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News Pioneering a new vision for the cultural heritage sector

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​Participants of the Salzburg Global Seminar program, What Future for Cultural Heritage? Perceptions, Problematics, and Potential.

​ARTC Chair Debra Hess Norris just returned from the latest program in Salzburg Global's "Culture, Arts and Society," as the multi-year series reaches a conclusion. From the seminar web site:

Salzburg Global Fellows have set the groundwork for countering threats to cultural heritage and exploring new frontiers in heritage innovation.

Following an intensive five-day program at Schloss Leopoldskron – What Future for Culture Heritage? Perceptions, Problematics, and Potential – participants expressed their vision for the future and several calls to actions in a series of presentations.

More than 45 participants working in 30 countries were divided into focus groups which examined topics including cross-sector alliances and development partnerships, technology, decolonizing heritage, youth engagement, and the relationship between cultural heritage and sustainable development. Another group also dedicated their time toward making a case for cultural heritage.

To create cross-sector alliances, you need to have a clear a statement about what you’re doing, the first group to present argued. Part of the group’s mission statement reads: “Cultural heritage considerations need to be embedded within all sectors of government and civil society.”

Among other strategies, participants called for each national International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) chapter to evaluate heritage with the potential to be lost through climate change and migration. In addition, participants recommended each chapter should develop a mitigation plan for heritage identified through this survey, which could include documentation and identification of partners in other sectors.

Greater coordination with agencies such as the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and partners in the philanthropic, technology, and business sectors would also be beneficial, according to participants. The presenter indicated Salzburg Global Fellows could be the nucleus of a coalition to implement these strategies, which they declared “achievable” over the next 20 years.

The next group to present focused on “putting the cultural heritage in tech.” Participants recommended creating a Cultural Heritage Resource Defence Council. This council would convene, support, and act to host critical conversations, advocate for shared action, collect and create learning patterns and tools, and build capacities within different constituencies.

One participant argued, “We can’t predict the future. But we can design toward the one we want.” [To learn more about the full range of topics covered during this year's Salzburg Global Seminar program, visit their web site here.]

​ARTC Chair at the 2019 Salzburg Global Seminar program.

Norris (Chair and Professor of Photograph Conservation in the Art Conservation Department, Unidel Henry Francis du Pont Chair, and Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation) shared the following thoughts on her trip back to UD:

How do we work together to make cultural heritage – both tangible and intangible – matter? This was the focus of the Salzburg Global Seminar Session 614 What Future for Cultural Heritage? Perceptions, Problematics, and Potential that I was privileged to attend this past week at the Schloss Leopoldskron. A report is forthcoming.

Our program was structured along a continuum of inquiry: perceptions of the past, problematics of the present, and potential for the future. In launching our conversation, one participant from Africa noted a Swahili proverb that I find inspiring,

The person who denies his culture or heritage remains a slave.

On day two, I moderated one of many "catalyzed" conversation centered on "problematics" featuring participants from Barbados to India.  Here, we worked to identify threats, obstacles including siloes and hierarchies, and opportunities for better communication with education, urban development, and tourism. Rich conversations, debates, and break-out sessions characterized our gathering in Salzburg as 40 super inspiring and intergenerational delegates from across the globe forcefully shared their perspectives with precision and kindness. [An overview of the program and participants is available here.] 

Final focus groups identified concrete action items associated with six priority topics, including:

CROSS SECTOR ALLIANCES & PARTNERSHIPS. Among many observations and recommendations, including greater involvement for ICOMOS, ICOM, and UNESCO, it was noted that the cultural heritage sector requires greater cohesion – its strength is its diversity although this diversity also fractures the message and dilutes funding

USE OF TECHNOLOGY and DIGITAL MEDIA. This group urged the formation of a Cultural Heritage Resource Defense Council (with plans to do so) centered on ethics and equity  to host  critical conversations, advocate for shared action, and work within and across other spaces of acts of reparation, restitution, and decolonization

DECOLONIZING HERITAGE. Here we were asked to resist colonial racial taxonomies and hierarchies, to re-center Africa and Asia, and to consider local knowledge as evidence as we address contested histories and seek and form oral, indigenous, and historic archives.

YOUTH  ENGAGEMENT. This group recognized the need to create spaces for dialogue and creativity and to use cultural heritage as a dynamic process for the participation and inclusion of the youth.

CULTURAL HERITAGE AS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. Outcomes from this discussion included specific strategies aimed at demonstrating that cultural heritage is dynamic and a container of multiple values such as dignity and identity – an enabler of peace and social cohesion, overall well-being and environmental protection. Simply put there is NO sustainability without heritage. This group and many others advocated strongly to strengthen the role of cultural heritage in the next cycle of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.

I had the great fortune to participate in a focus group centered on MAKING THE CASE FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE. We noted the need to share a powerful but simple message, one easily understood and not lost in translation. We documented the ability of cultural heritage to:

  • Connect the world
  • Strengthen cultural understanding and identity
  • Contribute to sustainability
  • Celebrate humanity; it is our core and our essence
  • Tell stories
  • Foster joy
  • Celebrate memories
  • Strengthen well-being
  • Inspire touch
  • Discover
  • Educate, activate, transform, shape, and heal people and communities, today and tomorrow
  • Transmit from the past to the future in meaningful ways
  • Untangle the abilities of humanity and creativity
  • Enable dialogue
  • Give a voice to the voiceless

In doing so, we created a twitter feed #HERITAGECAN where we will collect examples of the transformative power of cultural heritage as well as a domain name, CULTURALHERITAGECAN where we will create a new site complete with impact reports, resources, and fundraising guidelines.

The Salzburg Global Seminar offers fantastic programming in culture and society, media and voice, planet and health, justice and security, education and work, among other areas of interest. Summary reports are online.  Seminars may be by invitation or application. There is also specified programming for future leaders. See and other portions of the site. I promise you will be inspired and transformed.

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ARTC Chair Debra Hess Norris just returned from the latest program in Salzburg Global's "Culture, Arts and Society," as the multi-year series reaches a conclusion.

​ARTC Chair Debra Hess Norris just returned from the latest program in Salzburg Global's "Culture, Arts and Society," as the multi-year series reaches a conclusion.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489