UKNC Culture Chair champions UK World Heritage Sites at British-Chinese workshop

Delegates at the British Academy and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences workshop

UKNC Culture Director, Helen Maclagan, was invited by the British Academy and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to participate in a workshop on ‘Tangible Cultural Heritage: New Methods and Approaches’ where she showcased examples from across the UK of where heritage has been mobilised as a learning resource. Helen Maclagan was joined by Professor Robin Coningham of the UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics at Durham University.

Drawing upon findings from the UKNC’s new research findings on the Wider Value of UNESCO to the UK, Helen Maclagan presented case studies from two of the UK’s World Heritage Sites; New Lanark and Saltaire, as well as two community-based case studies.

The two World Heritage sites were chosen as examples of the great work that is happening across the UK’s World Heritage Sites to engage local residents with their shared heritage. Both of these sites are industrial, and have not always been viewed as the rich repositories of heritage and learning opportunities for which they now are recognised. The enhanced status and public recognition afforded by UNESCO World Heritage has helped to open doors for new learning opportunities. For example, New Lanark is now the three-time winner of the Sandford Award for Heritage Education for their schools outreach programme. The schools programme operates under the banner of ‘Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens, Effective Contributors’, the foundation stones of Scotland’s National Curriculum which chimes well with UNESCO’s overall objectives. Schools and colleges in and around Saltaire World Heritage Site are also using the UNESCO designation as an overarching theme in their studies – in civic engagement, entrepreneurship and even floristry.

In recent years, the British Academy and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) have jointly held a number of high-level events (in Beijing and in London), in which senior members of both institutions, emerging scholars at the cutting-edge of their disciplines, policy makers and representatives of national and international organisations, have engaged in discussion on issues of shared interest and global relevance. The aim has been to encourage the exchange of knowledge between the UK and China, and identify areas for potential future research and collaboration.

The workshop on ‘Tangible Cultural Heritage: New Methods and Approaches’ was the most recent initiative in this series of joint events. The workshop brought together leading scholars and cultural heritage practitioners from across the UK and China to discuss best practice pertaining to the protection, conservation, restoration, and use of archaeological sites, historical monuments and cultural artefacts. It highlighted cutting-edge methods and innovative approaches to preserving tangible cultural heritage, enhancing its socio-economic benefits and promoting public appreciation of its value.

Helen Maclagan said:

“It was fascinating to hear the different approaches being explored by our Chinese colleagues, and to have the opportunity to showcase and discuss examples of UK good practice. I’m very grateful to the Sites who provided me with background information and images. Our contributions were well received and stimulated dialogue. As a result of the workshop I was asked to suggest suitable texts for translation into Chinese, and with the help of colleagues UKNC has forwarded booklists to our co-contributors.”