Cultural heritage within the cultural and creative industries

Since some years the cultural and creative industries are widely understood as important drivers of economic growth and employment. In Europe, the path-breaking report for the policy emphasis on these industries arguably has been the study “The Economy of Culture in Europe”, which was carried out by KEA European Affairs for the European Commission (KEA 2006). Before this study mainly the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport had commissioned work on “mapping” and analysis of the creative industries to prepare policy measures (e.g. DCMS 2001). Culture and creativity have become core elements of the “Europe 2020” strategies for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. A special focus on the cultural and creative industries has been place by the European Commission’s Communication on “Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU” (2012).

Reports on cultural and creative industries address a wide range of businesses, organisations and activities, which include arts as well as advertisement, cultural heritage as well as software. Confronted with such a spectrum, it will be helpful to ask what they have in common and where cultural heritage is situated.

The spectrum of cultural and creative industries

Following David Throsby, products and services of creative industries require some input of creativity, and it is this creative element that is valued by customers. However, the creative input can go into or be used for almost anything. Products and services of cultural industries obviously must have some cultural content or properties, usually understood as conveying some form of symbolic meaning or message. They also require creativity in order to be not only re-productive. (Throsby 2008a/b)

The concept of creative industries (or “creative inputs”) is much wider than that of cultural industries. Therefore, in order not to become too wide, all classifications of the industries group the businesses of the cultural industries together with some others. The selection is based not on “creativity” but the assumed degree of cultural content or properties that is present in their services or products. The list of cultural and creative industries together typically includes (cf. DCMS 2001; KEA 2006; Throsby 2008a/b; United Nations 2010; WIPO 2003; Wiesand & Söndermann 2005):

  • literature, visual and performing arts, photography, film, music,
  • libraries, museums, heritage services, arts and antique markets,
  • architecture, crafts, design, fashion, advertising,
  • publishing, TV and radio,
  • computer and videogames, software, and internet firms.

Some studies use concentric, overlapping or connected circles to indicate schematically some differences between, and relations among, these industries (e.g. NESTA 2006).

The position of cultural heritage

The clearest explanations of where cultural heritage sits within the industries are to be found in production cycle or value chain models. The models cover the process of creation, production, manufacturing (reproduction) and distribution of cultural/creative content or commodities.

Cultural Heritage organisations mainly preserve, present and provide information about cultural objects, i.e. they typically sit at the start and end phases of the creative cycle. For example, inspiration by cultural heritage (e.g. museum objects, traditional arts and handcrafts) are placed in the creation stage of new cultural goods, or museums and galleries show up in the distribution (presentation) stage of visual arts. In joint projects with creative businesses the contribution of cultural heritage organisations can span the whole cycle, including also maintenance and preservation.

Cultural heritage institutions offer exhibitions and educational programmes for local people and tourists, provide online cultural services as well as make available content for other cultural and creative products. Though the primary goal of heritage sites, museums and collections is not “industry” but to promote cultural learning and knowledge, enjoyment and creative inspiration.