19 July 2017

OWHC Guidebook 2017 on Community Involvement in Heritage Management

Regensburg, Germany

NEW: OWHC Guidebook on Community Involvement in Heritage Management


In Cooperation with the joint European Union / Council of Europe Project COMUS (http://pjp-eu.coe.int/en/web/comus) and EUROCITIES (http://www.eurocities.eu/ ) the Organisation of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) Regional Secretariat North-West Europe and North America (https://www.ovpm.org/en/regional_secretariats/northwest_europe_and_north_america ), based in Regensburg just published a Guidebook on Community Involvement in Urban Heritage.

The topic of participation and involvement of the public in heritage management is a current one. In 2007, the World Heritage Committee (http://whc.unesco.org/en/committee/ ) enlarged the already adopted four points of a strategic objective for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention: Credibility, Conservation, Capacity Building and Communication were amended with the so-called “fifth C”- Communities. Since then, communities are given a new focus in all heritage work and especially all UNESCO World Heritage sites. To identify, recognize and value the local community as key actor in the process of a sustainable heritage management, to enforce constructive dialog methods between all stakeholders, and to encourage a mutual understanding and collaboration has become the challenge of a successful heritage management.

Also the current scientific discussion seems to shift from an object-based understanding towards a more holistic understanding of cultural heritage.
Heritage experts can see and feel this shift. It becomes more and more evident, and by that the role of the “users“ of heritage is also altering. The almost traditional system of defining what cultural heritage is through academic experts and then explaining its values to the local commu­nities and other users (tourists) seems no longer to be sufficient for all situations.

One reason might be that during the beginning of the preservation movement the cultural system in which preservation activities where embedded was more homogenous than it is today. Now we better speak of cultures than of culture when we describe the settings and systems for cultural heritage and this acknowledges that we have a larger variety of interests, uses and motivations among those who have to take care of the cultural heritage and are using and (hopefully) benefitting from it.

Another fact is that our understanding of com­munication has changed. While early theories of communication mainly used the „sender-receiver“ linear structure, today through the use of social media and other opportunities, our understanding of communication is more of a complex system, where messages go in each direction, sometimes in a chaotic and uncontrolled manner. This is of course also the case for heritage communication.


So as a result of this changing world we can note that:
• A more holistic understanding of cultural heritage is gaining ground.

• The role of (local) communities in connection with cultural heritage is more important than ever.

• Our understanding of communication has developed from linear one-way concepts to systemic, complex and chaotic processes.

These are strong arguments why the involvement of communities in the field of heritage is so essential today.


In November 2015, the Organization of World Heritage Cities decided on occasion of its world congress in Arequipa/Peru to make “Heritage and Communities: Tools to engage local communities” the main theme for the next congress in November 2017 in Gyeongju/South Korea (https://www.ovpm.org/en/brochure ). The topic was chosen in a bottom-up decision: the regional meetings on site were asked to discuss and suggest a favourite topic and the main auditorium of the General Assembly finally voted for the theme. In this case, the selected topic was indeed submitted through our Regional Secretariat! Under this premise, the OWHC Regional Secretariat for Northwest Europe and North America organized its 2016 Regional Conference in Stralsund containing a profound thematic workshop on “Community Involvement”. Next to practice examples on the topic of how community is already involved in our OWHC member cities, the EUROCITIES network was invited to the conference to present best practices from their point of view and to open up the scope. The Regional Secretariat Northwest Europe and North America intends to provide further benefit to members of the OWHC but also all other urban heritage sites dealing with the constant struggle of a successful integration of the local community. This practice-oriented guidebook on „community involvement“ is supposed to extend the conference report of Stralsund for a wider audience from a scientific point of view and give even more profound insight on the different perspectives of community work.

The approach of the OWHC guidebook is also to integrate project examples from COMUS (“Community-led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns” – a Council of Europe/EU project with support from OWHC Regional Secretariat Northwest Europe and North America) as well as the EUROCITIES network and strengthen a fruitful cooperation with these two networks. For profound information on the topic from a scientific perspective, an introduction will be given to the state-of-the-art of research as well as a detailed description of the COBA model (Communication Model for Built Heritage Assets (http://www.herman-project.eu/files/publisher/downloads_public/Outputs/HerMan_Finale_Brochure_english_for_web1.pdf )). The idea of COBA is to support and stimulate a more professional heritage communication and a more efficient use of existing resources, based on a stronger identification of citizens with their heritage assets.
The OWHC Regional Secretariat Northwest Europe and North America, based in Regensburg/Germany, as the initiator and coordinating editor of this publication was responsible for the collection of examples which were all selected and revised by an external expert. We hope this guidebook to be a useful resource for all urban heritage site managers, responsible practitioners and researchers in heritage management and other networks.

Please find your free online copy by clicking on this link: Final OWHC guidebook 2017