Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Sorina Neacșu

Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Sorina Neacșu

Young cultural heritage professionals
CHARTER has partnered with the European Heritage Hub to present a new series of interviews featuring young cultural heritage professionals. On this occasion, we will engage in dialogue with members of various organisations-members of the consortium who are, in various capacities and positions participating in this EU-funded project, to explore their perspectives on navigating the complexities of entering the sector, how their education has equipped them with the necessary skills and competencies, and their visions for the future of heritage!

New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:

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

Unknowingly, my initial choice was the cultural heritage field. I chose to study art history and political science. My first significant role brought me to the Romanian National Art Museum, where I recognised the intrinsic link between heritage and education, concluding the experience as a museum educator. Transitioning into the NGO sector, I applied my developing skills to contribute to civil society’s heritage inclusion efforts. Through diverse projects and collaborations, I evolved into a cultural manager within this dynamic sector.

Reflecting on the journey, I can surely say that every step has been engaging. Cultural heritage not only unveils the world’s beauty, whether human-made or not, but also presents intricate challenges in terms of management, institutional dialogue, governmental priorities, and cultural policy. The more involved one becomes, the greater the desire to ensure that future generations can appreciate and experience what is available today (at least). Cultural heritage embodies all the traits I appreciate and have prepared for.

 

How was/is your transition from studying to working?

I experienced a natural, ‘organic’, transition, aligning my education in art history and political science with the cultural heritage field. This transition was facilitated by extensive volunteering, where I prioritised project objectives over the considerable working hours. These hands-on experiences enriched my understanding of the sector, expanded my network, and connected me with peers who shared similar concerns, fears, and ultimately, goals.

 

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

I regularly monitor LinkedIn posts and job market newsletters, not only for personal opportunities but also to identify potential fits and recommendations for my network. Observing job openings helps me track the evolving and specialised trends within the sector. I noticed the growing influence of word-of-mouth in promoting job opportunities.

Regarding my take on the application process, maintaining an updated CV is crucial. It is also important to keep an open mind. Then, aligning one’s skills and motivation with the employer’s needs and description is essential, all while staying authentic to oneself.

 

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

In addition to the required hard skills for specific roles, a distinct set of soft skills has become indispensable in the cultural heritage field, contributing significantly to effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability. I would particularly name the following key soft skills as integral to a comprehensive professional discourse in our field:

  • teamwork – collaborating seamlessly within interdisciplinary teams;
  • critical thinking and analytical skills – addressing complex issues in conservation, preservation, and management;
  • cultural sensitivity: being mindful and respectful of diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives, with a sensitivity to issues related to cultural representation and appropriation;
  • time management: demonstrating efficient time management for meticulous project planning and execution;
  • interpersonal skills: exercising diplomacy in handling potentially sensitive situations or discussions.

Additionally, but certainly not least:

  • emotional intelligence: cultivating emotional resilience to confront incoming challenges or setbacks.

 

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

I had to go beyond the usual classwork to explore courses and specialisations that shed light on how project management works. Within the cultural heritage sector, it’s useful to connect goals and objectives with activities, evaluate risks, and plan budgets effectively. Besides just making day-to-day tasks easier, many funding opportunities nowadays require skills in project writing and implementation, which are essentially rooted in the broader area of project management.

 

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

Thankfully, the growing availability of academic programs makes me believe the future of the cultural heritage sector looks bright, particularly in the areas of conservation, digitisation, and education. I am eager to see the development of a defined professional pathway for advocacy within this field, as it appears to be the essential element binding the various aspects together.

Coherent advocacy is pivotal for securing future funding and enhancing the overall competitiveness and relevancy of the field. Besides this, the sector has the potential, beyond its inherent value, to attract the youth by offering stable employment opportunities and appealing incomes, opening to AI and staying up-to-date technology wise.

 

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

This is a very hard question to answer particularly in this sensitive context with evolving societal values and global collaboration efforts. The key for the sector’s survival lies in becoming relevant and present in everyday life aspects. Ideally, the word / concept ‘heritage’ needs to become as popular as, let’s say, ‘music’ or ‘well-being’. The relevance must also be tied to current needs for a greener, more sustainable future.  

Some key directions might be:

  1. Sustainability: more digital preservation, eco-friendly conservation methods, balancing tourism revenue with the need for preservation and protection, etc.
  2. Inclusiveness: community involvement, cross-sectorial collaborative projects, knowledge sharing, promotion of local cultural heritage, integration of cultural heritage education into formal and informal learning environments, etc.
  3. Turning the tide from not-for-profit into revenue generating – trying to generate alternative funding and decrease the pressure from solely European available funding schemes.

With this in mind and to wrap up, ESACH and its partners launched in 2023 a position paper, ‘Youth for the future of cultural heritage in Europe’ that highlights the need for inclusion, collaboration, intergenerational exchange, strengthening the sector, and embracing new technologies. The paper marks the importance of youth in preserving and promoting cultural heritage.

 

About the European Heritage Hub

The European Heritage Hub is a two-year pilot project launched in May 2023 by a consortium of 20 partners, led by Europa Nostra and co-funded by the European Union, to set up a permanent and autonomous heritage hub in Europe.

Youth presence in the consortium is ensured by the partnership between Hispania Nostra and ESACH who are in charge of the coordination of youth activities throughout the project. ESACH, as a youth-led network of around 400 students and young professionals, contributes to the consortium as an associated partner and ensures the presence of younger generations in the debates and Hub activities. Learn more here!

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