The 2nd Heritage Forum of Central Europe. The Limits of Heritage

The Heritage Forum of Central Europe is a biennial international conference where specialists from Central Europe, as well as researchers and experts on the region from all over the world, discuss the issues of cultural heritage. The Krakow conference is the voice of Central Europe on the philosophy, management, protection, economics and politics of cultural heritage.

The leading theme of the 2nd Forum in 2013 was The limits of heritage. The second decade of the 21st century favours considerations not only on the system of heritage protection itself but also on its significance and philosophy: What is to be protected? In what way should the relations between the present and the past be built? In the context of international and local lists of properties, sites and forms of cultural heritage – where does this heritage end and when does the present become heritage?

The discussions was held in six parallel thematic sessions: The limits of heritage, Heritage and politics, How to sell heritage?, Attractive cities – the role of heritage, Management of large-scale cultural heritage properties, Intangible cultural heritage. The thematic meetings were introduced by a panel discussion called The limits of reconstruction?, devoted to the currently burning issue of retrieving the original shape of intangible heritage properties. During the two days of discussions almost eighty participants representing nineteen countries of the world hold speeches.

The 2nd Forum was organised within the Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The partners of the International Cultural Centre were: the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Gyula Forster National Centre for Cultural Heritage Management in Budapest and the Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava. The closing ceremony, during which the International Visegrad Prize for 2011 was presented, was graced by the presence of the ministers of culture of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
The Forum will result in a peer-reviewed book with articles based on the presented papers. Its publication is planned for 2014.

The Forum was held under the Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group.

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Panel discussion: Limits of reconstruction?
Reconstruction has become one of the most frequently discussed issues in the field of protection of cultural heritage and conservation; it is also an important element of building the brand of cities and national cultural policies. The issues of caring for historical truth in the cityscape often compete with the marketing visions of officials, politicians and planners. We may ask:
  • Is there a golden mean in this discussion?
  • Does the city really need a reconstructed architectural “mockup” of the past?
  • What is permissible, and what should not be allowed?
  • What are the limits of good taste? What are the limits of reconstruction?
We invited to the discussion researchers and practitioners of heritage from the countries of Central Europe, who will speak about reconstruction and its limits from the perspective of various disciplines and geographical areas.

Chair of the discussion:
Professor Małgorzata Omilanowska (Polska)
Doctor Tamás Fejérdy (Hungary)
Kristína Markušová (Slovakia)
Profesor Bogusław Szmygin (Poland)
Doctor Jiří Vajčner (Czech Republic)

The limits of heritage
Heritage is an imprecise term, covering various areas and categories. Also imprecise is the line between heritage and what is yet to become heritage. It seems that this line is constantly moving towards the present and things created relatively recently are already regarded as “historic”. The best example of that is post-industrial architecture, since 1980s enjoying a revival as a space settled by culture. The starting point for the discussion on the limits of heritage are the following questions: When does the present become heritage? Where does the line between historical and contemporary heritage run and how is it shifting? How can contemporary heritage be used? Should we expect that in a while everything will be perceived as heritage – where are the limits?

Heritage and politics
The session will concern broadly conceived relations between heritage and politics: cultural policies encroaching the sphere of heritage and exploiting heritage for short-term political purposes. The discussion will concern such subjects as the role of heritage in promoting various visions of history, we will talk about a selective approach to heritage. The starting point for the discussion on the relations between heritage and politics are the following questions: In what way do contemporary societies use heritage for building their identity? How do they choose national traditions, legends and myths they promote? What factors decide about the destruction or reconstruction of monuments, about rebuilding non-existing sites or condemning them to oblivion?

How to sell heritage?
In the 21st century no one needs convincing that heritage is a capital which may be used in promotional strategies of cities and regions. A national good becomes a product, which must be properly “packaged” and “sold”. But the awareness of a marketing-based orientation, shifting the centre of gravity from a heritage site towards the recipient – satisfying his or her needs and expectations – does not always translate into specific actions. Session will concern particularly the issues connected with endowing heritage with a marketing dimension.

Attractive cities – the role of heritage
Despite predictions about the inevitable decline of cities (due to globalisation and technological progress physical space would supposedly lose its importance), which have been voiced for many years, this form of geographic, social and economic organisation remains the foundation of the functioning of contemporary civilisation. But what are the factors behind the fact that some cities develop and some do not? Why some cities attract new inhabitants while others are depopulated? What makes many companies – for example, from the creative and innovative sector, regarded as one of the most promising branches of the economy – locate their headquarters in specific cities? The session will provide an opportunity to discuss the role of heritage in creating contemporary cities and ways of using heritage for improving the quality of life in a given place.

Management of large-scale cultural heritage properties
The session will explore the implications of the increase of the spatial dimensions of heritage: its growth from individual monuments to larger ensembles even beyond what has traditionally been defined as historic centres, to historic urban landscapes and cultural or historic landscapes. The wider spatial scope entails a necessarily wider concept of heritage management, a concept which, on the one hand, holds the promise of a more successful, longer-term, integrated and sustainable preservation of heritage, and, on the other hand, raises a large number of questions and problems outside the conventional focus of heritage management.

Intangible cultural heritage
Nowadays Central European heritage should be looked at not only in terms of the list of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, but also in the light of the 2003 Convention for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Intangible cultural heritage is growing in importance and is also likely to impact on how we understand tangible cultural heritage. The starting point for the discussion on intangible cultural heritage are the following questions: What is the relationship between tangible and intangible heritage in Central Europe? What are the national practices for inventorying intangible cultural heritage? How can ICH foster community-participation, creativity, sustainable development? How does Central Europe perceive the potential of its intangible heritage?

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