If you ask a random group of people about their understanding of the phrase “cultural heritage”, chances are they will come back to you with a wild variety of “definitions” and responses. Their answers will largely depend on the level of interest in the matter, and, more importantly perhaps, how relevant it is to their professional background. An art history professor will most likely offer a very different response to a florist selling flowers in one of your city’s iconic squares, piazzas or plazas, often for generations.

One phrase and countless definitions

In addition to being a nation’s (or, historically, entire civilisation’s) evolutionary DNA, in the age of globalisation, cultural heritage impacts great many socio-economic variables. It also affects millions of jobs worldwide, both directly and indirectly. For a restaurant owner in the centre of a city like Kraków, Prague, Budapest, Riga or Ljubljana, it’s quite obvious that the popularity of his or her business will always be linked very closely to the proximity of the city’s most important cultural heritage landmarks. Even if the food on offer were far inferior to that served by a restaurant 3 km away from the centre, the one located in the city’s main market square will strongly outperform the latter, financially at least.

By analogy, powerful international business brands increasingly like to associate themselves with locations that reflect unique qualities and characteristics, going far beyond the fact that a given city is the administrative centre of the region or even a country’s capital.

Ultimately, what matters most to businesses is the so-called “human capital”, and what matters to the human capital – otherwise known as all of us – is no longer just about having a stable job with a satisfying income, but actually living in a place that provides endless opportunities for work-life balance.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018)

Since 2010, Kraków’s International Cultural Centre has published a bilingual quarterly called Herito (Kwartalnik Herito). For over 9 years now, it’s been taking its readers on fascinating journeys of cultural exploration, supported by original research and the natural curiosity and passion for culture of its excellent editorial team.

Before we get deeper into the many different aspects of contemporary cultural heritage, we thought we’d share with you this interview with Agata Wąsowska‑Pawlik, the director of the International Cultural Centre in Kraków.

Heritage is You!

Ahead of the upcoming OWHC World Congress in Kraków (June 2-5), some of the most fundamental questions in the global cultural heritage debate are well worth revisiting, especially in the face of globalisation and the overall impact of modern technologies on communication, travel, popular culture and tourism in general. The collective patterns of our relationship with cultural heritage and how we choose to interact with it, have been very much part of this social, behavioural and technological (re)volution.

The short film miniature below poses some of the most fundamental questions of all for cultural heritage: What is it? Why is it so important that we understand the complex fabric of what defines our cultural identities, both locally and globally, as individuals, cities, nations, regions and humanity as a whole. 

Cultural Heritage: A Question of Time(s)?

The story presented in the film miniature above is a list of questions (see the script below). Over the coming weeks, Kraków Heritage will talk about the many aspects and challenges of contemporary cultural heritage and tourism.

Cultural Heritage!
What is it, really?
Is it the arts,
And the architecture, we are so keen to admire,
And enjoy feeling surrounded by?
The many iconic buildings,
Whose functions have evolved over centuries?
Some of them are now monuments, and were once home to people
Who lived happy or tragic, or perfectly ordinary lives,
The generations, who built and redefined this city forever,
Every time it came to one of history’s many unchartered crossroads,
And faced some unimaginably difficult choices.

What is cultural heritage?
Is it the centuries of change and historical turmoil,
That have brought us where we are today?
The trauma of past wars, invasions and conflicts?
That have left their indelible marks on
Who we choose and refuse to be,
And how we express ourselves creatively.

Or is it the energy of the people who have come here,
To stay, to live, to visit and revisit…for generations?
The collective story we are all part of?
The story we are proud to share with the world

Because that’s who you are.
Heritage is You!
Your story!