Cultural heritage is a shared resource and a common good. This means that looking after our heritage is a common responsibility too. The European Commission declared this principle in the 2014 Communication Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe.
New approaches to conservation focus on making cultural heritage fully part of the local community. This is why conservationist tailor their efforts towards preserving and enhancing a complete cultural landscape rather than just an isolated site.
The Commission recognises the need to continue developing more participative interpretation and governance models that are better suited to contemporary Europe, through greater involvement of the private sector and civil society. This would strengthen Europe’s position in the field of cultural heritage preservation, restoration and valorisation.
Strengthening relationships among cultural heritage professionals
In the Work Plan for Culture 2015-2018, the Council of the European Union requested a group of experts from 27 countries to identify “innovative approaches to the multilevel governance of tangible, intangible and digital heritage which involve the public sector, private stakeholders and the civil society”.
Participatory governance is about strengthening the relationship between cultural heritage institutions and professionals. It is about involving everyone interested or engaged in cultural heritage. It is also an innovative approach that introduces real change in managing and valuing cultural heritage. Finally, it can be sustained over a long period.
Explanations of the participatory governance approach are available in the 2018 report on Participatory Governance of Cultural Heritage.
Building on the report, the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage calls for a participatory approach to safeguarding and managing cultural heritage. It also highlights the need for new models that engage local communities and a wide range of stakeholders in open, participatory and inclusive processes.
See also the Faro Way of the Council of Europe, which encourages the role of civil society and local communities in the governance of cultural heritage.
NEARCH explored the various dimensions of public participation in contemporary archaeology. It also brought to the field new ways of working and collaborating: cultivating archaeology as a means to involve people and develop a sense of European belonging.