Building Human Resources and Expertise for Regional Cultural Heritage Preservation

The Ústí region lies in the north-west of the Czech Republic along the German border with the capital city of Ústí nad Labem. It has a rich history which resulted in significant cultural heritage, mostly of immovable type, e.g. castles preserved since the 10th century, a network of former royal cities with medieval architecture (Žatec, Kadaň, Louny, Most, Ústí nad Labem, Litoměřice), Gothic and Baroque churches, monasteries, but also industrial heritage linked to the traditional mining and chemistry industry, hops planting and processing etc. This cultural heritage suffered of severe damage during the World War II. After the war, German population in the region was expelled, and that brought devastating discontinuity in the attitudes towards regional cultural heritage. During the communist era massive surface coal mining changed the landscape and caused damage to numerous cultural properties both in the countryside and in the cities (e.g. almost complete demolishing of the medieval center of the Most city). After the fall of the communist regime the decline of coal mining and regeneration of devastated landscape started. Efforts to systematically renew the cultural heritage need skilled workforce in different domains and advanced expertise in history, architecture, etc.

History Department at the Faculty of Arts has addressed these regional needs already in 1990s. In 2005 they developed new bachelor´s study programme “Historical Monuments Documentation” which is unique in the Czech Republic. It links three lines of expertise in the curriculum. First part is focused on general and regional history and methods of history and archival research. Second part comprises of architecture and art history and courses on monuments’ preservation law, regulations and institutions. Third part consists of practical exercises in documentation, preservation and presentation of cultural heritage. Graduates of this programme are prepared for work at regional institutions of cultural heritage preservation such as regional branches of the National Heritage Institute, local or municipal museums, archives, city councils etc. Within this study programme the bachelor’s theses focus on specific historical monuments in the region, so the regional cultural property has been gradually and systematically mapped and documented. At the department the Documentation Laboratory was established first and in 2008 it was reorganized and adapted in cooperation with Geo laboratory of the Faculty of the Environment into the Cultural Heritage Documentation and Digitization Center. Its’ goal is to provide infrastructure and equipment for documentation not only for students and academics, but also for experts from the region. Due to successful development projects it is equipped with several high-tech 3D scanners, cameras and appliances for land survey mapping.

The Center supported not only research at the History Department in recent years, but also developed projects aimed specifically to document monuments and other cultural heritage sites around the Ústí region.

For instance the project “Documentation of Historical Buildings used for Processing Hops” should carry out basic documentation of unique large constructions that are not used for their original purpose today. These derelict objects are in private property and they are usually not on the list of state-protected historical monuments. Until 2018 they documented approx. 2000 buildings and published web pages showing them (https://npu.maps.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=74a1b3df389e4aebb65fa2939cc300d9).

Furthermore two projects for documentation, digitization and presentation of endangered cultural heritage in the region of northwest Bohemia have been supported by the Czech Ministry of Culture. Students participate regularly in the projects as for example in case of Terra Sacra Incognita project whose aim was documentation and presentation of historical buildings in two small villages in the region. As a follow-up of this endeavor a new project was developed to restore a Baroque church in one of the villages by a local NGO focused on restoration of monuments in the Ústí region. The restoration was finished in 2016 thanks to a grant from EEA and Norway Grant Programme.

Activities of the History Department also help to promote regional cultural heritage via exhibitions not only in the city of Ústí, but in partnership with central institutions also in Prague as in case of large and successful exhibition „Without Borders. Art in the Ore Mountains between the Gothic and the Renaissance“ in the National Gallery in Prague presenting ancient art from the Ústí region to wider public and international audience.


More Information

Impact

What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

In the region with rich cultural heritage that is yet devastated by the tragic history of the region during second half of 20th century, the need for expertise in this field is high. The History Department addressed the challenge since 1990s, but after 2000 they succeeded in developing specific study program focused on documentation of historical monuments which are unique in the Czech Republic. The Documentation Center at the Department also provides equipment and services for these activities in the region.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

One of the most important conditions for the success was cooperation between regional stakeholders including branches of National Heritage Institute, museums and civil society. The activities would not be possible without large support for projects that were mainly gained as grants for the university (or consortia of regional partners).

Constraints

What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

Within the highly regulated accreditation process in the Czech Republic the main challenge was to gain accreditation for the study programme which does not have any parallel in the country.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

Large part of the activities were funded from different grants which can represent a challenge for long-term sustainability. However, as the Documentation Center has been successful in obtaining several large projects, it has now enough expertise in project management and fundraising to be successful also in future. The study programme has to be promoted well as the demographic decline in the Czech Republic limits the student demand and endangers specifically these rather small and specialized programmes.

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

In general this case shows that focusing on specific regional issue and finding solution for the specific regional challenges could be beneficial both for university and for the regional actors. Furthermore it shows that there is a great potential in linking PHE with regional development even in traditional disciplines of humanities.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

Being a unique study programme in the country, the History Department could benefit from this to become leading educational institution in this field. On one hand, the regional needs are addressed here, but it could be leveraged to become a key competitive advantage on the national educational market.

Context

Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

In the time of the development of the study programme the national accreditation regulations our processes were structured according to traditional academic disciplines and standards. Even for study programmes with vocational profile professors with high academic profile had to be appointed.