Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Clara Villalba Montaner

Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Clara Villalba Montaner

CHARTER is teaming up with ICOMOS, and the ICOMOS International Emerging Professionals Working Group, to discuss and learn more about the perspectives of the new generation of heritage professionals as they enter the sector and take their first professional steps.

New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:

Young cultural heritage professionals

What was your motivation to enter the cultural heritage field? Was it your first option?

Was it your first option? During my architecture studies in Valencia, I met professors Camilla Mileto and Fernando Vegas and learned their passion for cultural heritage, especially, vernacular architecture in rural areas. I had always enjoyed myself visiting heritage sites, but their approach widened my perspective and triggered a whole new stage for me.


How was/is your transition from studying to working?

The programmes I attended included some internship periods, and it was in 2013 when I joined the MIRPAU team in WH city of Bordeaux, France for a few months. After that, I came back to Spain to work at an architecture firm and then at the public sector.


How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage?  And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?

As working in the cultural heritage sector was my main goal, I was informed that the position at the regional government in my home region was vacant and I took several exams in a public competition. Fortunately, I got the job, although this sort of application procedure is becoming a bit obsolete, in my opinion.

In ICOMOS, I am very lucky to have being part of the first generation of the so-called ‘emerging professionals initiative’, aimed to encourage intergenerational work and guarantee the continuity of this international network of professionals.


What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?

Experience is often the most demanded skill, which usually makes it very difficult for young professionals to enter the field. However, once you start working, multidisciplinary team work, good communication skills and being accessible to people who own heritage are also very important.


Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?

I strongly believe that the degree of Architecture focuses too much on ideal constructions of new neighbourhoods and buildings, and often leaves the importance of the existing urban tissue, our traditional architecture and our landscapes as models for a reasonable and truly sustainable development aside.


How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?

The current situation of climate emergency makes it crucial to explore all the tools at hand to manage these difficulties and mitigate their effects. The SDGs or the Green Deal are now part of our governments’ agendas, but a large-scale revolution is very much needed and the role of cultural heritage is key as part of the solution. Likewise, new generations of professionals must be agents of change and heritage education must be implemented from very early stages, too.


How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?

The role of the cultural sector needs to be part of a wider scheme, like the environmental sector, for instance. Also, there is a need to focus on people-centre approaches and become an actual part of our early education programmes, so the society as a whole can drive meaningful reforms in the near future. NGOs and organisations like ICOMOS are working towards these objectives, but there is still a lot to do.


About the ICOMOS and the International Emerging Professionals Working Group

ICOMOS is a network of experts committed to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage. In 2017 ICOMOS established the Emerging Professionals Working Group to promote the Emerging Professional membership base. The EPWG stimulates engagement with emerging heritage practitioners, tracks the progress of ongoing initiatives and shares updates involving the conservation of cultural heritage.
Learn more here!

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