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A guest article by Pieter-Jan De Vos, historian, of

Dear Heritage Action,

I share your concern about the tendency in which national governments are pulling back financial support to cultural organizations lately (your recent article, Big Society? So who’ll look after the Stones?).

However I think this also reflects the recent shifts in heritage conservation. Instead of a ‘nationalistic’ approach, heritage is considered more and more a vehicle for a transboundary cultural identity. At least regarding the last conventions of the European Commission, e.g. Faro convention.

These conventions also stress the importance of the involvement of the people. Therefore, I was pleased to read your call for a society of stones, founded and managed by ‘locals’.

For example; the 2005 ‘Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society’ or Faro Convention addresses the emergence of Heritage Communities. According to the convention such a community consists of organizations and people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage, which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations.

An example of such an organization is 40xVenezia, a group of local stakeholders with an impressive virtual platform, that address important issues concerning the heritage site of Venice. (You’ll find it on-line!).

I think public action indeed will be the key to heritage conservation in the future and therefore I hope your call for the society of stones will be answered!

All this to say that without government interventions, I believe in decent heritage conservation. After all, the general awareness of the importance of heritage has boomed over the last decades. However, partly because cultural heritage has been the main lure for tourism.

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February 2011

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