Cultural Heritage, European values and digital accessibility. 'Antibodies' for cultural experience in times of social distancing

Centre for Applied Archaeology, University College London (United Kingdom)

Imago Mundi Onlus Cultural Association - Open Monuments Network - Camù Consortium, Art Centres and Museums (Italy)

Department of History, Cultural Heritage and Territory, University of Cagliari (Italy)

The concept of well-being, which has been rising up national and European political agendas over the last two decades, reflects changing attitudes towards what constitutes a healthy, fulfilled life and a move towards more inclusive, participatory approaches in the framework of sustainability; all concepts that are especially relevant given the events of 2020.

This paper examines the concept of wellbeing through the lens of heritage interpretation and adult education against the backdrop of the European Union’s desire for ‘Unity in Diversity’ and the Council of Europe’s latest convention on the Value of Heritage for Society (Faro, 2005). The recent ratification of Faro by the Italian Parliament, after years of discussion and in the midst of the pandemic, has given the pandemic hard-hit cultural sector some reason for hope.

In these exceptional circumstances, with cultural sites closed and community life severely limited, the sector has responded by creating new hybrid – digital and tangible – spaces allowing people to experience their cultural heritage whilst also socially distancing, attempting this feat without compromising the very aspects of heritage that generate wellbeing at both a personal and community level. Building such hybrid spaces is not spontaneous and requires that cultural workers develop specific skills in educational contexts (formal, informal and non-formal).

The challenges of implementing Faro are illustrated through the example of a training project developed with Erasmus+ funding for Heritage Interpretation professionals, who are at the forefront of heritage mediation and facilitation in the community. The ‘Delphi’ project set out to develop Continuous Professional Development using a blended learning approach on the topic of European Values and social cohesion. With examples from the Italian Delphi partner, Imago Mundi, and the 2020 edition of Monumenti Aperti, we ask whether on-line participation in heritage can provide worthwhile “antibodies” capable of creating relationships, recognition and social cohesion.