Heritage preservation and quality of life

Heritage, development and social justice

Published on 9 January 2012

Author(s): Jean-Louis Luxen/Euromed Heritage News

Type:  Opinion N°9 - JAN 2012

Large institutions were convinced and agreed to fund conservation work for museums, archaeological sites and urban neighbourhoods.

For many years, conservation professionals have been convinced that measures of prevention and enhancement of the cultural heritage brought an essential contribution to improve their citizens' quality of life. This belief is based particularly on the operations of rehabilitation cities and historic neighbourhoods, often coupled with actions to improve historical housing. Beyond the cultural aspect, those benefits to local communities provide an additional social justification to the conservation efforts.

It was necessary that some economists were willing to study the size of these investments and develop models to quantify the economic benefits. In the last twenty years that large institutions (such as the World Bank or the European Union) were convinced and agreed to fund conservation work for museums, archaeological sites and urban neighbourhoods.

In fact, some working sites are beneficial, while others are less so. More detailed analysis is therefore necessary to clearly identify costs and benefits. This independent analysis must be able to convince ministries of finance, owners or investors and to mobilize the necessary resources, often through partnerships between public and private sectors. In the same vein, it is important to promote modern management methods to our museums and heritage sites, because if there are economic benefits, there are also negative effects. Not to mention the damage to physical assets due to uncontrolled traffic. Economic measures must be taken to minimise these negative effects and capture the opportunities for positive resources.

The importance of this economic and financial dimension requires the collaboration of trained staff. But it should be understood that the cultural dimension, with everything it stands for in terms of social life, must remain the major concern. Therefore, the management of museums and heritage sites must continue to be undertaken by heritage specialists. It is always necessary to put every issues in the right perspective.

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