Pioneering a New Vision for the Cultural Heritage Sector




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Mar 22, 2019
by Oscar Tollast
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Pioneering a New Vision for the Cultural Heritage Sector

Latest program in Salzburg Global's Culture, Arts and Society multi-year series reaches a conclusion Participants of the Salzburg Global Seminar program, What Future for Cultural Heritage? Perceptions, Problematics, and Potential

Salzburg Global Fellows have set the groundwork for countering threats to cultural heritage and exploring new frontiers in heritage innovation.

Following an intensive five-day program at Schloss Leopoldskron – What Future for Culture Heritage? Perceptions, Problematics, and Potential – participants expressed their vision for the future and several calls to actions in a series of presentations.

More than 45 participants working in 30 countries were divided into focus groups which examined topics including cross-sector alliances and development partnerships, technology, decolonizing heritage, youth engagement, and the relationship between cultural heritage and sustainable development. Another group also dedicated their time toward making a case for cultural heritage.

To create cross-sector alliances, you need to have a clear a statement about what you’re doing, the first group to present argued. Part of the group’s mission statement reads: “Cultural heritage considerations need to be embedded within all sectors of government and civil society.”

Among other strategies, participants called for each national International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) chapter to evaluate heritage with the potential to be lost through climate change and migration. In addition, participants recommended each chapter should develop a mitigation plan for heritage identified through this survey, which could include documentation and identification of partners in other sectors.

Greater coordination with agencies such as the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and partners in the philanthropic, technology, and business sectors would also be beneficial, according to participants. The presenter indicated Salzburg Global Fellows could be the nucleus of a coalition to implement these strategies, which they declared “achievable” over the next 20 years.

The next group to present focused on “putting the cultural heritage in tech.” Participants recommended creating a Cultural Heritage Resource Defence Council. This council would convene, support, and act to host critical conversations, advocate for shared action, collect and create learning patterns and tools, and build capacities within different constituencies.

One participant argued, “We can’t predict the future. But we can design toward the one we want.” There is uncertainty whether society is on a path toward re-colonizing the digital or de-colonizing the digital, the group put across, suggesting society is at a crossroads.

Participants advocated centering ethics and equity at the core of the way the cultural heritage sector works within, and across other spaces, as acts of reparation, restitution, and decolonization. They said communities deserve to be valued and respected, and also expressed their belief in the power of integrating ethical and equitable technologies in producing and amplifying cultures and knowledges.

The next group to present had spent their time looking at decolonizing heritage. What was presented with a “useful starting point,” participants heard, but not a blueprint.

The presenter discussed re-examining how colonial imposition works, the importance of centering, recentering, and decentering, and developing a space to address unjust practices, ideas, thinking in shared equal environments. Participants also heard about having practices informed by collaborative, dialogical, and multi-logical values. In response to this presentation, one participant suggested it made her think, “What do we do in the world, and how do we do it?”

If looking toward the future, the sector has to consider how to engage youth. How does the sector make youth engaged and build on existing interest? How does the sector bridge the generation gap? How does the sector create spaces for dialogue and creativity?

Participants who focused on youth engagement outlined a vision for the future. In this future, cultural heritage will be globally recognized as a dynamic process for participation and inclusion for the youth. Spaces of dialogue and creativity will be realized between the generations. Culture, arts, and humanities will be significant in education.

In a call to action, these participants asked for spaces to be created, for better exposure to be given to cultural heritage, and more action from policymakers to integrate youth in relevant discussions. Participants said these actions can be achieved through policy development, staff training, and the integration of digital and analog experiences.

The penultimate group examined the relationship between cultural heritage and sustainable development. Participants within this group came up with Vision 2039: mainstreaming cultural heritage in sustainable development and sustainable development in cultural heritage.

This vision is guided by several principles, including having a holistic all-inclusive approach to cultural heritage, and the concept of cultural heritage as a driver and enabler of all aspects of sustainable development. Participants argued cultural heritage is dynamic, for all, and a container for multiple values.

Proposed strategies include building alliances with different audiences, integrating cultural heritage into development and planning processes, empowering communities, building capacity, strengthening the cultural heritage sector, harnessing digital technologies, improving evidence-based reporting, diversifying funding sources, and strengthening the role of cultural heritage within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

View full set on Flickr

The final group to present set out to make a case for cultural heritage. The group summarized that in an ideal world, scientists should be able to pin their hopes on data, and presenting this evidence should be enough to convince policymakers and the public the benefits of cultural heritage. “But sometimes that isn’t enough,” the group said.

Many challenges are facing the planet right now: climate change, conflict, hate against difference, displacement, poverty, social inequalities, access to education, conflicting agendas, literacy, and decolonizing history, to name but a few. What can cultural heritage do?

Participants in this group came up with a few ideas. Among other things, participants agreed cultural heritage can celebrate humanity, bring joy, enhance understandings, instill respect, combat climate change, increase confidence, foster discovery, strengthen well-being, renew hope, and promote peace.

To make a case for cultural heritage, the group said practitioners had to engage with representatives from other sectors. Participants proposed the creation of social media accounts and a hashtag campaign (#HeritageCan) designed to showcase the value of cultural heritage. Other ideas include writing opinion pieces for different platforms, such as The Conversation.

As the program concluded, all participants were asked to note down and express a commitment to the group. Participants were also encouraged to continue their work outside of Salzburg, to take advantage of their new connections and networks and help raise greater awareness of the role and significance of cultural heritage.

What Future for Cultural Heritage? Perceptions, Problematics, and Potential is the latest program in Salzburg Global’s Culture, Arts and Society series. The program is being held in partnership with the Edward T. Cone Foundation, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, Fulbright Greece, and the Korea Foundation. For more information on the program, please click here.