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31 Jul 2019

Innovation in UK's cultural heritage creating 'exceptional outcomes'

Fifteen recommendations for improvement, covering areas such as funding, human resources and knowledge exchange, have been identified in a new report by the UK's National Commission for UNESCO, assessing the UK's performance in the cultural heritage sector.

While the report – titled Cultural Heritage Innovation - opportunities for international development – concludes that the UK is, in partnership with developing countries, creating "exceptional outcomes" that have an impact "well beyond the cultural field", it also suggests there is significant scope for the UK to make a greater contribution.

The report looks at 37 case studies involving more than 140 partners and 40 countries, showing how the UK cultural heritage sector has contributed to the UK Government's international development objectives and to the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

It has done so through the development and application of new technologies such as prototype sensors and 3D documentation and imaging, as well as through cultural heritage management on the ground in conflict zones or following natural disasters.

This work is helping to conserve heritage, foster community cohesion and stimulate inclusive growth, while also building capacity in the UK, the report contends.

The report was authored by Kate Pugh OBE, an independent heritage expert, and Helen Maclagan OBE, non-executive director at the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

Pugh said that the report showed the "extraordinarily imaginative work of UK heritage organisations around the world", adding: "With further new initiatives and support from the UK Government and others, recognising the important role of cultural heritage in the international development agenda, these and other organisations could make much more of their expertise to change experiences and lives for better in some of the poorest countries in the world."

One of the issues identified in the report is the low profile of the cultural heritage sector's agency in international development, and the 15 recommendations made at the end of the UK National Commission's report include measures to raise this profile, as well as developing funding opportunities, training of researchers and staff, brokering networks and contacts for knowledge exchange, and more commitment to promoting outputs and sharing information.

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