Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Héctor Manuel Aliaga de Miguel

Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Héctor Manuel Aliaga de Miguel

Young cultural heritage professionals
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 young cultural 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?

Initially, my studies began in the field of architecture and, while I was doing my degree, I discovered my interest and passion for Cultural Heritage with subjects such as art history, urban planning (history and management of cities) and restoration.

It is true that it this a very specific field of study, which is not easy to access at first and which requires another degree of specialisation; but, the curiosity and desire to work in this world were many, so in the end I embarked on this path towards Cultural Heritage from architecture thanks to a multidisciplinary master’s degree in management and research of Cultural Heritage.


How was/is your transition from studying to working?

As in many other areas of professional activity, the world of work and the world of education do not always have the same context, and moving from the theoretical field to practical reality entails a process of learning and adaptation that is necessary in order to base future development.

That is why I took advantage of the curricular practices of the mentioned master’s degree to start working in a Spanish Foundation expert in the field of Cultural Heritage, which carries out work in restoration, preventive conservation, European research projects, sustainable development and cultural tourism.


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

As I mentioned before, the Master’s internship itself offered me the opportunity to enter the professional world of Cultural Heritage, in which, after several months of training, I managed to work actively in different international research projects (Horizon 2020, Interreg, etc.) on various areas that concern Cultural Heritage: management of smart destinations, indicator systems, cultural tourism, etc.

However, despite already having a job, I did not stop looking for and collaborating in other parallel activities of training, dissemination and volunteering. Thus, I started to collaborate with ICOMOS-CNE (in the Emerging Professionals Working Group of Spain), to participate with Europa Nostra and ESACH (in the European Heritage Youth Ambassadors program, representing Spain) and to carry out specialised tours around Madrid in the Open House Madrid open days.

Finally, I decided to continue learning and expanding my knowledge in the field of Cultural Heritage, so I started the adventure of doing a research thesis within the PhD program UNA-HER-DOC, as part of the European Alliance of universities called UNA Europa. Today, this PhD is the main focus of my daily activity.


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

Undoubtedly, after having collaborated in different activities and projects, with several entities representing Cultural Heritage at national and European level, I would highlight:

  • Open, respectful and international spirit
  • Fluency in foreign languages, at least English.
  • Time and resource management in a transdisciplinary world.
  • Experience in digital tools and ability to work in groups

Self-learning (“learning by doing”), curiosity and motivation, especially to face new challenges.


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

At this point, unfortunately, as I have already mentioned, the world of work and the world of education do not always operate with the same variables, so it would be advisable to focus more on some of the aforementioned skills during training. In particular, reference should be made to the international world, including fluency in other languages, knowledge of other cultures, and teamwork (both digitally and remotely) where a diverse number of opinions and points of view converge.


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

Given that Cultural Heritage is a multidisciplinary field of work that covers several areas of study, the good thing is that students with different backgrounds can join this exciting adventure; for example, young people with studies in architecture, history, urban planning, archaeology, anthropology, art history, economics, journalism, communication, politics, new technologies, etc.

In reality, the question would rather be “how to make the world of Cultural Heritage better known to young people, so that they are aware of this option from the very beginning when making a decision about their future?” Therefore, some initiatives could be:

  • To promote transversal activities from the stages of compulsory education, where Cultural Heritage could be the common topic of an exercise or subject.
  • To encourage specific internships and university training in companies or institutions working in the field of Cultural Heritage, in relation to all the areas of study mentioned above.
  • To generate a greater global sensitivity towards Cultural Heritage on all members of society, including Cultural Heritage in our daily lives and in the transformation of our cities, towns and territories.


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

As a closing question, it is somehow difficult to answer, due in part to all the facets that we can appreciate within Cultural Heritage. But certainly, our Cultural Heritage can be an engine of transformation and development of society and territory, helping to meet several of the current objectives of sustainability, inclusion and green and digital transformation.

Currently, both at European and global level, we can see different initiatives in which Cultural Heritage has much to contribute, such as meeting the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030 from United Nations, encouraging the New European Bauhaus (NEB) promoting more beautiful, more sustainable and more inclusive living spaces in Europe and beyond, and implementing the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper (a main reference document to achieve the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal by the European Commission) promoted by ICOMOS, the Climate Heritage Network, the European Heritage Alliance and Europa Nostra. As we can see, we still have a long way to go.


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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