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Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe_Towards an integrated, interdisciplinary and transnational training model in cultural heritage research and management

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CHEurope (Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe_Towards an integrated, interdisciplinary and transnational training model in cultural heritage research and management)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2021-08-31

CHEurope focused on developing a new integrated theoretical and methodological framework to enhance the academic and professional training and open future job opportunities in cultural heritage preservation, management and promotion. With an overall duration of 5 years (November 2016 to August 2021), the project supported the research and training of 15 Early Stage Researchers from Europe and other parts of the world.

Bringing together a network of key European academic and non-academic organisations from 7 European countries, the project explored the processes by which heritage is ‘assembled’ through practice-based research in partner institutions that connect students to their future job markets and publics. Our aim was to inform more conventional aspects of cultural heritage designation, care and management with a strong focus on present and future consumers. We have proposed an advanced learning strategy based on the emerging field of Critical Heritage Studies, which combined theoretical and instrumental knowledge at a transnational and interdisciplinary level, in a series of research seminars, summer schools and secondments. The program is based on themes where cultural heritage is undergoing profound change, such as Heritage Futures, Curating the City, Digital Heritage, Heritage and Wellbeing and Management and Citizen Participation.
5 years after its inception (2016 - 2021), the CHEurope project has fulfilled its objectives and achieved its expected results.

The beneficiary organisations have organised 6 ‘Joint Research Seminars’ and 2 ‘Summer School’, representing the backbone of CHEurope’s training program. It is during these events that the fellow researchers have presented the progress of their research projects to be discussed and peer-reviewed. They have benefited also from theoretical courses, lectures, discussion panels, workshops and hands-on field and desk activities. Moreover, the 15 ESRs have also achieved their secondments in a number of public or private organisations dealing with the study and management of cultural heritage. Their role consisted mainly in diversifying the research, training and networking activities, hosting the ESRs and offering them on the job training and fieldwork with the aim to expose them to a wide range of research and professional experiences.

The project has been managed by the Gothenburg University (PL), backed by a Supervisory Board (SB), composed of the main supervisors at the beneficiary organizations. The SB was responsible for the overall scientific and technical supervision of the project. Another driving force in the project was represented by the Researchers’ Council (RC). This consultative body consisted of all 15 ESRs and allowed exchange and discussion about technical and management issues. For the recruitment of the ESRs, a general announcement has been published on the beneficiaries’ websites, as well as on Euraxess. Out of the 276 applications received, the 15 positions have been covered by qualified, serious and motivated researchers, with very diverse origins and profiles (Europe, the Middle East and Latin America).

The project's outreach to the Scientific Community has been achieved through more than 50 publications by the ESRs (peer-reviewed papiers, press and web articles, information documents and videos). The fellow researchers have also participated in a number of international seminars, conferences, courses on culture and heritage.
The main tool for the project’s communication is a dedicated website (www.cheurope-project.eu). Likewise, the project has benefited from an adequate visibility on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
Included as one of CHEurope’s anticipated outcomes, an exhibition concept has been launched as a result of one of the Joint Research Seminars and as a ‘situated action’ during the Participatory Design Conference held in Hasselt in August 2018. This action is designed as an iterative process and a collaborative project allowing all the ESRs to actively contribute to its development until April 2021 when the project's results and the outcomes of the 15 ESRs research projects have been showcased in a new virtual interactive online exhibition, intitled "Yesterday is Today"
During the first CHEurope's Summer School, a video has been produced and streamed on the project's website and social media.In 2020, beneficiary organisation IBC has coordinated and published a richly illustrated and documented booklet presenting the CHEurope project, its 5 WPs, activities and participants. All ESRs have taken part in its préparation.
The project has achieved very promising perspectives both in training and research terms, and represents an innovative methodological model likely to be transferred in further cooperation ventures.

From a training perspective, CHEurope draws its relevance from the interdisciplinary and intersectoral network of diverse heritage institutions around Europe, each with its own role and expertise. Wedded to this is a progressive interdisciplinary joint training program that combines elements from all five WPs and creates a package of interdisciplinary skills, which enables each PhD student to position him/herself towards the job market in various sectors from urban planning to management and public engagement.

The example offered by CHEurope is also likely to achieve a durable impact on the participating organizations. The innovative joint research program will certainly contribute in shaping a novel doctoral/early-stage research training model which represents a relevant tribute to European innovation capacity in sciences and culture.

From a research perspective, the 15 ESRs have all implemented cutting-edge and original PhD projects which will bring a significant contribution to the emergent field of Critical Heritage Studies, and beyond, to the study and management of cultural heritage in general.