Report on the policy seminar organized by the RICHES project in Brussels, 23 May 2016

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RICHESThe RICHES project (Renewal, Innovation and Change: Heritage in European Society), which organized the policy seminar in Brussels, is a three-year European funded project which began in December 2013 and concludes on 31 May 2016. The seminar was the final policy seminar organized by the RICHES project in cooperation with the European Commission, and aimed at discussing how RICHES can provide evidence-based insights to support cultural heritage policymaking in Europe. Held at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), Brussels, the main objective of the Seminar was to produce ‘joined-up’ policy recommendations to be used in the definition of the H2020 work programme for 2018-2020. The policy seminar was attended by representatives from different cultural heritage projects presented in the networking sessions, by local Brussels-based officials and by those who were simply interested.

The Seminar began with a pre-event consisting of a networking session of European-funded projects on cultural heritage (CH). It was chaired by Professor Neil Forbes, RICHES Project Coordinator, University of Coventry, UK. The scope of the session was to reflect on how to sustain the organisation of these appointments in the future, after the end of the RICHES project. This represented a good opportunity to reflect on the impact that cultural heritage projects are delivering, identify opportunities to improve the effectiveness of their results, and identify synergies and the potential for collaboration among projects. In the networking session, twenty European projects gave a brief introduction to their work.

One of the key themes that came out of the presentation was the question of sustainability: could ‘clusters’ of similar research projects work together? How can current projects help inform future projects through their results? How do finished projects (for which there is no further funding) track the impact of their results and how is it possible for these projects to continue beyond the life of the funding that starts them?

The seminar then included political updates from representatives on current and future polices on CH. This was followed by a presentation of the RICHES policy briefs and recommendations based on the outcomes of RICHES research.

The most interesting message for our project regards the RICHES group’s work on copyright. The group suggests that cultural heritage should be addressed through a human rights framework – and indeed many of the participants at the seminar treated it as part of citizenship, whereas citizenship might be understood as a purely political thing. The RICHES project suggested the notion of treating cultural heritage as a human right as a way to deal with the problem of copyright and of financial interest in cultural heritage projects. This framework, they suggest, would allow individuals greater access to things that institutions have paid to preserve.

There was also some reflection on the uses of digital tools in providing access to CH. This obviously requires some expertise in digital technology as well as creative thought about its use. Also suggestive is the RICHES project’s assertion that CH can be used as fuel for innovation, thus connecting CH projects to contemporary concern with stimulating innovation. Interestingly, RICHES suggests that digital availability of CH content “can serve as a trigger to fuel innovation in all sectors of society” (Think Papers Collection #8); perhaps a useful advertisement for our efforts to do digital text mining. In so far as innovation is fueled by the exchange of ideas, CH is useful because it represents a collection of (past) ideas that can still inspire today. This argument leads to the conclusion that an important role of CH organizations is dissemination.

The policy seminar’s final discussion, involving all seminar delegates, focused on the activities that should be organized to make the European Year of Culture, 2018, inclusive and will show individuals what CH is.

Although intuitively CH has something to do with identity and keeping CH from individuals (in so far as this is possible) is therefore potentially criminal, there is little reflection from action oriented individuals on the connection between CH and identity. A topic for future research?

To see the report prepared by the RICHES project see: http://www.riches-project.eu/second-policy-seminar.html The project has launched a website: Digital Meets Culture (http://www.digitalmeetsculture.net/). In their words:

The phenomenon of globalisation and the spread of digital infrastructures – which are both the means and the cause of globalisation itself – have been creating an interrelation among the fields of culture, once considered very distant. Today, the sciences, the arts, the humanities, while retaining irreducible differences, tend to meet, contaminate and mutually enrich through the use of new media and new technologies.

DIGITALMEETSCULTURE is intended as a portal for gathering information about the digital culture in the world, taking into account the different approaches that science, cultural heritage and arts have to the digital age. This portal aims to act as a reference point and as a valuable mean of information and communication for different users in a global dimension. It is conceived as a meeting place between technologies and arts & humanities.

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