One might think it’s a recent fashion, but European Heritage Days actually celebrate the whole 30 years this September!
The initiative dates back to 1985, when Council of Europe started it with the aim of raising awareness of European cultural diversity. Then, in 1999, it turned into a joint initiative of CoE and EU and nowadays it attracts the whole twenty million people across fifty countries. The idea is to make cultural monuments more open and accessible to anyone interested, thus the European Heritage Days are also known as Heritage Open Days. And yes, this also means free entrance to the museums and free visits to monuments in entire Portugal on September 27h!
A vast array of events linked to heritage and museums have one common thread – they share the annual theme. In 2015, the European Heritage Days are about industrial heritage.
As I was working in a heritage protection institute for a decade, until the beginning of 2014, our Septembers were very much dedicated to Heritage Open Days events. I remember some enjoyable but quite long days and working weekends on the organization side, adding my little contribution to making heritage more visible and more present in our citizens’ everyday. And I am happy that tradition continues in a different way, in another cultural context.
An external view to a country’s heritage and cultural identity functions somewhat as a mirror: one is curious to know how others see them. And that was, I believe, the reason for me to be invited to ISLA (Instituto Politécnico de Gestão e Tecnologia) in Vila Nova de Gaia, to participate in their event commemorating the European Heritage Days 2015.
I told a story about the discoveries of a cultural tourist – that was just me disguised as one, of course – related to Porto’s industrial heritage, its past and present contexts and its possible future. I have learnt immensely from those discoveries! Switching between the two countries and the status of more-than-a-visitor in Portugal enabled me a detached view on the well-known problems of industrial (and all other) heritage back in the homeland, informed by the discoveries on how others do, and how they face their challenges. Not being without its problems, the industrial heritage experience from Portugal still offers many inspiring initiatives and good examples to learn from.
Look at the European Heritage Days website for a very nice interactive map of EHD 2015 events across Europe.