The European Year of Cultural Heritage begins now!

Image: EAC Media /

The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 puts the spotlight on Europe’s rich and diverse history and traditions, showcasing its role in fostering a shared sense of identity and building the future of Europe.

The Year was officially launched in Milan in December by Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, who defined cultural heritage as “the heart of the European way of life”.

It comes at a timely moment: a recent Eurobarometer Survey (2017) has shown that 68% of Europeans would like to know more about Europe’s cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage comes in many shapes and forms:

  • tangible – for example, buildings, monuments, artefacts, clothing, artwork, books, machines, historic towns, archaeological sites.
  • intangible – practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – and the associated instruments, objects and cultural spaces – that people value. This includes language and oral traditions, performing arts, social practices and traditional craftsmanship.
  • natural – landscapes, flora and fauna.
  • digital – resources that were created in digital form (for example digital art or animation) or that have been digitalised as a way to preserve them (including text, images, video, records).

Cultural heritage and schools

Linking school projects and classroom activities to the Year might be an interesting way to help young people think about and compare their own experiences and interests with others locally but also in other countries.

It is also an opportunity to reflect on pedagogical practice. The approaches of education teams that are working in museums and art galleries, and with theatre, dance and music companies, and even high-profile football clubs, have evolved over the years. Most now understand that young people need to have the opportunity to explore, play and interact with the site or the artefacts. They are engaged by vivid stories, but they will also find their own path of discovery once their curiosity is stimulated.

Image: Harley J Seeley Photography

We begin the Year with a month focusing on museums and schools.

As an introduction, here is a very interesting 30-minute presentation by Annemies Broekgaarden, Head of Public & Education at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. She describes how they developed their successful approach, including ways of integrating new technologies. You can also read her earlier article, Can heritage contribute to cultural awareness and expression? (available in 6 languages).