European Heritage Days: Common Culture Awareness
Heritage acknowledgement in Europe comes alive simultaneously in fifty countriesSeptember 12th, 2016
“European Heritage Days” is a cultural initiative taking place every September in the European Council member countries signatories of the European Cultural Convention. For a couple of weeks, historical buildings and property not normally open to the public are available for exploring, showcasing the countries’ peoples their unique heritage. As well, common themes unite the heritage traits and cultures of the different countries participating.
The idea for this unique transnational cultural event was forged on October 8th 1985, within the framework of the 2nd Conference of the Council of Europe of the Secretaries responsible for the architectural heritage in Granada, Spain. The idea was taken from the French initiative “Open day of historic monuments”, introduced in 1984. The event itself was actively launched in the year 1999, as a joint action of both the Council of Europe and the European Commission.
With “Europe, a common heritage” as a slogan since then, a Pan-European theme that acts as a uniting focus of the specific events and heritage characteristics of each country has been introduced in 2015. This year, the theme “Heritage and Communities” is the chosen one. Under it, the role of heritage is promoted as part of community building and shaping, both within a country as over borders within transnational communities, such as Europe.
This initiative of uniting communities through common heritage is especially significant in countries with a historical component of social division. Such is the case with Northern Ireland’s former Catholic/Protestant divide, where events will be taking place across eight different locations in the capital city, Belfast. These will highlight the contribution of several communities to the creation, conservation and enhancement of the city’s heritage.
An example are the special visits taking place to the Indian Community Centre building in Belfast. While being an important community for the city, it also plays a crucial part in the conservation of the city’s Christian cultural heritage, as the building acting as a venue for its cultural centre is the Carlisle Church, through which a guided visit will be organized. As seen, heritage community building also transcends Europe’s boundaries while further enhancing its multiculturalism.
Monuments already open to the public the rest of the year engage in the celebration of the European Heritage Days by organizing special events like guided tours or exhibitions. Such is the case of the “Other Yerevan” walk organized through Armenia’s capital city. In addition to creating a different and more complete view of all the architectural jewels making up Yerevan’s urban landscape, it is aimed at raising awareness of those under threat of disappearing.
So far, the European Heritage Days initiative has gathered close to 30 million visitors to around 50,000 monuments all across Europe and is expecting to do so with 20 million more this year. These visitors will have the chance to rediscover their own cultural heritage, as well as discovering the richness in diversity native to their own European common identity, and how this identity helps to shape their own community.