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Sum-up of the week

Let us sum up what we have learned this week
Hello, everybody. This is the time to sum up some of the things we have learned in this course so far. So first of all, what is heritage? Heritage is about the way a community relates to its past and also projects this past to its present and its future. It’s something positive, it’s something we cherish, and it’s also vulnerable. It’s something that needs to be protected. Now, what are the different types of heritage that we have? There’s natural heritage related to the landscape and constructed heritage. Again, among constructed heritage, we can speak of tangible, which relates to buildings, to archaeological sites, to objects and intangible, which relates to ideas, traditions, concepts, oral histories.
Then of course we can have heritage that is formal, that has been recognised, labelled, classified and heritage that is informal, that is promoted by communities but is not yet classified. Now, when does cultural policy and heritage policy, in particular, emerge? They emerged specifically in the second half of the 20th century and in the early part, of course, of the 21st century. This is not by accident. It is because this is a time when technological change and socioeconomic change accelerates, and communities feel the need, particularly nations, to classify, label, categorise, protect, preserve, and even promote their past, their heritage. Now, who are the main stakeholders of heritage?
Traditionally, we would have said these are national ministries and national organisations, but today increasingly so these include private foundations that can be for profit and not for profit. They include curators, artists, experts, a lot of different actors, and also, of course, they include international organisations that are increasingly involved in the classification and labelling of heritage. What are the aims of heritage policy? Now heritage policy beyond protecting first and then promoting heritage has also a number of secondary aims, which include using heritage for education purposes, using heritage for citizenship participation, but also heritage as a way to attract tourists.
Now, in recent years in the last decades, we have noticed an increased urbanisation of the world, so cities are growing, both in the global north and in the global south. So cities become important socioeconomic and political actors and they revendicate somehow the right to have their own heritage. They built their own sense of community and their own tangible and intangible heritage. So cities become important actors and important actually nodal points for heritage policy and heritage governance, of course.

Hi everyone! Congratulations! You have made it to the end of this week’s program! Now, let us sum up what we have learned this week:

What is heritage?

Heritage is about the relationship that a community constructs with its past. It is about how the past informs the present and is actually used in the present. It is something positive (it is cherished) It involves ways of categorizing ‘things’ and traditions in the world. So it is also about the power of labelling and classifying. Heritage also implies a sense of threat – it is vulnerable. It may be lost because of destruction, loss or decay.

Types of heritage

Heritage can be natural – our environment – and constructed: what we create.

Heritage can be tangible: sites, buildings, objects but also intangible such as language, music, rituals of daily life and work. However, we should remember that also intangible practices are embedded in physical relationships with concrete things: objects, places, people. Thus even the ‘intangible’ heritage is tightly linked with the material world. It can be officially recognised or be informal. Defining what is part of our ‘heritage’ has important implications as it defines what should be recognized, protected, valorised.

Why does heritage as a policy area emerge in the second half of the 20th century?

The acceleration of time and of the pace of socio-economic change that humanity has experienced particularly in the late 20th and early 21st century has led to a need for controlling historical time, and protecting the past from loss and decay.

Studies and policies dealing with cultural heritage assume precisely this role: of discovering, classifying, ordering, protecting, preserving and even promoting our ‘heritage’.

Who are the stakeholders involved in cultural heritage policies?

Cultural heritage policy involves four types of actors:

➢ National authorities such as culture ministries and their different branches

➢ Civil society actors cultural associations and foundations

➢ International organizations whose aim is to preserve and promote heritage such as UNESCO.

➢ Professionals, experts working in the field of heritage restoration or preservation.

What are the aims of heritage policy?

➢ To preserve and protect cultural heritage

➢ To use it for educational purposes

➢ To promote citizen participation and inclusion

➢ To create employment and promote economic growth

Cities and their Heritage

During the last 50 years as globalisation has accelerated and intensified, cities have become privileged loci of economic activity, political power and also of cultural policy and governance.

They thus emerge as communities in their own right which discover or invent their own heritage either in their history (imperial powers, ancient civilisations, cities of migration) or in their present and future ambition (new city states, global financial and cultural centres).

Heritage can contribute to the life of a city in many different ways: It can bring tourism, it can be a resource for higher education, it can contribute to the emergence of creative industries (like design, fashion, or also arts and crafts), it can attract investments and create employment related to the preservation and promotion of heritage as well as to its consumption.

That’s it for Week 1!

By the end of this week, we hope you can better explain what is cultural heritage, its different types and how it has emerged as an area of public policy. You have also acquired prior knowledge about some of the actors that shape cultural heritage policies and about some of the impacts of cultural heritage projects on cities.

Next week we will learn much more on these two last points. We will identify the key actors of cultural heritage governance. You will also learn how to evaluate the impacts of cultural heritage projects on cities and to compare the governance of heritage in different cities or countries.

Please share your comments, feedback and reflections on what you learned this week in the comments below!

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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