Archive for 'Mapping Progress'

Findings begin to emerge from the CHCFE project

On 16 October in the framework of the 4th CHCFE Steering Committee meeting, project partners the International Cultural Centre (ICC) from Poland and the Raymond Lemaire International Center for Conservation (RLICC) in Belgium presented their progress on mapping and analysing the multiple benefits of Europe’s cultural heritage and to discuss the project’s draft report.

Among the main findings so-far by the two teams is an indication of an important geographical imbalance in the studies and research collected. The country that has produced the most extensive research in the field of cultural heritage impact is the United Kingdom. Due to historical reasons there is also a clear difference in the interest and number of studies undertaken between Western and Central Europe with more research found in the West of Europe.

Apart from the UK, mapping of existing research in Europe (even in one of the most obvious fields of heritage impact which is the economy) proves to be a bit disappointing as a relatively large number of reports, studies and documents take heritage’s influence on the economy, society, culture and environment for granted adorning texts with superficial statements of a dogmatic character and intuitive remarks. In the field of impact on economics the most frequently researched subjects are the impact on the labour market and tourism, followed by heritage and the real estate market. However, judging by the bibliographies of the articles and reports there are only a handful of experts in Europe who deal with the economic impact and are quoted in most of these texts. The findings also reveal a significant lack of research done on cultural heritage’s impact on the development of cultural resources and historical value that have only merely been signaled in the literature; while the impact on identity, symbolic value, attractiveness and image, as well as education have been covered much more extensively.

The analysis of European research indicates that many studies tend to not only take the idea of heritage’s multiple benefits for granted, but often use this assumption as the starting point of the research instead of inquiring as a first step whether heritage has any impact and as a second, whether this impact is beneficial or detrimental. In further research, the overall aim should be to obtain a less biased approach and acquire a balanced proportion between attentions attributed to each of the four domains (economic, society, culture and environment) towards sustainable development. In the future, additional attention needs to be focused on a hybrid, collaborative research, combining quantitative and qualitative (participatory as well as non-participatory) methods, to bridge some of the existing gaps in the research.

The final report and its recommendations will be publicly presented on 12 June 2015 in Oslo on the occasion of the Europa Nostra Annual Congress 2015.

Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe PowerPoint Slides 1
Presented on 16 October 2014 in Krakow by the International Cultural Centre

Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe PowerPoint Slides 2
Presented on 16 October 2014 in Krakow by the Raymond Lemaire International Center for Conservation

Mapping existing evidence on the impacts of cultural heritage

Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe provides for the first time a comprehensible and comparative view on the value and relevance of Europe’s heritage. The aim is to produce a credible basis for policy recommendations that reflect an integrated and holistic approach towards the increased importance of heritage in today’s society. In 2014 the project started to map existing evidence on the multiple benefits of cultural heritage.

This is no doubt an ambitious and monumental task to gather existing data, research, case studies, publications, projects and other material that demonstrate heritage’s social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts in Europe. Led by two research teams within the project consortium, Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (RLICC) at KU Leuven in Belgium and the International Cultural Centre (ICC) in Krakow, Poland, the collection phase has been nourished by extensive desk research, two surveys and the help of cultural heritage experts in 11 countries. Furthermore, the consortium has reached out to heritage professionals, academics, researchers and stakeholders across Europe and beyond for their knowledge of material that can make an important contribution to this comprehensible and comparative overview.

From the start, the aim has been to gather evidence from all 28 EU Member States as well as interesting examples and evidence from around the world. Aware that this would be a challenge two main issues have arisen posing a challenge to the the collection process: language and a lack of data or evidence. How do the project’s research teams address these issues or how can they be explained?

Despite efforts to be as linguistically inclusive as possible, the fact remains that until now much of the collected evidence on cultural heritage’s impact has been written in English. This over representation is twofold. First, Anglo-Saxon literature is widely known in Europe. On one hand, this is because research on the impact of cultural heritage simply has a longer tradition in the United Kingdom than in other parts of Europe. On the other hand, in many Central and Eastern European countries English is a lingua franca in contemporary humanities and sciences. This reality also influences many researchers to publish in English to give their work greater visibility in Europe and beyond. Consequently, literature not produced in English may be overlooked if a translation is not readily available – a reality the research team in Poland has witnessed.

The issue of language is a sensitive one in Europe and efforts have been made within the project’s framework to respect Europe’s rich linguistic diversity. The project has the object to be as inclusive as possible. In addition to the six languages spoken between the two research teams, 12 cultural heritage experts have been invited to contribute to the collection of existing research. Their knowledge and language skills allow the project consortium to go beyond its limitations to be more resourceful. These experts have been brought in from in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

The other issue presenting a challenge for the research teams in Belgium and Poland has been a lack of data or evidence, both in terms of geographic coverage and the types of heritage impacts studied. The long tradition in the United Kingdom of collecting, studying and researching the impacts of cultural heritage explains why the two research teams have quickly assembled a large quantity of UK studies far outreaching the quantity of studies collected from other European countries.

