Cultural Heritage and Innovation

Dear reader,

SoPHIA Newsletter 8 brings news on important developments of the project, a new collaboration and a relevant interview and reflections on Cultural Heritage (CH) and Innovation within the SoPHIA CH impact assessment Model.

Cultural heritage is seen as one of the empowering factors of economic development. It stimulates creativity, inspires us for future and celebrates diversity by building bridges across Europe. CH serves the EU framework as an important resource for social innovation, sustainable and inclusive growth as there is increasing environmental and human-driven threats to cultural heritage. Innovative approaches to CH contribute to creating new jobs, developing sustainable tourism, empowering education, and preserving urban and rural landscapes.

Recently, also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation in CH is closely linked with digital technologies. Digitization, as pointed out in the SoPHIA Deliverable D2.2 Case Studies Report, included in this issue, is perceived as an integral part of innovation process in CH management. The report underlines innovation in CH as a process which enables various stakeholders to unite and work together towards a common goal. In addition to the Case Studies Report, the Newsletter 8 also brings you the interview with Horta Museum and Alice Laboratory collaboration on 3D reconstruction of the Maison du Peuple in Brussels, which was demolished in 1965, as an important example to preservation of certain memory of the urban landscape. The project contributes to the promotion and protection of ‘sense of place’ as it is interlinked with social valorization of the city.

Besides, we also would like to reflect upon the BLUEMED Project, one of the case studies where the SoPHIA Model was applied, to briefly outline the link between CH and innovation. The project plans, tests, coordinates Underwater Museums, Diving Parks and Knowledge Awareness Centres to support sustainable and responsible tourism development and promotes blue growth in coastal areas and islands of the Mediterranean. It is funded under the INTERREG-MED programme and it aims to protect and valorize underwater natural and cultural heritage.

The project involves fourteen partners from five countries, opening seven accessible underwater archaeological sites (AUAS) to the public, and establishing four coastal Knowledge Awareness Centres (KACs) nearby, while ensuring the protection of the environment and biodiversity of the Mediterranean. In this way, it promotes a sustainable and responsible model for the development of diving tourism and fosters new models of public/private partnerships at European, national and regional level. Its interest resides in the combination of the cultural/environmental aspect, valorized by technological innovations and considering the economic perspective.

BLUEMED has established a long-term collaboration between various stakeholders and an innovative management model, based on a public/private partnership. The project involves ICT start-ups since the beginning, and it fosters the development of tools promoting innovation in the diving industry and improving divers experience through innovative diving services and technologies. Moreover, it develops dry-dive ICT tools (3D immersive visualisation), enhancing the experience of non-divers in the KACs.

The scientific dimension of the project is of prime importance and involves various disciplines: archaeology, marine biology, and ICT. Many scientific publications stemmed from BLUEMED, as well as two International Conferences, while significant ongoing progress can be assessed in the relevant fields. Innovative ICT tools have been implemented for monitoring, studying and protecting the AUAs.

BLUEMED produced innovative ICT tools for the diving industry as well as interesting ICT applications for the KACs and the virtual museum. Moreover, within the framework of the project, many of the findings of the AUAS have been digitized, while the ICT tools at the service of underwater archaeology and monitoring of natural and cultural heritage are constantly evolving.

To conclude, the SoPHIA project is ambitious when it addresses the need of understanding the values and the changes in these values of cultural heritage caused by human conscious interventions. The approach to cultural heritage impact assessment is broad and tries to cover all possible angles and perspectives. What then makes the SoPHIA project innovative is the realizations that the ambitious approach will never be ambitious enough. The world is changing every minute and new challenges and thereby perspectives for impact assessment arises. That is why the project is not only about producing a Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment Model but also shapes a platform for continuous monitoring and analyses of the use of the model. That way the SoPHIA project ensures that the model will remain relevant in coming years by continuous adapting to changes and needs of stakeholders.

Enjoy your reading!

The EMA Team

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