Focusing management systems and values: the case of Herculaneum, Italy

Independent scholar (Italy)

For far too long, heritage conservation and management systems have had at their core the preservation of material components. Heritage practitioners have interpreted sites and put in place frameworks that disrupted the relationship between local communities and their heritage. In recent years, the field has experienced important changes aiming to bridge the gap between ancient and modern, heritage sites and towns. This evolution has placed values and local communities at the basis of heritage practices, with the attempt to prove how the shift from a conservation approach towards a values-based and people-centred one can offer opportunities for sustainable development and well-being. The presentation will introduce the audience to Herculaneum, an Italian World Heritage site that has become an internationally renowned example of how participatory processes in heritage can lead to urban regeneration, social cohesion, and economic growth. The property, which was physically divided from the modern town until recently, has experienced a rebirth thanks to the Herculaneum Conservation Project. By means of ongoing consultation mechanisms, oral history programmes, partnerships with local schools and universities, international workshops, and urban regeneration plans, the current management system has restored the ties between the site and the new town, as well as the trust in local institutions. Furthermore, it empowered local communities in the re-appropriation of their culture through the mediation of heritage practitioners. The presenter will highlight main activities, potential indicators of positive impacts on well-being, as well as the challenges in quantifying the benefits heritage produces on a local scale. Finally, the importance of methodologies for the mapping of values and the importance of heritage significance will be outlined, in order to guide management systems, involve local communities in heritage making practices, and trigger a sense of belonging and shared responsibilities between different heritage actors in the long run.