Things don’t stand still in the world of cultural heritage. New technologies create new possibilities for protecting, conserving and restoring cultural assets. There is a growing focus on climate change, including its effects on cultural artefacts, historic sites and landscapes, but also how cultural heritage can inform climate adaptation and mitigation. Access and accountability are also increasingly important in the world of cultural heritage.
All of this makes cultural heritage an area where research and innovation can make a decided difference.
For over a decade a European network, the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage and Global Change (JPI CH), has supported international research projects in cultural heritage. Now partnerships are expanding beyond the JPI CH, with the three-year, European Commission-funded Alliance for Research on Cultural Heritage in Europe (ARCHE) project.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has been involved in the JPI CH from the beginning, currently as co-chair, and now plays a central role in ARCHE. Katherine Warren, Head of AHRC’s Heritage, Culture and Creative Arts team, explains:
ARCHE is the bridge between the JPI CH and a wider research partnership that the Commission envisions in future. The aim is to co-ordinate a much broader network of researchers, innovators, heritage professionals, institutions and citizens.
Cultural heritage research expertise exists outside of universities, as well as within them: in museums and archives, heritage organisations and civil society groups.
ARCHE recognises the fact, also, that more people have a stake in cultural heritage research than just researchers and research funders.
The aim is to bring together everyone with an interest in this area, including the intended beneficiaries of research. Research programmes can then be co-designed, and we can make a collective effort to tackle some major issues, such as using cultural heritage to boost economies and contribute to wellbeing, or demonstrating how cultural heritage can help to address climate change.
Mapping the landscape
A Horizon Europe guarantee grant of £80,000 is enabling AHRC to contribute to the development of the ARCHE strategic research and innovation agenda, by organising virtual workshops to map the cultural heritage research landscape in Europe, and develop a shared vision and mission for ARCHE.
Being beneficiaries of a government guarantee grant puts AHRC in the same position as many of the researchers and research organisations that it works with. For Senior International Partnerships and Engagement Manager (Europe) Dr Jamie Davies, “the process of applying has given us a real insight into the Horizon Europe guarantee scheme. We have applied in the same way as other successful UK award-holders, and received the same support. When I advise organisations to apply to the guarantee scheme, I do so having experienced it myself.”
Shaping the agenda
The UK has particular strengths in cultural heritage research, both in its universities and in its heritage bodies. Participation in ARCHE, and the Horizon Europe guarantee grant that supports it, send a clear message: that the UK will continue to play a central role in shaping the European cultural heritage research agenda.
Finally, the added value of international collaboration and the UK’s continued contribution in this area is appreciated beyond our shores.
According to Pascal Liévaux, Chief of Research and Scientific Policy, Directorate of Heritage at the French Ministry of Culture and Communications (which co-ordinates JPI CH), “stemming from a long-standing involvement within the JPI CH, AHRC now directly contributes to building one of ARCHE’s key outputs: the SRIA (Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda). This co-creation and inclusive process highlights the importance of collaborative work towards consolidating a transnational R&I funding landscape in Europe.”
Top image: Credit: ARCHE