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Heritage at Risk: EU research and innovation for a more resilient cultural heritage

Neglect, pollution, natural hazards and climate change are all playing their part in the damage to cultural heritage. This non-renewable resource, in all its diverse physical forms, needs safeguarding for future generations. EU-funded research projects, including those showcased in this new CORDIS Results Pack, have been carefully investigating the preservation and the sustainable management of these valuable assets to increase their overall resilience. Innovative solutions and techniques, assessment systems, mitigation strategies, risk management models, disaster prevention, quick damage assessment, ICT tools and guidelines have been some of the major results successfully delivered by both FP7 and H2020 projects in the field of cultural heritage.

Climate Change and Environment

Cultural heritage has a universal value for us as individuals, communities and societies. Rather than being static, heritage evolves through our engagement with it and our heritage has a significant role to play in building the future of Europe. All these factors feed into the European Union’s decision to make 2018 the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Cultural heritage in the European Union is a rich and diverse mosaic of cultural and creative expressions: our inheritance from previous generations of Europeans and our legacy for those to come. It includes natural, built and archaeological sites, landscapes, museums, monuments, artworks, historic cities, literary, musical and audiovisual works, and the knowledge, practices and traditions of European citizens. This richness is not just something we have to preserve, it also gives back in the form of economic growth, employment and social cohesion. Cultural activities and artefacts offer us the potential to revitalise urban and rural areas and promote sustainable tourism.

Our heritage: our children’s inheritance

While how to go about preserving artefacts and sites is primarily the responsibility of Member States, the EU focusses on safeguarding and enhancing Europe's cultural heritage through a number of policies and programmes, such as support for research and innovation. Some of the projects presented in this brochure achieved results that include advanced social and technical solutions. Others have developed guidelines and recommendations for experts and policy-makers. All these results will contribute to increase the resilience of heritage sites facing disasters, climate change, mutating environments and conditions etc. Three transnational projects come under the banner of HERITAGE PLUS, which brings together researchers in the domain. Three projects have successfully applied space technology to identify vulnerable sites and have practical manuals on threats for policy-makers, global organisations and NGOs. This brochure also sets out the valuable work done by STORM and HERACLES – key projects in the work to boost climate change adaptation and the resilience of cultural heritage sites. These EU-funded initiatives underline the value of bringing together expertise and resources from across Europe to protect our shared European heritage and to enhance cooperation with non-EU countries in a sustainable manner. For a better understanding of how the great structures of the past were designed and built, the brochure presents the results of projects such as REGOTHICVAULTDESIGN, which provides insights into how the great Gothic vaults were constructed. Beyond Europe, the TRANS-SAHARA project has discovered a type of tomb with painted funerary chapels used for ancestor worship in the region. Meanwhile the complex and hidden history of Malta emerged more clearly thanks to the work done by the Fragsus project, which used evidence from ancient cereal pollen samples, erosion and tree felling to build a picture of the country’s earliest history. The project has revealed humans arrived in Malta at least 700 years earlier than previously thought. To make the research process as efficient as possible, the EU-funded IPERION CH project worked to establish a European research infrastructure dedicated to the conservation, interpretation and management of our unique cultural heritage.

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