As soon as you visit Athens it hits you square in the face, the strong nationalistic Greek identity is everywhere, sold in shops, on the shirts of the tourists and physically overlooking the city in the shape of the Acropolis. The visitor may not feel overpowered as they hop back on a plane home, but that is not the same for every resident of Athens.
Since the refugee crisis, tens of thousands have entered Greece and found themselves stuck and lost. Their homes destroyed, separated from family, and their national identity a distant past. Since their arrival, Athens has worked on satisfying necessities like health and shelter, and is now working on higher needs such as psycho-socio support. With this comes the chance to reform lost identity, forming a sense of belonging in Athens. To achieve this Athens is using their best product: heritage.
Refugees have been the focus of several temporary exhibits at the Benaki and Cycladic museum which focus on the travel and everyday aspect of their experience. This includes children’s drawings and sculptures by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who manifested the act of Europe letting go of its responsibilities to the refugees into an anthropomorphic statue.
Tours of the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum were started by the Greek cultural minister. Rather than focusing on the loss of the refugees, or the greatness of Athens’ past, he spoke of the Greek hospitality, of the similarities between their cultures and of the Parthenon and the lost Palmyra. He sent the strong message that their heritage may be lost but now the heritage of Athens is partly theirs.Working on the theme of Greek hospitality Oxfam and Amnesty used heritage to thank Athens for their role in the refugee crisis. By creating an open-air museum exhibiting the items Athenians donated to the refugee camps Oxfam and Amnesty aimed to showcase the importance of goodwill to the new communities and hopes this will act as an incentive to others. This acts as a tool of community building between Athenians and the refugees which in time can create a new transcultural identity between the two shared experiences of the crisis. Athens does have a strong migration history from the early 20th century, although not a part of curriculum there are talks of a new museum dedicated to this subject. With education from this new heritage site we can expect a level of education on the subject which can only lead to further acceptance and understanding of the new plight. If immigration becomes a part of the strong Greek identity it is easier for the refugee to see themselves within the landscape and create an identity. Representation in heritage spaces is imperative for the refugee for them to be fully engaged with the programmes Athens is offering.
Kimberley Bulgin previously studied Classical and Archaeological studies at the University of Kent and her interests in Heritage Management are on visitor engagement in educational settings.
(This was an excerpt from her paper ‘The Refugee Identity Crisis: How Athens is bridging the gap between a person and their homeland through heritage and meaning making’ presented at the University of Kent MA conference on Boundaries in Paris in May 2017.)
With Rome taking centre stage, it’s not surprising that the region of Lazio often gets overlooked by tourists. The drained areas of the Pontine Marshes are now mile after mile of agricultural land and industrial complexes, whilst the towns and cities dotting the plain are uninspiring compared to the nearby grandeur of the capital. The coastal region is popular with daytrippers from the city looking to enjoy the clean waters and golden sands of the Tyrrhenian Sea, but few venture further inland.
However, on Sunday 14th May, a group of University of Kent students collected at the eastern end of the Circus Maximus in Rome. The goal: to walk 87 miles of the Via Francigena Del Sud, from Rome to Terracina, straight through the rural heartland of southern Lazio. The Via Francigena Del Sud is a 434 mile pilgrimage from Rome to Brindisi, with Jerusalem the ultimate destination. It is the natural successor to its more famous cousin the Via Francigena, the pilgrim path from Canterbury to Rome. The section we were going to tackle from Rome to Terracina was only a small part of a much longer heritage route, steeped in history both ancient and modern. In Roman times, troops and civilians could have covered vast distances on the Via Appia, the strategic road connecting Rome on the west coast to Brindisi in the east. The Appian Way cut straight across the Pontine Marshes, the Romans being undeterred by stagnant waters or mosquitoes and confident in their complete domination of this flat, exposed stretch of land. By the medieval period, however, the region had broken up into small, often warring, factions and Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem may have diverted their route further inland, seeking shelter in the towns of the Lepini Mountains on their way to Terracina instead.
Nowadays, the Via Francigena Del Sud is an officially recognised, waymarked route – at least in theory. Whilst the first three days of our walk, from Rome to Cori, were fairly straightforward and clearly signposted, the further we trekked into the hills and mountains the less clear the path became. All too often the route itinerary directed us to walk alongside busy roads or hack through overgrown hedgerows with no sign of a path.
Unfortunately, these inconsistencies mean that the Via Francigena Del Sud is, in its present state, a limited tool for tourism development in the southern Lazio region. Greater attention needs to be given to waymarking (in both directions) whilst the suggested itinerary could be refined in order to better spread the distances covered and take advantage of staying longer in the more historic towns along the route and visiting local archaeological sites and museums.
