Engaging Conservation: Communities, capacity building and conservation practice
The final conference programme is now published. Over thirty speakers from UK, Europe and around the world are gathering in York to address the conference themes of Communities & Place and Capacity Building.
Community-based work in heritage conservation is well-established, involving local people in historic area planning and urban regeneration, in local campaigning to save heritage assets and local heritage trusts to look after them. But how effective are attempts at wider public engagement with what heritage conservation aims to achieve for public benefit? How are local people instrumental in shaping and carrying out conservation projects?
In wildlife conservation and in archaeology, we have seen public participation, training and community involvement grow strongly over the last 15 to 20 years. Research shows demonstrable social, educational and personal benefits for participants as well as tangible outcomes. Community practice in heritage conservation, by contrast, has received relatively little attention in terms of widening engagement until recently. While the Heritage Lottery Fund in the UK has enabled many local projects, conservation practice still remains largely an expert domain, it seems, a field for specialist practitioners and decision-makers who ‘consult’ local people and facilitate their involvement. How successful have we been in building capacity for local ownership and leadership of heritage conservation projects, and genuine participation in decisions and in practice?
In the context of rapidly shrinking public-sector resources for conservation, there will be increasing reliance on the voluntary and community sector in the years ahead. What are the challenges and benefits, what works well and why? How can we learn by sharing approaches and practical experience at an international level?
Engaging Conservation will consider what the shift towards participative practice and public engagement in heritage conservation means and how far it is being achieved. As ICOMOS International Training Committee finalises its new Principles for Capacity Building through Education and Training in Conservation of the Cultural Heritage, it will also be timely to share experience and wider thinking at an international level.
Centre for Conservation Studies, University of York & ICOMOS UK
11 – 13 July 2014, The King’s Manor, York