The recent decades have seen a strong increase in the recognition of the value of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. This is due to the rapid socio-economic transformation of societies and communities and the perceived loss of genuine cultural and natural environment (cf. the topic of loss of biodiversity). In parallel, the Internet, mobile services and digital content have changed the forms of interaction at work and for private purposes. “Digitization” has also opened up new markets for cultural products, services and experiences.
Europe with its rich heritage and other cultural resources can greatly benefit from these developments. Yet creative cooperation of the stakeholders is required to fully capture the advantages of preserving, communicating and valorising of cultural heritage.
The economic importance of cultural heritage is most obvious concerning the tourism industry which attracts visitors with Europe’s unique cultural landscapes, historic towns, monuments, and historic narratives, visual content and music. Furthermore cultural richness is a major resource of innovation, inspiring new forms and products (textile and wallpaper designs, for instance) as well as services and experiences (“experience economy”).
But the “raw material”, tools and markets for culture-based innovation have changed. They have become digital throughout, which means that cultural heritage content must be made available in digital formats so that new and interactive media services, cultural learning opportunities and experiences can be offered.
Indeed, ever more cultural heritage is digitised and made accessible through portals, especially Europeana, the flagship European digital library initiative. National libraries and audio-visual collections as well as small museums and archives across Europe contribute to the portal. It is a major resource for learning about Europe’s rich cultural heritage content, though not necessarily for purposes of cultural and creative businesses.
Cooperation in cultural heritage
CreativeCH explores how cultural heritage can be further promoted and valorised jointly by heritage curators, citizens, arts & humanities researchers, technical experts, and developers of cultural products and services. The reason is that a creative mix, a combination of knowledge and skills of several domains is required for the valorisation of cultural heritage:
- Novel solutions provided by science & technology, e.g. advanced and innovative applications of information and communication technologies (ICT),
- Cultural heritage curatorial and arts & humanities knowledge, e.g. for the realization of virtual museums and exhibitions,
- Citizens engaging in cultural heritage projects, young people and seniors, as participants and promoters of own projects,
- Culture-based creativity and innovative business services, e.g. for novel forms of digital interaction, services and experiences for tourists and citizens,
- Municipal departments and regional development agencies, e.g. policies and measures that support culture-based development projects.
Combining knowledge and skills allows for cross-fertilization and joint development of ideas. Young people can be engaged in collaborative projects, for example, students of different domains, arts & architecture, history and other humanities, technical universities and business schools. Thereby they will also acquire a deeper understanding of why cultural heritage and diversity are important resources, and how culture-based creativity can make an essential difference for cities and regions.
Communicating cultural heritage
The toolkit emphasises communication of heritage because this is crucial for making it known, appreciated and used for various cultural and creative purposes. The communication uses heritage values (e.g. historical, social, symbolic or aesthetic) to promote regions and towns, cultural sites and routes, museum and other heritage collections. Tangible heritage (e.g. monuments) as well as intangible heritage (e.g. music, dance and other performances) must be considered. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) notes that the two categories of heritage are not to be understood as separate. Rather, ideational, performative and physical aspects are closely intertwined (for example, in performances specific artefacts and cultural spaces are used).
Both tangible and intangible heritage, objects and performances can be digitised (e.g. an object in digital 3D format, a video of dancers, etc.) and used for cultural products or services, a virtual museum exhibition, for instance. In recent years, a wide range of novel digital technologies has been developed that allow for novel forms of cultural participation, learning and experiences. (Arnold & Geser 2008; Kalay et al. 2007; Parry 2009) Some can be considered as a standard already, e.g. interactive virtual museum exhibitions or mobile guides for historic towns. More recent creations for example are mobile augmented reality (e.g. for comparing actual and historical views of sites) or interactive 3D environments of virtually reconstructed historic buildings and sites.