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Unique lighthouse heritage in the spotlight in Incheon

One could almost hear visitors holding their breath as soon as they entered the first-ever World Lighthouse Heritage Exhibition. Staged by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) at the Songdo ConvensiA Centre in Incheon, this exhibition marks a brave initiative that has come to full fruition against a tight deadline.

Officially opening the exhibition, which takes place alongside the 19th IALA Conference held from 28th May to 2nd June in Incheon, MOF Director-General, Mr Woonyul OH, said that its aim was to conserve lighthouses for the future. It was important to ensure their continuous legacy as human engineering triumphs for generations to enjoy and learn from.

IALA Secretary-General Francis Zachariae said the exhibition made maritime history as a world first. He praised its unprecedented concentration of fascinating heritage artefacts from around the world.

The variety of accessories invented by people determined to look for better ways to see through fogs and hazes is a humbling reminder of the possibilities of science and symbolizes the true meaning of “pharos”. They range from the familiar optic lenses to the simple candles and oil lamps used in ancient times. There are fog bells and air siren horns on display alongside incandescent vapour lamps and electric lamps.

Perhaps the most valuable displays are those of original drawings, prints and paintings, with a number of them made available from the private collection of Mr Hyun-Joo KANG, chairman of the exhibition’s working party

The exhibition puts on an elegant show of the multi-faceted historic value of lighthouses. They tell a rich story of culture and architecture and provide a unique insight into social-economic backgrounds, in particular the way of life of lighthouse keepers.

A brief but pertinent section contrasts history with modern times, with technological advances heralding the age of unmanned lighthouses and remote monitoring, digital aids to navigation, and e-navigation solutions for electronic exchange of  maritime safety information.

However, the enduring legacy of lighthouses – as the ultimate guardians of the safety of human lives at sea – will always be their testifying to the perils of the sea and the courageous souls who work on ships to bring cargoes, goods, foods and other products to and from countries around the world to serve the daily needs of people everywhere.

Sadly, it was not possible to compile a catalogue for the exhibition, which is open to the public free of charge and includes an array of imaginative educational items. However, perhaps Mr Zachariae sowed the seed for a follow-up exhibition in future.  He said that the formal Incheon Declaration on lighthouse heritage, which is planned for the concluding day of the 19th IALA Conference, will breathe new life in IALA’s Heritage Forum. The Forum comes under the remit of the IALA ENG Committee and is chaired by Mr Neil Jones of Trinity House (UK).