Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.23

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Netherlands has nominated Craft of the miller operating windmills and watermills (No. 01265) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The craft of the miller operating windmills and watermills involves the knowledge and skills necessary to operate a mill and maintain it in a good state of repair. With a declining number of people earning their livelihood from the craft, millers today also play a key role in transmitting the cultural history of the practice. There are currently approximately forty professional millers; together with volunteers, they keep the miller’s craft alive. The Guild of Volunteer Millers has around 105 instructors in the field, and 11 Master Millers are now active in the Netherlands. Mills, and therefore the miller’s craft, play a significant social and cultural role in Dutch society and have an iconic value, contributing to a sense of identity and continuity. Various safeguarding activities are undertaken, including training, support and capacity building, educational activities in schools and traineeships. Traditionally, the miller’s craft was transmitted from master to apprentice but since the establishment of the Guild of Volunteer Millers in 1972, almost 2000 volunteers have obtained a miller’s qualification; anyone interested in the craft can apply for training. The Guild offers millers support in keeping their knowledge up-to-date, for example through excursions to mills, evening theory classes, conferences and meetings.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The craft of the miller operating windmills and watermills comprises technical skills and complex knowledge about nature. It also involves an entire ensemble of related craftspeople. Traditionally, millers were male, but in recent years a growing number of women have joined their ranks. Knowledge related to the miller’s craft is passed down from master to apprentice, with experienced and skilled millers training new millers on a voluntarily basis. The element is open to anyone interested in learning the required skills. The miller’s craft is currently thriving thanks to the voluntary efforts of the communities. Transmission is ensured through the activities of the Guilds, and practitioners have adapted the element to the changing economic and social contexts. Nowadays, professional millers are responsible for running and maintaining the mills, selling artisanal products at the mill shops and organizing tours for visitors. The element has inspired many Dutch sayings and paintings. Windmill sails can also be used to communicate events such as births, marriages or deaths. Mills promote sustainable development through sustainable land use and the use of renewable resources, such as water and wind.

R.2:   The inscription of the miller’s craft would enhance people’s interaction with their natural environment. It would also contribute to promoting the natural association between efforts to safeguard intangible and tangible cultural heritage. The importance of not-for-profit engagement for successfully safeguarding heritage would be emphasized. The practice is a good example highlighting the importance of finding creative solutions to energy problems through the use of renewable resources. Intangible cultural heritage projects of this kind could therefore be beneficial for the development of municipal and provincial policies to this end. For artisans in general, the inscription of the miller’s craft could help them consider how to position their sustainable products in a market that is increasingly dominated by industrial production.

R.3:   It is clear that the communities, groups and individuals concerned have played an important role in devising and planning the safeguarding measures, taking responsibility for their implementation. Associations such as the Guild of Volunteer Millers and the Guild of Frisian Millers have undertaken a series of initiatives to ensure the viability of the element, supported by relevant national policies and governmental measures. Various millers’ guilds run training courses for aspiring millers, and have awarded qualifications for 2000 millers since 1972. Group insurance packages have also been created specifically for millers.Thanks to the use of social media, the element’s appeal is also reaching young people. The file describes a fast reaction to the threat of the extinction of the craft in the 1970s. International cooperation is foreseen in the form of a European network and a conference that will gather practitioners of the craft worldwide to share their experiences. The State Party, including its local authorities, supports the element through funding initiatives, monitoring their effects. The challenges are identified, and the possible negative effects of inscription are addressed through the provision of information on safety and visitor management.

R.4:   The millers and other parties concerned with the miller’s craft were actively involved in all stages of the nomination process. The four millers’ organizations that were directly involved in drafting the nomination file gave their free, prior and informed consent. Government agencies dealing with intangible cultural heritage, such as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, were also represented in the working group responsible for drafting the file. The training course for the miller’s craft is open to everyone, regardless of background or gender, and there are no customary practices that restrict access to the element, except for certain security reasons. The consent letters demonstrate the profound attachment of the bearers.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands in 2013. The Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage coordinates this national inventory, in collaboration with the local communities. The national inventory is updated on a regular basis, every three years. Emphasis is placed on the rights and obligations of all the stakeholders in applying to the national inventory, as well as in terms of their participation in its maintenance. The guilds are required to present a safeguarding plan to be reviewed every three years, answering the following three questions: Is the element in question a living tradition? What is being done to safeguard it? Does the safeguarding plan need updating?

  1. Inscribes Craft of the miller operating windmills and watermills on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for submitting an exemplary nomination.