However, with these small issues ironed out the Via Francigena Del Sud has great potential to attract new visitors to the area, particularly repeat visitors to Rome who may with to divide their city trip with a rural escape. The rich history of the area has to be seen to be believed, whilst the amazing hospitality of all our hosts, the friendliness of local people, the fresh produce and excellent wine are all added bonuses to what is still an unspoilt and beautiful region.
The 6 students walking the Via Francigena Del Sud were funded by the Kent Opportunity Fund, the European Centres and the School of English. See http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/linking-heritage/italy-walk/ for more information. Visit http://www.viefrancigenedelsud.it/en/ for more information on the official route.
“Elle Arscott is a candidate for the MA Heritage Management 2016-17, and has an undergraduate degree in History of Art & Music from the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in international arts and antiquities law, as well as heritage marketing and alternative approaches to heritage site management.”
In this effort, the Heritage Management Organization has found a very important ally: Global Heritage Fund (GHF). According to Stefaan Poortman, GHF’s CEO, “Over the years, the Heritage Management Organization has successfully convinced GHF that local community engagement is a key feature in any heritage management project. In our desire to follow best practices in heritage preservation, we have decided to attempt a very important project at Ayios Vasileios near Sparta. Our partnership with this organization, which leads in their field, will be instrumental in the success of our efforts there.”
If funded, this will be the first large-scale public engagement project that GHF has undertaken, and it will be the HMO’s first collaboration with this great institution. Given that Global Heritage Fund is a leading project management and conservation organization worldwide, with 28 projects in 19 countries, it is an ideal partner to our organization as we have neither the interest nor the expertise in project managing whilst our strength in training will compliment GHF, which does not lead training programs. If the program is funded, then GHF may work with us to ensure the implementation of best practices as well as to test new ideas in a new context. We are proud to say that we have completed this first phase of collaboration with GHF, and we expect this collaboration to bear greater fruits in the months and years to come.
Weaving in and out of the crowds during the Christmas sales at one of Britain’s larger shopping centres, a digital window display suddenly caught my eye. An enormous Dominic West loomed above the heads of busy shoppers, although for some reason the Hollywood actor had swapped his Jimmy McNulty uniform for a roll-neck jumper and fisherman’s hat. He also sported a frosty beard. Moments later the screen flickered, and text rolled across the image: ‘Dominic West is Ernest Shackleton’.
Unfortunately this was not a well-timed seasonal advertisement for half-price ice picks and crampons. The truth was less exciting. The glossy image was simply British fashion house Burberry’s latest ad-campaign: a glamorous cinematic take on the life of its founder, Thomas Burberry. The advert shows key moments from Burberry’s history, in particular those which purport to have shaped the company’s values and image. Polar explorer Shackleton wore Burberry gabardine (the weatherproof fabric used for its iconic raincoats) in the Antarctic so, presumably, if you’re looking for a coat that can withstand temperatures up to -40 degrees celsius, Burberry is the place to go.
A visit to any UK shopping centre or up-market high street will involve a number of brands for whom “heritage” is a key aspect of their marketing strategy. Burberry, Mulberry, Barbour, Hunter, Harrods and Asprey are just a few of the companies who trade on their British heritage to reassure customers that they are buying into quality and craftsmanship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these types of heritage brands are usually synonymous with luxury brands, as the time that goes into creating quality clothing and accessories results in higher prices.
So why is this idea of “heritage” so important for certain brands? Celebrity endorsements come and go, new ideas can be copied, innovations can be outdone – but a brand’s history is unique. By centering their marketing around their brands heritage, companies like Burberry are able to leverage strong feelings of nostalgia and pride, as well as inspiration, envy and desire. By flaunting their heritage these brands reassure potential new buyers that they will be joining a long line of satisfied customers. Why risk your money on the modern and untested, when you can be safe in the knowledge that your £1400 trench-coat even withstood arctic conditions one hundred years ago.
However, heritage-based marketing is not only for the top end of the market. Everyday brands have also found they can use a loose definition of “heritage” to their advantage. In 2008, British bread manufacturer Hovis produced a television advert that followed the journey of a young boy through 122 years of bread-based history. Firmly targeted at a lower income audience, Hovis convinces its customers that even through the terror of two world wars its bread remained reassuringly familiar – a constant presence in a turbulent century. Combined with the tagline “as good today as it’s always been”, the marketing campaign increased Hovis’ share of the UK bread market and even had a halo effect on the profit margin of it’s parent company, Premier Foods.
Even Stella Artois, the Belgian beer that only a few years ago was referred to in the UK as ‘wife beater’ due to its high alcohol content (and resulting connotations with binge drinking and violence) has recently presented a new marketing campaign focused around its heritage. Similar to the Burberry campaign, Stella Artois’ grammatically troubling ‘Be Legacy’ showcases important moments from the brand’s six-hundred year history with the aim to inspire confidence in and respect for the product. However, not content with simply referencing the past, Stella Artois also invests in the heritage of the future: copy at the end of each television advert reads ‘what do you want to be remembered for?’.
