which can be felt strongly in this historic hall, is passion.”

Meanwhile, Dr Khalil Karam, Lebanon’s permanent Ambassador to UNESCO, summed up the historical importance of the automotive industry perfectly: “This exceptional exhibition showcases the biggest revolution of the 20th Century – one that was best described by French philosopher Roland Barthes, when he said that the automobile is almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals.”

French Ambassador to UNESCO, Laurent Stefanini, emphasised that “The preservation of ALL heritage is a priority for UNESCO,” and thanked FIVA and his UNESCO colleagues “for  highlighting through this special exhibition the importance of mobile heritage – and for bringing these vehicles from the past to the headquarters of UNESCO.”

Commented FIVA President Patrick Rollet: “The theme of this very special exhibition on ‘A Century of Mobile Heritage’ is preservation, which involves skills, sophisticated technologies and a respect for heritage, as well as authenticity. These are the shared missions of UNESCO and FIVA, although FIVA is of course focused solely on mobile heritage.”