The reason for the lack of data at least in Central and Eastern Europe can be explain to some extent by the legacy of the previous political system, where everything, including heritage was state-owned. In the absence of a free market economy there was no need to compete for funding, there was not a need for a lobby to advocate for heritage funding. Without the demand for evidence from policy makers, there was little incentive to invest time, money and human resources to measure, analyse or research the impacts of cultural heritage. In the majority of cases the investment itself, e.g. regeneration or modernisation of a building, was the end of the project. Funding for activities (cultural, community outreach, audience development, etc.) was not part of the investment package. Also for many years the idea of speaking about the economics of culture and cultural heritage was relatively taboo in the cultural sector and in society at large. Using culture for solving social or economic problems was deemed to undermine and trivialise the importance of CULTURE. If research was taking place in this political and social context, it shows how the heritage managers and/or authorities of the time were progressive in their thinking.

While inconsistencies in coverage were to be expected, the following countries have been underrepresented to date in the evidence collection: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta. Yet, the two research teams are confident there is research on the multiple benefits of cultural heritage exists in these countries, but it has been difficult to collect so far. As the project’s data collection phase is ongoing evidence of existing research, case studies, publications, projects and other material from these countries are welcome to help counter the imbalance.


Note: The exact values for each data point (impact domain) add up to more than 100% because several of the collected studies address more than one impact domain

The researchers have also cited a strong gravitation to study cultural heritage’s economic impact which was not unexpected. Policy makers, managers, funders and stakeholders want to know how cultural heritage immediately stimulates the economy, growth and employment. While not as popular, but still well represented in the data collection is evidence of heritage’s social, cultural and environmental impact. Emerging sub-domains are filling in the gaps and include cultural heritage’s historic, touristic, and educational value, as well as its role in sense of place and memory, and its contribution to well-being and quality of life.

Although the data collection phase will be ongoing, RLICC and ICC are now concentrating on mapping and analysing the material collected in order to define and elaborate the complex relationships of heritage’s many benefits. The result will be a cultural heritage impact matrix to present in detail the potential of cultural heritage and its intersecting influences across all aspects of society.

With the aim to present solid and persuasive arguments for convincing policy and decision makers on the impact and multiple benefits of investing in European heritage, the final project report will be published in June 2015. It will include a summary of the project findings, the cultural heritage matrix, case studies as well as policy recommendations and suggestions for further research needs.

Here are a few factors that may help to explain why the United Kingdom has produced so many studies on the impacts of cultural heritage.

  • There is a long standing tradition in the UK where non-government bodies are strongly implicated in advocacy and reform and act as a counterweight to the Government and state. The independent heritage movement was responsible for bringing the first effective Parliamentary Act  in 1913, the Ancient Monuments Act and has been active politically ever since. One can argue that in countries where heritage is more of a state responsibility, the need for evidence is not so strong. In the UK, advocates have also found that evidence can carry more weight when undertaken by a third party with academic credentials.
  • The ‘New Labour’ government elected in 1997 came in with an emphasis on evidence-based policy making which has continued ever since. In order for heritage interests to have an impact on policies when so many other interests are competing for attention, they have to have the numbers to back up their asks or justify expenditure.
  • As well as the independent heritage sector, dedicated research staff and budget within Government, arms-length bodies (bodies that operate with some degree of independence from Government) and funding bodies also collect data on many aspects of English heritage. In particular the national funding agency, the Arts & Humanities Research Council, invests in research which supports policy makers across a wide range of subject disciplines and government activities. Demonstrating impact is increasingly necessary to attract project funding from public and private sources.
  • These developments have led to the collection of good quality secondary data to use for heritage outcomes.

CHCFE collecting data and you can help!

The project “Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe” will gather, analyze, consolidate and widely disseminate the existing data on the impact of cultural heritage – i.e. the impact on the social, economic, cultural as well as environmental.  It will result in a European mapping of both qualitative and quantitative evidence-based research carried out at the European, national, regional, local and/or sectorial levels.

This research considers the impact of the historic environment. It takes the immovable or built heritage as a starting point, whilst taking into account that cultural heritage is currently considered as a broad concept including the tangible as well as the intangible.

In order to collect as many data and evaluation studies of cases or projects as possible, the consortium invites researchers, academics, heritage operators and stakeholders to make contributions.

More in particular, the consortium is asking for:

  • Studies indicating that immovable cultural heritage (or heritage in general) has a social, cultural, environmental and/or economic impact (studies can thus prove impact on one or more of these areas);
  • Impact assessments of cultural heritage on European, national, regional or local level;
  • Impact assessments published as a report, in books, or as an article in international peer reviewed journals, etc.
  • Contact details for key persons in regard to this topic
  • Websites
  • Etc.

In order to collect as much data as possible on existing impact studies in Europe, we developed a web application where you can fill in the data of a study. When you have knowledge of impact studies, we kindly ask you to complete this web application, especially where it concerns a study in another language than English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch or Polish. Studies can also be sent to us by e-mail (pdfs, word docs, links to webpages, etc.) or by ordinary mail (hard copies).

Please complete the web application on or send us information via

KULeuven Faculty of Engineering

Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (RLICC)

Sigrid Van der Auwera

Kasteelpark Arenberg 1 – bus 02431

B-3001 Leuven (Heverlee)

Please complete the survey or send us the information by 30 June 2014.

We need this information in order to analyze the research already undertaken in Europe on the impact of cultural heritage. This mapping will be presented in a spreadsheet which will allow us to include and analyze relevant data (reference, impact domain, sub-domain, indicators used, summary of main arguments to prove impact, etc.) of these studies. This data will enable us to present an overview of social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of immovable cultural heritage to develop policy recommendations, to define shortcomings in existing research in Europe and to recommend a future research agenda on the topic for Europe.