Heritage values, creative and socio-economic uses

CreativeCH aims at making cities and regions across Europe aware of the values of cultural heritage and how they can contribute to various cultural, social and economic purposes. It is important to have a good understanding of the heritage value of a site, building or object, because this value is the major reason underlying its preservation and the basis for its economic benefits. But economic benefits are only one of several aspects of cultural heritage.

Heritage values

The heritage value of a site, building or object lies in its cultural significance, which is a combination of historical, symbolic, spiritual, aesthetic and social values (cf. Sable & Kling 2001; Throsby 2001, 84–85):

  • historical value: the historical character and content provide connection with the past and a sense of continuity;
  • symbolic value: the symbolic meaning and power of certain places and objects adds to people’s cultural identity;
  • spiritual value: the place or object may promote insights in the meaning of religious, sacred and transcendental practices and experiences;
  • aesthetic value: the aesthetic quality of the cultural object often is an important element for its enjoyment and may inspire new artistic creativity;
  • social value: the place facilitates connection with others and the shared social experience (e.g., “pride of place”) can help promote local values and social cohesion.

Because of these values heritage sites, buildings and objects can enhance the cultural and social capital and community welfare in a number of ways. The concept of heritage value, however, does not include categories of economic value.

Valorisation – Creative and socio-economic uses

From the economic point of view, the value of a cultural heritage asset lies in the benefits that can be derived from its direct and indirect use and, even, non-use. (Serageldin 1999; Allen Consulting Group 2005) Valorisation means getting out more from the substantial investment of countries, regions and municipalities in cultural heritage in several ways, not only or primarily in economic return.
There are several ways in which cultural heritage (e.g. heritage sites or museums) can directly and indirectly contribute to society and economy. This can be contributions to commercial activities and employment as well as regional and urban regeneration, skills development, and citizens’ cultural participation. The contribution can be to other cultural areas, the tourism and leisure sector, or the expanding creative industries. More specifically, contributions for instance include:

  • Cultural and creative businesses: Use of digital cultural heritage content; design/forms of products inspired by heritage objects,
  • Cultural tourism: Tangible cultural heritage as tourist attractor (experiential value),
  • Urban and regional regeneration: Conservation and (adaptive) re-use of historic buildings,
  • Education and vocational training: Teaching and learning in the humanities; traditional handcrafts and conservation methods,
  • Citizen cultural participation: Museum/site visits, cultural learning, volunteering,
  • Soft location factors: Quality of life, historical depth, cultural identity, sense of belonging.

The inclusion of tourism or creative businesses in the list does not mean that cultural heritage institutions must become commercial players in these fields. Rather, that the resources they curate can allow for commercial valorisation, in which an institution may or may not partake to a considerable degree.

The contribution of the educational function of heritage institutions is included under citizens’ cultural participation. Noted separately is the contribution to tertiary education and vocational training by many academic, specialized and highly skilled professionals of the cultural heritage sector.

Particularly highlighted should be the contribution cultural heritage makes to soft location factors such as cultural identity, quality of life and sense of belonging. While museums and sites will rarely be a determining factor in locational decisions of businesses and individuals, their presence can still be an important secondary factor.

But contributions may not be realized just by the existence of cultural heritage, especially if it sits in a museum storage or archive. Even if it is present in the public sphere, it may contribute to a lesser degree than it could. Therefore, our emphasis is on the communication of cultural heritage content and experiences through innovative approaches, products and services.