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Saving cultural heritage: The value of the past – credit for the future

Is it worth rescuing “David”? In a word, yes. But how much are we willing to pay for this? Furthermore to this, if it is not just “business as usual” and scientists have to test or modify long before the object is touched? Saving cultural heritage needs experts and finances.

The workshop entitled “COST and Cultural Heritage: Crossing Borders” was organised in Florence from 20 to 22 October 2005. It brought both ends together: people working in cultural heritage and agencies providing funding. Italy, with its extremely rich heritage and especially Florence, where economy strongly depends on tourism, was the right venue for a two-day workshop. An international community of about 100 participants gathered in front of “David”, to search for inspirations for future collaborations. The opening of the Workshop took place in Palazzo Vecchio, 20 October 2005, where Leonardo Domenici, Mayor of Florence, gave his greetings and best wishes for a successful meeting, and continued at the Uffizi Biblioteque where Antonio Paolucci Soprintendente of the Polo Museale Fiorentino welcomed the participants to the largest museum collections in Italy. Mariella Zoppi, Minister of Culture at the Regione Toscana presented the development of new technologies for cultural heritage resulting from cooperation among research centres, conservation institutions, high tech companies and restoration companies, and the perspectives of transnational cooperation of this cluster. The main sponsor of the two-day event was COST, an intergovernmental European framework supporting scientific networking in various fields. Francesco Fedi, president of COST Committee of Senior Officials, explains the idea behind the title Crossing Borders: “The responsibility for European cultural heritage needs to be addressed on an international level. Besides, we also have to cross mental barriers between all those disciplines, which have to contribute to preservation of museum objects or archaeological sites”. Cristina Gutierrez-Cortines and Guido Sacconi, Members of the European Parliament, stress the responsibility of politicians for the common European Cultural Heritage. Tourism is continuously gaining importance for the European economy, which is clearly visible even in rural areas, not only in Florence. We have a credit for the future, but only if we preserve our rich heritage of the past. Participants from 18 countries came to the workshop, not only from the European Union and associated States, but also speakers from Lebanon and Egypt. Their background and contributions covered an extremely broad variety of topics: scientists report how to analyse an art object without touching it; geologists and archaeologists look under ground; historians reflect about what should be preserved or thrown away. International organisations dealing with cultural heritage, such as the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) or the International Center for the Preservation of Monuments and Sites (ICCROM) have sent speakers to the workshop. Funding possibilities for Cultural Heritage Research will be reported by representatives from the European Commission, the European Science Foundation and from CNR. Renzo Salimbeni, local organiser from IFAC/CNR, summarises his hopes for the outcome of the workshop: “European funding is essential, we need various sources. COST, with its clear mission to bring people from different fields together, would be an ideal partner for future events. As scientists working in conservation, we need the exchange with our colleagues in Europe and for this we need funding.” For further information please contact: Renzo Salimbeni, IFAC-CNR, Florence, Hannelore Roemich, COST Office, Brussels, Pictures are available upon request to illustrate restoration projects connected to or presented at the workshop.