“Risk Management – from Climate Change to COVID 19 – Future Challenges in Interdisciplinary Cultural Heritage Management” was the title of the Multiplier Event of Kultur und Arbeit May 4th and 5th, 2021, the coordinating HERITAGE-PRO organsiation. The association had won a strong partner for the training event: the Germany-based Regional Secretariat for Northwest Europe and North America of the OWHC (Organization of World Heritage Cities)
Anticipatory action to prevent damage to cultural heritage has always been one of the tasks of heritage managers, but this important task has gained in complexity in recent decades, which can no longer be managed with the resources and knowledge of a single discipline involving a few specialised skills. Preventive conservation measures have always been the ideal case, often depending on the time and financial resources of the managers. The rule, however, was and is emergency measures that make quick action unavoidable – for example in structural protection or pest control.
The risks to which cultural heritage is now exposed are sometimes difficult to grasp due to a lack of available local data (as it is still the case for impacts of climate change), or they occur at such short notice (see COVID-19) that no emergency plan could anticipate them – with sometimes devastating consequences.
Risk management will play a decisive role in good cultural heritage management in the future – the participants of the workshop agreed on this. The workshop dealt with whether and how interdisciplinary cooperation can support decisions and develop solutions. The training material developed in HERITAGE-PRO were used, and numerous exercises not only raised the 24 participants’ awareness of risks, but also reflected on interdisciplinary approaches to solutions.
Climate Change – the biggest challenge in the future
This training day was dedicated to interdisciplinary aspects in one of the most important risks the cultural heritage Europe-wide is facing at the time being: climate change. Matthias Ripp, World Heritage Coordinator City of Regensburg, and Regional Coordinator OWHC gave a thoughtful introduction to the workshop on “Integrated Heritage Management: Heritage as a system and how we can coordinate conflicting interests”. Two polls after his talk confirmed that participants were well aware of conflicting interests and solving them is a continuous challenge.
Patricia Alberth, National Advisor for HERITAGE-PRO project in Germany, director of UNESCO World Heritage Center Bamberg and Chair of International Association of World Heritage Professionals e.V. gave the introduction to the HERITAGE-PRO project and reflected in detail „Why the heritage sector needs a much more interdisciplinary approach” presenting all the HERITAGE-PRO training materials and their objectives in terms of training aspects.
Finally, Johanna Leissner, Coordinator of EU FP7 “Climate for Culture” project, Chair of the EU OMC group “Strengthening Cultural Heritage Resilience for Climate Change”, co-founder of
German Research Alliance Cultural Heritage and Scientific Representative for Fraunhofer Gesellschaft in Brussels gave an impulse to the training session “Climate Change as a major challenge for cultural heritage management”. The accompanying polls showed that the majority of participants was aware of risks from climate change but only a few had already taken precautions to mitigate or avoid risks.
Two groups now devoted themselves intensively to the topic of climate change. The following questions were addressed:
- What impacts of climate change are you already aware of that can directly affect your country, your region, your city?
- What direct impact are these effects likely to have on your heritage site?
- What indirect effects could this have on your heritage site?
- When you consider and assess the direct and indirect impacts, with which disciplines will you need to cooperate in order to preserve your cultural heritage and continue your tasks?
The outcome was collected on an online working board and conclusions were drawn about what heritage managers can do to address the risks of climate change over the next 10 years. They ranged from efforts to better understand the complexity of the problems, the creation of master plans, and better cooperation with scientists, better understand how things are connected and which disciplines have to cooperate for solutions.
Risk management – from plan to action
The second training day was dedicated the topic of risk management in general. Following the developments in heritage management over the last few years, risks have been continuously added: Risks e.g. from over tourism, security risks such as possible terrorist attacks, and requirements from new regulations. Jermina Stanojev, postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University (Sweden), member of the European Commission Expert Group on Cultural Heritage (“Cultural Heritage Forum”) and task leader in the training development of HERITAGE-PRO training modules gave an inspiring impulse on “Risk management – from plan to action”. She named several risks including those which at first glance have no direct connection with cultural heritage sites, but which can have a wealth of indirect effects. The poll after her impulse showed that all participants were aware of many different risks but how to cope with them in a strategic way might need some more consideration.
Again the participants were split in two working groups and were asked to address the following questions which were intended to raise awareness of emerging and already foreseeable risks, and on the other hand, open up possibilities for dealing with them:
- Create your own ranking list – what are currently your “top 5” risks for heritage management in general? Please agree in your group.
- What are currently the risks you have to cope with at your own heritage site?
- How do you deal with risks at your heritage site?
- When you look at and assess your risks, what disciplines do you need to work with to mitigate those risks?
For the conclusion board, the working group members were asked to identify the specific measures they can take as heritage managers to minimise or eliminate the identified risks over the next 10 years. At the core of the conclusions was improved networking with different disciplines and the need for intersectoral cooperation specifically in the different departments of municipal administration. Continuously updating existing management plans and the creation of a permanent platform to coordinate risks, foster resilience, and create sustainable responses were among other suggestions.
Feedback and acknowledgments
The participants’ feedback to the training made clear that they felt very comfortable in the online environment on both training days, that they found the presentations very inspiring and that they were able to take away many ideas for their own work. The organisers were pleased about the high level of approval: “Everything was perfect, thanks!”
The workshop was prepared in a collegial and efficient manner by Karin Drda-Kühn (Kultur und Arbeit e.V. – Association Culture & Work), Monika Göttler and Matthias Ripp (Organisation of World Heritage Cities). Technical support was provided in an outstanding way including a technical facilitation session the day before the workshop by Juan Manuel Hegedüs Gravina (ENCATC).
The organisers would like to express their sincere thanks to all speakers for their inspiring introductory talks, which fostered cooperation and supported communication among the participants in the workshop.
(Picture credits: Heritage-Pro)