The Cultural Heritage & City Newsletter covers an editorial selection of heritage news from Istanbul, Turkey and the rest of the world. Photo credit: Bekir Dindar / Demo Lab.

Fulya Baran on founding Turkey’s first independent heritage newsletter

Fulya Baran is an emerging heritage professional from Istanbul, Turkey whose main focus is the participation of civil society in heritage management practices. She believes that an inclusive management approach should be the main concern of decision making processes since cultural heritage affects and is affected by various stakeholders.

She also thinks that organized and well-informed public groups, for example, NGOs, are and should be the key component of the process to make an impactful contribution to the heritage field in general. This is why she started a free online newsletter called Cultural Heritage & City Newsletter in January 2021 to inform the general public about heritage news. This week she is preparing to launch the 12th edition of the newsletter and now let’s talk with Fulya more on her recent initiative.

Author: Levent Tökün

Could you introduce yourself, Fulya? Your education, experience in the field, projects you have worked on, etc.

First, I would like to thank you and the EHT for giving me a chance to share my newsletter on this great platform.

I have a BA in Management from Boğaziçi University and MA in Cultural Management from Istanbul Bilgi University. My master’s thesis was on the role of non-governmental organizations in urban heritage management. I examined participation by focusing on the roles of the NGOs involved in the urban heritage management of the Istanbul Historic Peninsula. The concept of participation is not a new phenomenon in cultural heritage management literature and practices.

Involving ordinary people in the decision-making process is still a challenging issue

Also, in Turkey, participation has legally been on the agenda for heritage management since 2004. However, involving ordinary people in the decision-making process is still a challenging issue. So, I conducted in-depth interviews with the representatives of NGOs and also a representative of a public institution to get an insight on local dynamics behind the participatory management process.

As I know, the findings of the thesis were highly related to your motivation behind the newsletter. So, could you please tell me a bit about the findings of your thesis?

Right. What I learned about the challenges that NGOs and public institutions faced in the participatory process made me think of this newsletter project.

Today, cultural heritage management requires a multidisciplinary approach and collaborative work of stakeholders including the public, private sector, and civil society. To meet these requirements, first, the actors must be aware of each other’s works. Also, specialists must be able to communicate with other specialists from diverse disciplines. In Turkey, one can easily observe that cultural heritage-centered perspective to the built environment is overlooked in both academia and media. As a consequence, actors need a network platform that can pave the way for interdisciplinary collaborations.

Do you think a newsletter can create a solution for that kind of problem?

Well, it’s at least a step further to me. Despite being in a communication era, most NGOs aren’t aware of each other’s work. Or, public institutions don’t have the informational and operational capacity to bring various disciplines to create sustainable and inclusive solutions to cultural heritage sites. 

I aim to show that a cultural heritage-centered perspective is a need for the sustainable development of the urban environment

With the Cultural Heritage and the City newsletter, I compile various news from diverse disciplines including architecture, urban planning, archaeology, built environment, art history, and group them under four categories entitled World, Turkey, Istanbul ve Civil Society. What I aim is to show that a cultural heritage-centered perspective is a need for the sustainable development of the urban environment.

So far, most of the subscribers are architects and urban planners sharing their feedback by saying that the newsletter is useful for them to follow the cultural heritage and the city agenda.

What do you want to achieve in the heritage sector with this newsletter?

In the long term, I hope the newsletter can be a guide and inspiration for the heritage sector’s actors to work collaboratively and understand other disciplines’ languages.

Is there a similar initiative like yours in Turkey? If yes, why is yours different from the others? If not, do you have any international examples that you follow?

What inspired me to start this kind of publication is Kültigin Kağan Akbulut’s newsletter that focuses on contemporary art. He launched it in 2017, and it was one of the first examples of newsletter journalism in Turkey. Now he established an independent digital publication “Argonotlar” on contemporary art in Turkey. I am also a part of his team. Regarding newsletter journalism, “Aposto” and “Kapsül” are well-known Turkish newsletters which I also find very successful. However, there aren’t any newsletters focusing on cultural heritage other than the one I started.

Finally, thanks to you, I learned about the European Heritage Tribune. It’s a great publication and also very beneficial for me to use some news for my newsletter.

Newsletter sometimes publishes the EHT articles regarding Turkey to reach a broader local audience.

Do you think civil initiatives can make an impact in the heritage sector? Do you have some successful examples?

For the thesis study, I benefited from several international guidelines and documents. One of them was “The Participatory Governance of Cultural Heritage Report of the OMC (Open Method of Coordination) Working Group of Member States’ Experts” (2018) by the Council of Europe. In the end, what I’ve found is unlike the European countries, for the case of the Historic Peninsula, a bottom-up approach is a powerful factor that facilitates participation. In other words, while in European countries governmental institutions are the starters of participation, in the Historic Peninsula civil society is.

Despite all destroyed and threatened heritage in Istanbul, this finding was a promising factor for me to be more active in civil society. Now I am also a part of “Adalar the World Heritage Initiative” which is a civil initiative aiming to conserve and promote Prince Islands’ cultural and natural heritage.

Biography

Fulya Baran graduated from Boğaziçi University with a bachelor’s degree in Management and Bilgi University with a master’s degree in Cultural Management. She worked in the communications department of various museums and art galleries. Her texts on contemporary art and cultural heritage were published in “Gazete Duvar”, “Hürriyet Kitap Sanat”, “Istanbul Art News”, and “Argonotlar”. She is the membership editor of “Argonotlar”, a newly established contemporary art publication in Turkey. Her master’s thesis is on the participation of NGOs in the management of urban heritage by focusing on the Historic Peninsula of Istanbul. Her research areas are World Heritage, site management, and participation.

About the Author

Levent is an Archaeologist, Art Historian and European Heritage Youth Ambassador focused on cultural heritage politics, and museums. He obtained his BA degree in Archaeology and History of Art from Koç University, Turkey, where he also spent a semester abroad at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, as an exchange student, and later completed his dual MA degree in World Heritage Studies at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany & in Cultural Heritage at Deakin University, Australia. For the MA thesis, he researched on the issue of return of illicitly trafficked cultural property both to and from Turkey regarding policy consistency and goodwill.

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