Even when a brand does not explicitly use heritage as part of its marketing strategy, many have ‘heritage collections’ within their product lines. From Faberge to Banana Republic, brands have worked out that heritage sells.
So, if heritage can be used to sell everything from trench-coats to pilsner, decorative ceramic eggs to wholemeal bread, why are museums, archaeological sites and other historic properties – all of which contain a wealth of heritage material – constantly fighting for funds and visitors? Perhaps a combined approach to marketing needs to be taken. In June 2016 Gucci collaborated with Westminster Abbey (a UNESCO World Heritage site) to showcase its S/S 2017 collection. As models walked, cameras flashed and fashionistas instagrammed, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele reminded us all that ‘Westminster is a piece of [London’s] energy, something the contemporary world has forgotten…history is what is really cool’.
Elle Arscott is a candidate for the MA Heritage Management 2016-17, and has an undergraduate degree in History of Art & Music from the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in international arts and antiquities law, as well as heritage marketing and alternative approaches to heritage site management.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to the Iran, and work with the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (or ICHHTO for short) and as a student of Heritage Management I have to say that as far as life-experiences go, every aspect of the trip was unique, providing with some valuable experience in the issues that arise when dealing with the conservation, protection, and management of world heritage.
The idea behind the trip was that we, my classmate and colleague Hadi Ahmadi of ICHHTO and I, would visit various sites along the Silk Road, travelling westwards from Sarakhs on the eastern border with Turkmenistan, to Qasr-e Shirin on the western border with Iraq, and evaluate their condition, in order to determine whether they would be included in the World Heritage Nomination dossier for the Silk Road Heritage Corridor of Iran. This is an ongoing project by UNESCO with the goal of promoting an international academic dialogue and cultural exchange between the east and the west, by protecting and promoting a very important part of history that is shared by Europe and Asia.
For the first part of this massive project ICHHTO decided that the Caravanserais that are located all over the Silk Road, would best represent Iran’s cultural and economic contribution into the history of this complex road network that spanned 2 continents and 14,000 kilometres. Caravanserais are the “hotels” that were built every 30 or so kilometres to accommodate the traders and travellers that crossed the Silk Road.
Even though the task may seem fairly straight-forward and simple, due to the complex nature of the ownership and history of these sites, it proved to be much harder than we had originally thought. These sites had been continuously used for over 600 years until the invention of the automobile completely changed the nature of the Silk Road, while some of them continued being in use even afterwards for various purposes such as prisons (Caravanserai Robat Sang Bast) or military bases, (Caravanserai Yenge Emam) due to their fortified nature. This meant that very often the authenticity and integrity of the sites would be compromised by architectural interventions from later occupants, or even by irreparable damage caused by natural sources over time. Because of this, we were faced with a dilemma, if we were to assess the historical importance of the sites, with their current condition, we would need to decide at what point the compromised authenticity and integrity of these structures becomes too great for them to accurately represent the cultural, historical, and socio-economic values that they were chosen for.
In reality, this is a very controversial issue, and one that comes down to individual judgement in most cases. Due to each site having a completely different history, different architectural attributes, and representing different cultural and heritage values, there is no singular rule that applies to all of them, and each case needs to be assessed on its own individual merit.
Furthermore, the issue of loss of authenticity and integrity brings up another problem that goes hand-in-hand when trying to define what is considered to be worthy of World Heritage status, at what point in the history of each item of tangible or intangible heritage do we stop considering it to be relevant? This is an issue because a common practice of ICHHTO is to “undo” any changes that were done to a site, in order to restore it to its previous condition. As I previously mentioned, one of the sites we visited was that of the Caravanserai Robat Sang Bast, which after more than 16 years of disuse, was used as a prison for enemy combatants during the war between Iran and Iraq between 1980-1988, and as a prison for the criminally insane up until as recently as 10 years ago. This has completely altered the nature of the site from what its original purpose was as a caravanserai during the years of the Silk Road because of the addition of prison walls and guard towers, turning the guest rooms into cells by adding concrete on the floor and barred doors to prevent escape attempts, as well as barbed wire in many areas to restrict movement of the prisoners. So the issue that we face here is how do we conserve and protect the values this site represents in terms of the Silk Road related heritage, without compromising a different part of its history.
Once again I believe that there really isn’t a “right” answer to this question, and we simply have to approach each case individually and with these issues in mind.
Stefano Vito Mongelli is a post-graduate student of Heritage Management with a background in History and Archaeology.
Hadi Ahmadi currently works for the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization, with a BA and MA in Conservation of Architectural Heritage.