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Re-designing access to CH for a wider participation in preservation, (re)use and management of European culture

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - REACH (Re-designing access to CH for a wider participation in preservation, (re)use and management ofEuropean culture)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-12-31

The REACH project was based on the proposition that cultural heritage (CH) plays an important role in contributing to social integration in Europe, and that a more detailed picture of the range, type and impact of research and participatory research methodologies, would further enhance their potential for social good. The REACH project aimed to establish a social platform as a sustainable space for collaboration by a wide-ranging network, all with a stake in research and practice in the field of culture and CH.

The project was to explore top-down, bottom-up, participatory heritage and governance approaches, underpinned by the concept of resilient CH, the ability to adapt to a disturbance, and also the recognition of female roles within CH, as these have traditionally been overlooked.

REACH was to:
• develop a sustainable network aggregating the widest range of stakeholders and audiences,
• implement a programme of public encounters (workshops, symposium, conferences and meeting with local stakeholders) focusing on participatory approaches to preservation, (re-)use, and management of CH
• publish an online portal (reach-culture.eu and open-heritage.eu websites) to give access as a repository of resources to be exploited in research activities
• test REACH concepts through four pilots (Minority, Institutional, Rural and Small towns’ heritage) that were of diverse natures, working with different types of communities, in different situations and political climates.
The first actions of the REACH project were to establish its online presence and build its network of Associate partners, and use this foundation to discover the results of prior projects for evaluation, and from them identify themes, strong practices, transferable elements or noticeable gaps. Ultimately, 128 cases of good practice were evaluated, providing, a comprehensive list of participatory and resilient CH practices.

Having considered the work of these projects, the findings informed the development of a conceptual framework, and together with content from the REACH conference in Budapest, a series of participatory models were developed, to be tested by four participatory pilots (Minority, Institutional, Rural and Small towns' heritage). In parallel, workshops that addressed the underpinning themes of management, (re-)use and preservation of CH, as well as resilient CH, were held to gather perspectives from a broad range of stakeholders, with their results also used to refine the project’s participatory models.

Throughout the project, good practice cases continued to be assessed, some of which were refined to become best practice case studies. Evaluation of activity took place to identify evidence of resilience in CH, comparing theory and practice, and ultimately making a series of recommendations. Given the project’s remit to develop and test participatory models, further evaluation took place that compared the pilots, and ultimately identified a number of common CH related participatory themes, once more outlining a series of recommendation for use by other interested parties.

Throughout the project, details of the all strands of its work were shared via the REACH website, reach-culture.eu its blog and through multiple social media channels, ensuring that findings and results were disseminated to the network that had continually grown. The open-heritage.eu website was also populated during this time to include a series of resources, tools and policy papers, as well as REACH good practice cases, to provide a base for CH sector-wide collaboration.

In addition to open-heritage.eu the project team took its requirements as a social platform seriously. With the remit to bring together relevant heritage stakeholders’ representatives from research communities, SMEs, heritage practitioners of all kinds, as well as policy-makers, to participate in a symposium in Brussels and collective video call; the main objective being to establish a coordination structure that would strengthen the voice of the CH community and provide a place to share result and best practices and maintain the work and impact of projects after they have ended.
In terms of successful participatory approaches, the impact that each of the REACH pilots has had on the communities that it has worked with, and the wider CH sector, is already evident through changes in attitudes and practice. The Minority heritage pilot has undertaken important social and political work, bringing together stakeholders, not only in Budapest but also in deprived rural areas of Hungary; in so doing, the pilot has reduced social isolation and increased the profile of Roma heritage. New participatory partnerships were brokered, forming a foundation for future collaborations that reach beyond the scope of the project, with the potential for future exchanges, collaborative educational programmes and research projects.

The Institutional heritage pilot took place at a time when museums were actively self-critiquing their role and actively moving away from the image of storehouses of collective ‘Memory’ and ‘History’ to become vibrant meeting-places for intergenerational, cross-cultural dialogue. Pilot museums are now including community expertise – heritage from below – in their collections. It is clear that the interpersonal exchanges between stakeholders, as well as the external critical analysis, has given valuable support to museum practitioners, encouraging new participatory ideas when the making new exhibitions, including co-creation, or indeed, co-curation.

Rural heritage pilot activities in Spain, oriented towards the irrigator communities and the traditional irrigation systems, have resulted in an increase of acknowledgment and awareness of their importance from a cultural, environmental, social and agronomic point of view. Changes in attitudes of those responsible involved the pilot in hydrological planning for the new programme (2021- 2027). The work in Andalusia has built on creating and sustaining relationships with the various irrigation communities, empowering them through work on several local community agrarian and environmental policies, supporting them through meetings with rural federations, policy makers and lobbying both academics and administrators to ensure that rural areas are given a higher political focus and status.

The Small towns’ heritage pilot is already evidencing demonstrable impact in the field of CH research and formal education, as its results will be built upon by the KREAS project to populate an online database and interactive map of resilient places in Central Europe; this then feeds into Higher Education programmes.

The REACH team understood the need to bring CH stakeholders together to create an environment for sharing knowledge and expertise. The successful symposium and sector-wide consultation brought consensus that a research CH cluster was needed, with a Position Paper formally sent to the European Commission in July 2019. Meetings with significant CH stakeholders during 2020, confirmed interest in the development of a coordination structure. The ultimate objective is to support the CH research sector and to generate a unified voice, to demonstrate the importance of CH. This has been a significant strand of the REACH work and its initial impact is apparent through the statements of commitment. This action is set to continue, even after the project has officially concluded.
Pages from the REACH brochure
Pages from the REACH brochure
Presentation during the REACH Budapest conference, May 2018
Policy page of the social platform open-heritage.eu website
Roma CH in the 8th District of Budapest mini-conference, February 2019
Home page of the REACH project website www.reach-culture.eu
Panels covering resilient cultural heritage and social cohesion at the Budapest conference
REACH Digital Gallery, featuring posters from REACH and Associate partners
Local Encounter at the Roma Country House in Hodasz, October 2019
Good practice cases on the REACH social platform open-heritage.eu website
Picture show at the Industry and Film Museum exploring CH participation in institutions
Meeting of Associate partners to discuss the heritage of small towns
Annual cleaning of the Jerez del Marquesado historical irrigation channel
Cultural Heritage Symposium held in Brussels, March 2019
Workshop on participatory approaches for creativity and entrepreneurship, March 2019