by Roderick B. Salisbury (TEA Editor, European Association of Archaeologists, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The European Year of Cultural Heritage culminated in the #EuropeForCulture closing conference held in Vienna, Austria on 6–7 December 2018. Organized in collaboration with the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Commission, the conference discussed the legacy of the EYCH, and how to maintain the momentum built up through over 11,500 events. In addition, it highlighted successful projects from around Europe.
Thursday, 6 December was dedicated to “Discover your cultural heritage”, a discovery tour of heritage in the city of Vienna. After a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace, 12 themed stations could be explored through one of five coloured routes (pink, blue, purple, yellow and green). The routes were of different walking distances, with each option visiting three of the 12 stations. We (your TEA editors) took the Green route. Our first stop was the Palmenhaus where we explored “Traditional handicraft: Reviving the ancient” organized by the Austrian Federal Monuments Authority (BDA) Center for Information and Training, and the European Heritage Academy (Fotos). This station gave visitors the chance to learn about and participate in traditional crafts techniques used to restore and maintain buildings and monuments. Bricks were being made, paint was stripped from old window frames, a stone sculptor worked a piece of sandstone, stucco was made and used to cover architectural pieces.
The second station was “From initial idea to breaking ground”. Organized by LandLuft, an association for the promotion of Baukultur in rural areas, this event provided us with some refreshments in a local pub while role-playing the diversity of people, opinions and needs involved in the development of the built environment. We were slightly surprised to find that heritage professionals were not among the roles. “Ear cracker: a musical experiment” took us to the Wiener Konzerthaus, where we experienced the same musical piece twice. The Trio Catch played the “Catch Sonata” by Gérard Pesson, then explained the composition and gave tips on listening and interpreting, and then played it again, with the intent that we would “hear it with whole new ears” following their explanation. This station was organized by the Wiener Konzerthaus, a member of the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO); the trio are former members of the ECHO “Rising Stars” programme. In the evening there was a Reception hosted by the Federal Chancellery at the Imperial Palace with a presentation of the Cultural Gems app by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.
Fotos: Traditional handicrafts at the Palmenhaus in Vienna (© Katharina Rebay-Salisbury)
Friday’s Closing Conference was held at the Austria Center Vienna, and started very much on time. Plenary sessions were displayed on a jumbo screen behind the speakers, and headsets were provided to access translations into English, French and German. Welcome speeches were given by Gernot Blümel, Austrian Federal Minister for EU, Arts, Culture and Media; Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; and Petra Kammerevert, European Parliament Chair of Committee on Culture and Education. Highlights from the welcome included the importance of bringing people together, and recognizing the contributions of other cultures to our heritage. These observations by Gernot Blümel echoed points made by EAA members in a Forum at the SAA in Washington DC in 2018. Gernot Blümel also asked what goes on from this year; what can keep us together? and answered his own question - Culture! Another answer to what happens next year was given by Tibor Navracsics, who said that momentum will be maintained by a policy framework of 60 actions to be implemented in a European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage, organized into five areas for action:
- Cultural heritage for an inclusive Europe: participation and access for all
- Cultural heritage for a sustainable Europe: smart solutions for a cohesive and sustainable future
- Cultural heritage for a resilient Europe: safeguarding endangered heritage
- Cultural heritage for an innovative Europe: mobilising knowledge and research
- Cultural heritage for stronger global partnerships: reinforcing international cooperation
These were followed by the Keynote lecture "Europe’s Cultural Heritage – Past, Present and Future", by Peter Frankopan, Professor of Universal History of the University of Oxford, UK. Among other insights, the keynote reminded us of the importance of our shared history. Our European history is a story of who we are, and substantially influences how we think about the past. It is good that we celebrate our different foods, climates, languages, arts, and other aspects of cultural heritage. However, we must be aware that we are not natural collaborators, yet we must collaborate. Therefore, we must think of ways to combine our cultural experiences and leverage them to bring people together, and keep people together.
After the keynote, a reflection panel discussed the role of culture for society. The panel participants came from various perspectives and presented possible interventions of cultural policies for the promotion of heritage governance and democratic participation. Participants included:
- Petra Kammerevert, European Parliament, Chair of Committee on Culture and Education
- Peter Frankopan, Professor of Universal History of the University of Oxford, UK
- Amareswar Galla, Executive Director, International Institute of the Inclusive Museum, DK
- Hermann Vaske, Filmmaker, Author, Producer and Professor at the University of Applied Arts and Sciences in Trier, DE
- Gerfried Stocker, Artistic and Managing Director, Ars Electronica Linz, AT
- Corinne Szteinsznaider, Executive Committee Member Culture Action Europe
The Reflection Panel focused on the need to rethink the European Project. One way to achieve this is through reframing our focus on the concept of "inreach". Presented as an alternative to outreach, inreach takes from a diverse pool of culture, institutions, ideas and opportunities to be inclusive. Inclusivity is essential for bringing people together.
Also of importance to the discussion was how to achieve the unifying goals of this EYCH, this conference, and this panel. Responses included striving for 'active engagement', and being 'dynamic', 'pluralistic' and 'plurilogic'. These buzzwords are, of course, valid responses, but real world implementation most likely arises from the Framework for Action presented by Navracsics.
The afternoon comprised three parallel session and a series of less formal "Meet-ups". The sessions were about “What will remain from the EYCH?”, and included:
- Responsibility for cultural heritage: the youth’s role
- Cultural Heritage and sustainable development
- Facing the challenges of cultural heritage
The meet-ups were in succession, with some thematic overlap with the sessions, so I followed these. The first two were affiliated with EU Open Method of Coordination (OMC) working groups. The first meet-up was "Skills, training and knowledge transfer: traditional and emerging heritage professions". This was very interesting in that the group recognized weaknesses that were also identified during the EAA Barcelona 2018 President Lunch: education gaps, no official policy to promote crafting or other skills required for heritage preservation, and lack of community engagement associated with poor communication. Responses to these include a need for increased education and training, life-long learning, and knowledge transfer - also echoing responses from the 2018 EAA meeting.
The second was "Sustainable Cultural Tourism", also an OMC group. One key point that emerged from this is that sustainable cultural tourism is still being defined, and of course varies from place to place and between types of culture. Ideas such as 'Quality standards for EU interventions on tangible cultural heritage’ are under development. EAA should be involved in this process, particularly in terms of sustainability and archaeological heritage sites. The final meet-up was the presentation of a case study "The Impact of Cultural Heritage" by Harry Verwayen, Executive Director of the Europeana Foundation.
The conference ended with a closing session comprising a four person panel. Discussant reflected on the EYCH and its legacy, with more talk about sustainability, both in terms of sustainable tourism in cities and in rural areas, identifying these as having different stakeholders, different kinds of heritage tourists, and different physical and logistical requirements. Food was brought up, as a form of cultural heritage that can also support biodiversity, enhancing both sustainability and quality of life. Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović of Europa Nostra presented the Berlin Call, noting 2000 signatories. TEA notes that this is not a terribly large number, as it is less than the number of archaeologists attending the EAA 2018 Annual Meetings in Barcelona.
The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 was an eventful celebration of the importance of cultural heritage and the ways in which heritage can help reflect the past and build bridges for the future. Look for more about this topic in forthcoming issues of TEA.
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