Insights from four years of cultural heritage cooperation

Thales Paiva

Since 2017, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) worked closely with partners in Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Sri Lanka, Suriname, the United States of America and South Africa. Now four years later, the RCE reflects on this period of cultural heritage cooperation in terms of results and new insights. 

Built heritage is of vital importance to cities and inner-city development. In many cities worldwide, however, heritage is under pressure. In close cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, IHS developed the Urban Heritage Strategies (UHS) course. 

Urban Heritage Strategies (UHS) course aimed to develop a better understanding of the complex relationship between urban development and heritage management. The curriculum applied the different IHS specialisations and the knowledge of experts of the Cultural Heritage Agency. UHS developed the capacity of participants in terms of cognitive knowledge and practical skills to perform management of historic urban cores. It also aimed to exchange experience with fellow participants and build professional networks.

Impact of the training

It is exciting to see IHS alumni Zahira Asmal, Ian Stewart and Denise Güth sharing their experiences with their participation in the UHS training. 

Zahira Asmal (South Africa), Director of The City

"I find the methodologies useful in engaging with various perspectives and communities. The major difference between heritage work in the Netherlands (and hence the training we received) and South Africa (my work) is the preservation of history. My questions to our lecturers included: “What about contested histories? What about histories that are decimated through colonialism? How do we engage with these histories that are no longer spatially present?”

Zahira Asmal is the director of The City, a research, publishing and place-making agency. She works on social, cultural and spatial challenges in post-colonial environments, and strives to achieve cultural equity in the built landscapes of South Africa, concentrating on creating inclusive and integrated cities. Zahira is also part of the board of advisors for the International Archive of Women in Architecture. 

She chose to undertake the UHS course to learn about new strategies for engaging with the past. Since 2017, Zahira has been working with various Dutch governments, institutions and individuals on a project titled See. The UHS training provided an opportunity for Zahira to obtain a deeper understanding of history, memory and identity in various places.

Ian Stewart (USA), Owner of New Netherland Timber Framing and Preservation

"Specifically, using the action planning methodology has allowed me to further identify issues in cities like Albany or Troy. This is extremely useful when dealing with the various preservation trades programmes that I am helping to develop with the State Historic Preservation Office. It has allowed me to make a persuasive argument regarding the value of teaching people about the buildings that comprise their cities and giving them the skills to work on them themselves"

Ian Stewart is the owner of New Netherland Timber Framing and Preservation, a company that specializes in architectural conservation and preservation planning. He develops curricula and teaches preservation carpentry at a local Community College, in conjunction with the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

His interest in urban heritage preservation led him to the UHS course. He was particularly fascinated by the various ways in which urban heritage can be identified. The action planning methodology was for him an invaluable tool and has allowed Ian to view issues in the United States in a clearly defined way.

New perspectives

The participants in the Urban Heritage Strategies training were presented with a case study involving Katendrecht, an underdeveloped Rotterdam district which has received substantial investment over the last twenty years. The meetings between participants and the City of Rotterdam regarding the redevelopment of Katendrecht led to some fascinating new perspectives. "It was interesting how different ideas were put forward within the group regarding which direction Katendrecht should go in,’ explains Denise Güth of the City of Rotterdam. "The ideas were different to the approach that has been taken by the local authority. For example, the group was critical of gentrification in the area, which has been encouraged in order to attract new residents and companies to Katendrecht".