CHARTER’s new report: Towards a new integrated cultural heritage model

CHARTER’s new report: Towards a new integrated cultural heritage model

CHARTER Alliance
Working Package 2 (WP2), focused on strategic analysis of cultural heritage competences and occupational profiles, has released its first report of preliminary findings. The first public CHARTER Alliances result contributes to a better understanding of how the cultural heritage sector has been described over the past decades. The sector is further explained in a new matrix model that is comprehensive and responsive to the complexity and current state of sector.
The report “A new landscape for heritage professions – preliminary findings” summarizes the research done by WP2 over the last months. The findings have been thoroughly analyzed and encapsulated into a matrix that showcases the circularity and interconnectedness of the cultural heritage ecosystem. The model will be helpful in the next next phase of the CHARTER project when we will develop professional profiles.

The CHARTER model outline

The report compiles the first findings of an ongoing desk research on policy documents, reports and academic papers about cultural heritage. These constitute the starting point for the work by WP2.

Policy papers cite official aspirations for the sector but are often contradicted by reports stressing the limitations impeding its full development and recognition. Academic papers provide interesting analysis of the sector highlighting the problems characterizing it, as well as its potential.

When evaluating the sector, reports often quote or refer to the value chain model as a matrix to describe the cultural heritage sector. Structure and concepts from the economic chain models have been used and adapted as the metric to estimate the value of culture and heritage. This linear and hierarchical approach, however, does not account for how both fields are fundamental to our way of being in the world.

Linear models, useful as they may be for calculating economic value, fail to account for heritage as a function of social discourse which is cyclical in nature by way of sharing the same start and end point. Those who author the heritage ‘product’ (recognition) as input are the same people who ‘consume’ (access and use) it as output.

This cyclical and integrated nature of the heritage landscape instead suggests considering a self-sustaining, dynamic eco-system where Functions are integrated and non-hierarchical. This “ecological” approach focuses primarily on social and human aspects before the economic ones, and the sector is perceived as including a wide range of material and immaterial resources that interconnect and are interdependent.


The CHARTER model proposal

The work of WP2 done so far, led to the assumption that the concept of an ecosystem offers the possibility of developing a framework which can encompass all the activities related to heritage practice as well as making explicit the relationship between them. A model was developed to represent the circularity of an ecosystem. During the CHARTER meetings in Riga and Timisoara, WP2 presented, discussed and elaborated this model with the Consortium.

The model identifies the six core functions related to the cultural heritage sector, which include clusters of the present-day heritage activities. The soft focus of the image suggests the interrelationship of all its parts to form a matrix. A basic understanding of the logic of each core function is needed to realize the potential of cultural heritage as a driving force in sustainable social and economic development.

CHARTER model of the cultural heritage sector

The six core functions of the CHARTER matrix

The model was illustrated with 3 functional areas in the center. These 3 functions identified as being specific to the concept of heritage are: Recognition; Preservation and Safeguarding; Engagement and use. They are grounded in another 3 areas, considered as systemic to the sector because they are cornerstones of an integrated approach and of all social engagement: Research & Development/Education; Governance and policy making; Management.

The 3 functions of Cultural Heritage (CH):
    • Recognition refers to all the activities necessary to identify and recognize cultural heritage through interpretation, narration, identification and advocacy. The approach chosen here is rather wide and includes recognition by communities, experts and institutions, as well its outcome in the legal and official acts for its protection.
    • Preservation and safeguarding refer to the multitude of activities that need to be put into place to ensure the long-term survival and care of heritage, from maintenance to conservation-restoration, from preventive conservation to restoration and safeguarding of intangible heritage.
    • Engagement and use refer to all activities necessary to access and open up heritage, make it understandable, make it available for consultation and use, raise awareness, etc. so that it can be used as a resource by all stakeholders. Actions that add value because of the impact on society are also included. Moreover, activities for the enhancement of CH to enable people to better engage and access heritage assets are included, for instance in: school programs, mediation, communication, exhibition, dissemination, participation through heritage societies, the exchange and transmission of knowledge of cultural heritage. It also encompasses forms of commercialization of heritage and heritage related products, including digital means.
The 3 systemic functions of Cultural Heritage (CH):
    • Governance and policy making refer to the decision-making processes about heritage in the wider domain of heritage policy at local, regional, national and international level. They include the legal norms specific to each country, the institutions that contribute to their definition and implementation and that are fundamental in defining the same concept of heritage and the accompanying range of activities that can/cannot be undertaken. Governance and policy making are a set of practices which give rise to instruments that are fundamental for the existence and development of heritage at a public level, including those holistic democratic and participative mechanisms of governance that bring communities to the fore of heritage advocacy and decision making.
    • Research & Development/Education refer to all the activities necessary throughout the process that go from the recognition of heritage to its preservation and enhancement. Education is necessary to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to operate in the field but, also, simply to acknowledge heritage. Research is an on-going activity that relates to all Functions. It is necessary to do research to identify heritage, to find the best tools for its preservation and conservation and to devise the best strategies to guarantee access to heritage, enhance it, and make people use it.
    • Management refers to all activities related to the everyday management. It includes strategic planning and organizational development. It can support the undertaking of conservation, excavations, openings of heritage to the public, processes leading to heritage recognition, etc.


Learn more about the model in the full report.

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