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What are the aims of heritage policy?

Heritage policies and their main objectives: cultural or economic? Discuss the cultural and economic functions of heritage policies.
© European University Institute

There are several competing aims within heritage and broader cultural policy.

The first and perhaps most obvious object of heritage policy is the glorification of the past, of its beauty and its achievements.

A second objective concerns the production and consumption of heritage goods – the participation of citizens in the creation and recreation of heritage but also their enjoyment of artistic and literary creations or natural landscapes.

Thus heritage policy has a citizenship function: it helps citizens feel part of their community and its history, and hence builds a sense of a common future.

It also has an education function: heritage is integrated in education curricula not only in courses on the arts but also in citizenship education, history, geography, natural sciences or biology. Heritage policies can have an important function today in lifelong learning programmes.

More recently there has been a utilitarian turn in heritage policies. Heritage is valorised as a factor of job creation and economic growth. There is growing emphasis on the economic impact of heritage activities and sites that can boost the local economy of a place through related hospitality as well as cultural services.

More specifically, heritage policies have recently been linked to urban development and the growth of cities. Heritage activities contribute to a vibrant city that is attractive to both residents and visitors.

Do you think heritage policies should mainly follow the economic logic? Discuss your thoughts in the comments below.

© European University Institute
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Cultural Heritage and the City

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