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square  EUROMED 2012 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
ON CULTURAL HERITAGE

Caterina De Vivo

 

The article aims to present the outcomes of the fourth Euromed International Conference on Cultural Heritage held in Cyprus from October 29th to November 3rd 2012. The Conference was organized during the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of European Union and its results have been diffused to the European Commission to raise awareness about the importance of adequate Cultural Heritage Policies in Europe.

The 2012 Euromed International Conference on Cultural Heritage [1] was held in Limassol, Cyprus, from October 29th to November 3rd. This edition of the Conference, the fourth, was organized by the Cyprus University of Technology, under the patronage of UNESCO, during the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of European Union and its location was particularly significant, since the island of Cyprus, with its rich cultural heritage, lies at the crossroads of the three continents bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The aim of the conference was twofold: firstly, to bring together experts from all those fields of study that are or could be relevant or applied to cultural heritage studies, such as new technologies; and secondly, to find new solutions to challenges like globalization or the negative impact of mass tourism and climate changes.

During the conference a lot of space was given to the application of technologies such as GIS and 3D modeling through lectures and workshops, which made it clear that the collaboration of, for example, computer scientists, archaeologist and art historians could lead to new ideas on how best to preserve not only European but also worldwide cultural heritage. In fact, one of the keynote speakers was Google’s Michael T. Jones who inspired the audience with the prospect of new possible technological applications for cultural heritage. In particular he spoke about the new Google project to extend Google map to the ocean’s surface, underlying the utility that this tool could have, for examples, for underwater archaeologists.

The application of new technologies and the developing of existing ones was of great general interest also as regards digital libraries and archives, since not only are new devices fundamental for preservation, but also because they could give a crucial contribution to the diffusion of information, both within the scientific environment and to the wider, more general, public context. This was considered of great importance especially in the matter of intangible heritage which could be recorded and thus kept alive; and it is when we are dealing with the field of intangible heritage that the collaboration of various disciplines (the science, humanities, arts) is essential. In fact, it is for this reason that many speeches focused on Open Access archives and the Europeana [2] network. For example Werner Weber presented a project called Europeana 1914-1918 [3] realized by the National German Library, Europeana and Oxford University which aimed to collect memories, images and any other kind of information related to the soldiers of I World War. The general public is invited as well in participating to the project sending digitizing material and information online. To close this section on new technologies, mention should at least be made of 3D reconstructions, another topic of interest during the conference, which gave an overview on the huge amount of projects that all over the European Union are dealing with these new technological devices. One of the best example was the one showed by the team of the project Radio-Past [4] that is developing new non-destructive approaches to study archaeological site in a non-intrusive way, also using 3D reconstructions.

But the conference did not tackle only technological applications. The underlying threads throughout the conference was the symbolic and identity value of cultural heritage, as demonstrated by the thought provoking speech made by Thomas R. Kline, lawyer and expert in the field of looted art restitution, who helped the Republic of Cyprus to recover some of its treasures and pieces of art lost during the wars of the XX century. Also an entire poster session was dedicated to illustrating projects in which the general public had been persuaded to participate, since involving and interesting the public in the management of cultural heritage is a way of safeguarding it from degradation and eventual disappearance.

Other interesting sessions were those dedicated to Museum studies during which it was underlined the importance of creating always more inter-active environments in museums, in order to face the challenges created by an always more globalized world. This issue was really well approached by Luca Basso of Politecnico di Milano, who presented the results obtained with the MeLa Project [5]. This project is aimed in finding new strategies in conserving, exhibiting and displaying European museum collections in ways and forms that could reflect our multi-cultural and trans-national world. Then also the EUNAMUS [6] project was explained: a three year research work focused in analyzing the role of European National Museums and the way in which they are perceived by European citizens.

Then the role of the European Union was expounded in the speeches given by policy makers, also present at the conference, who explained how European Union financial contributions created opportunities for the setting up of programs and the realization of research projects in the field of cultural heritage. Many European programs, like the Marie Skłodowska-Curie [7] and the COST [8] were presented during the conference, giving practical examples of projects realized thanks to the European Union contributions. For this reason, on the fourth day of the conference, the European Commissioner for the Department of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou gave a speech about the importance of protecting and diffusing the concepts of cultural heritage protection and the development within the European countries.

The conference was held just before the final negotiations at the European Union for the European regional funds and the next Framework Program Horizon 2020 that will also implicate the funds for research and innovation. For this reason, at the end of the conference, a final document was handed to Commissioner Vassiliou to be delivered to and put before the European Commission.

This is the final document signed by the Conference participants:

«The EUROMED 2012 conference delegates gathered in Limassol Cyprus on November 3, 2012, unanimously have pleaded that cultural heritage research and innovation in all its aspects should be explicitly included in HORIZON 2020.

EU Research to sustain our cultural heritage is highly appreciated within Europe and far beyond. The new framework program for research and innovation HORIZON 2020, currently under approval by the European Union, should have a significant impact on the future of this field of research and innovation.

- Although the research in cultural heritage has developed significantly over the years, further research and innovation are absolutely needed to respond to the grand challenges of our time.

- Cultural Heritage research in HORIZON 2020 will increasingly have to address and integrate a wide range of digital, intangible and tangible aspects. In particular, research on tangible heritage will also have to focus on societal challenges and technological developments as well as the impacts of climate and environmental changes, resource and energy efficiency, adaptation and upgrading of heritage resilience.

- Easier and open access to results, knowledge resources and data of scientific activities, from EU and Member States, by end-users and stakeholders will enable better exploitation of results from research to enhance growth and job creation. To achieve this in the future, action has to be taken from the start of HORIZON 2020, in order to gather results of projects in an interdisciplinary consistent, standardised and computer intelligent manner through strong EU coordination and financial support.

- A new scheme for additional funding should be established, via a simplified evaluation procedure during the final phase of the projects, in order to valorize the most promising EU projects. This would enable full exploitation of the innovation and economic potential of their research development.

- Without sustained and appropriate funding, all the investments made in the past and possibly in the future will be completely wasted. This conference has offered an ideal opportunity to enhance interlinking the different fields of cultural heritage and to foster synergies and mutual benefits being expected from this interdisciplinary approach.

The protection of cultural heritage has to be integrated with the development of the tourism industry, with special emphasis on cultural tourism as well as the development of creative and multimedia industry revealing cultural contents, semantics and values.

Documentation, protection, preservation and presentation of cultural heritage have to be recognized as a vital strategy for a sustainable and creative Europe. This will promote multicultural, multilingual and multilateral education, lifelong learning and enabling social policies to enhance cohesion and economic growth.

The international dimension of the conference underlines the need to strengthen international cooperation to safeguard the world’s cultural heritage.

All delegates of the EUROMED 2012 conference call the European Institutions to mainstream their decision and action towards an integrated environment of research, education and policies concerning cultural heritage in Europe and towards maintaining its leading role in the world».

 

NOTE
[1] http://www.euromed2012.eu/

[2] http://www.europeana.eu/portal/
[3] http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en
[4] http://www.radiopast.eu/
[5] http://www.mela-project.eu/
[6] http://www.eunamus.eu/
[7] http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp6/mariecurie-actions/action/training_en.html
[8] http://www.cost.eu/