The past 50 years have not been easy. Political turmoil, climate change and various other obstacles have stood in the way. In the past 50 years there are numerous accomplishments to be celebrated within heritage. One of those incredible accomplishments is the development and commitment to sustainable conservation of heritage.
The ability to travel to various different UNESCO World Heritage Sites and learn about culture, people and places has brought more understanding, diversity and kindness into our world. There are hundreds of heritage sites throughout the world, and the UK is home to 33. Each of those 33 sites have taken measurable steps towards financial, social and environmental sustainability. Whether it be Edinburgh who has committed to being zero carbon by 2030, the City of Bath working to bring financial sustainability through Bridgerton tourism, or Giants Causeway and Causeway Coast bringing back grazing livestock. UK World Heritage Sites have been a way to experience culture and heritage for the last 50 years and their efforts to be sustainable for the next 50 years is crucial to the future of heritage.
There is no need to mention the importance of sharing culture and heritage, as it’s built into the foundation of UNESCO but the ability for the heritage sector to continue its influence is critical. The development of heritage has moved from not only including world heritage sites but having a more holistic view of heritage. This has been recently recognised in UNESCO’s Mondiacult Declaration of culture ‘as a global public good’
Culture now includes not only tangible heritage but also intangible heritage, such as music, cultural practices, festivals, etc. Whilst world heritage sites continue to symbolize heritage and educate people around the world, the ability to incorporate intangible heritage increases the relevance and sustainability of the sector.
The inclusion of intangible heritage allows for more people from a variety of different communities and backgrounds to participate in heritage. Generations and generations of families pass down skills, traditions and rituals that are incorporated into everyday life. Passing down these traditions, skills and rituals allows for heritage to be more transferable. As a non UK citizen, one of my first encounters with UK heritage was Sunday Roast. I found the strong UK tradition ingrained into my weekly schedule and myself learning more and more about the tradition and the foods that accompanied it. Although this tradition might be more subtle than a castle or cathedral, it was arguably more impactful to my understanding of UK culture.
The combination of both intangible heritage and tangible world heritage, like world heritage sites, is what will allow the heritage sector to continue on for the “Next 50”. Heritage is imperative to bringing together different cultures, creating relationships and creating bridges between geographical locations. Although the “Next 50” are never insured, the heritage sector has adapted to the last 50 years and it’s no doubt that it will continue to be sustainable. As the power of heritage continues to make bounds across the world, sustainability takes a forefront in helping bring together people through the #TheNext50.