Living Heritage announced as theme for 2023 European Heritage Days

From August to October, people can visit thousands of monuments and hundreds of events across Europe during the European Heritage Days (EHD). Every year, there is a dedicated theme: this year revolves around ‘living heritage’. So what can we expect from this year’s EHD?

One of the reasons to pick living heritage is the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The EHD 2023 celebrate this with the theme ‘Living Heritage’. Intangible or living heritage includes for example traditional arts and how communities pass on knowledge through collective memory, as well as the relationship people have with their sense of place and understanding of the natural world.

Over 350 events

There are already over 350 events registered if you take a look at the database on the EHD website. For example in Dabrowa Górnicza, in Poland, where visitors can watch a film and visit an exhibition on glass from HSG Ząbkowice, a former local glassworks factory. People can learn about the local industrial heritage and the importance of remembering this regional heritage.

And what about a walking tour in Sligo, Ireland, dedicated to the history of local families between 1901 and 1911 and their occupations? Or an event in Norwegian fjord Nærøyfjorden, about the use of hardwood in traditional agriculture and how its use is shown in the cultural landscape of the region. All these events are inherently connected to showcasing the importance of local, living cultural heritage and making sure it survives for generations to come.

In their latest update, EHD also encourages heritage organisations and enthusiasts across Europe to think of additional events on ‘Living Heritage’ that showcase knowledge which has been passed from generation to generation, and this includes many aspects of life relating to nature. For example an exhibition about traditional medicine, or a workshop about traditional land management, such as planting hedgerows.

Another (non-European) special example of 'Living Heritage' can be found in Japan in the person of Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties. And yes, these Preservers are actual living people: the term Living National Treasure is designated for them as keepers of important intangible cultural properties. They are considered master crafts people in for example pottery, metalworking or textile producing techniques that have been handed down generation and have a local origin.

The EHD are a joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. They have been a mainstay since 1999 and are the most widely celebrated participatory cultural event in Europe. The pan-European nature of the EHD programme contributes to bringing citizens together and highlighting the European dimension of cultural heritage in the 50 signatory States of the European Cultural Convention.

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