Digital cultural heritage for a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe

Digital cultural heritage for a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe

The “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

Art.2, UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage, 2003

The Parties agree to promote an understanding of the common heritage of Europe, which consists of:

a. all forms of cultural heritage in Europe which together constitute a shared source of remembrance, understanding, identity, cohesion and creativity, and

b. the ideals, principles and values, derived from the experience gained through progress and past conflicts, which foster the development of a peaceful and stable society, founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Art.3, Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, 2005

More than 10 years after these two outstanding international documents, the first one from UNESCO, the second one from the Council of Europe, an interesting motion for a resolution has been signed on April 22nd 2016,  by Mr Paolo Corsini and other members of the European Parliamentary Assembly on the topic: Safeguarding and enhancing Europe’s intangible cultural heritage. The purpose is not simply to protect European intangible cultural heritage, but “to ensure that a part of our historical memory and our identity is not lost for ever. In this connection, […] Parties undertake to develop the use of digital techniques to improve access to cultural heritage“, also through “the creation of a European Intangible Heritage Forum“.

In order to elaborate a position paper for the Resolution, a public consultation on the protection and enhancement of intangible heritage of European communities has been launched on June 11th in Rome (until the end of the year). It is carried on by #DiCultHer, a new network made up of more than sixty Italian organizations, universities, research centers, schools and companies whose aim is to create a “virtual school” for Digital Cultural Heritage, Arts and Humanities. Many training centers cooperate to propose specific workshops regarding digitalization and culture, thus providing cultural operators and citizens with adequate skills to manage this new challenge. The second edition of the Italian Week for Digital Cultural Heritage,Arts & Humanities will take place on April 2017, providing learning activities, meetings and a school contest as well: “Crowddreaming: i giovani co-creano culture digitali“.

In this sense, digitalization represents a beneficial instrument to share our common heritage and thus to enhance European citizens’ identity and cohesion. Besides the launch of the famous European digital library Europeana in 2008, the Commission pointed out its position on the topic also in the Recommendation on digitization and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation, 24 August 2006 and 27 November 2011, and its related reports, such as the European Commission Report on Bringing Europe’s Cultural Heritage Online.

Research and innovation play a crucial role in this regard, so that in the Work Program of Horizon2020 for SC6 “Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective Societies”, a specific topic in the call “Understanding Europe – promoting the European public and cultural space” is devoted to “Virtual museums and social platform on European digital heritage, memory, identity and cultural interaction”.

Awareness about the role of culture and cultural heritage in building a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe has certainly increased these last years, leading to new wide-ranging and challenging implications.

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La consapevolezza del ruolo che la cultura e l’eredità culturale possono svolgere nella creazione di città più sostenibili e inclusive è notevolmente aumentata in Europa negli ultimi anni. A seguito di due importanti documenti internazionali, promossi dall’UNESCO e dal Consiglio d’Europa, il 22 Aprile 2016 è stata promossa un’interessante mozione che propone risoluzione sull’argomento della “conservazione e valorizzazione del patrimonio immateriale”. È inoltre stata indetta una consultazione pubblica con lo scopo di elaborare un position paper per la risoluzione. A occuparsi di questa elaborazione è #DiCultHer, un network composto da più di sessanta organizzazioni, università e centri di ricerca italiani, che ha come scopo la creazione di una “scuola virtuale” per che si occupi di “Digital Cultural Heritage, Arts and Humanities”.