Heritage defines our past, present and future. It represents culture, in its richness, diversity and expression, it represents the perpetuating values of the past and implies the duty of passing all these over to future generations.
Heritage can be intangible, and this category generally includes forms of expression of traditional culture: practices and traditions, fairy tales, stories, music, dances, rituals and customs, crafts, etc. Movable and immovable tangible heritage includes concrete, tangible cultural goods of value: historical, archaeological, ethnographic, documentary, heraldic, artistic, bibliophilic, scientific and technical, cartographic, literary, epigraphic, cinematographic, numismatic, philatelic, etc. More recently, another category of heritage emerged: digital or digitised heritage.
According to a 2017 Eurobarometer survey, 88% of European citizens agree that European cultural heritage should be taught in schools because it tells us about our history and culture. Thus, the need to insert information about heritage within the school curriculum is vital.
The basic idea of education through heritage interpretation is to provide opportunities to engage audiences in new learning experiences. By directly experiencing or analysing cultural heritage, beneficiaries acquire knowledge, intellectual skills and a wider range of competences aimed at cultural heritage protection and social engagement.
Supporting heritage education was one of the objectives of the European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018), an objective continued through the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage.
Cultural heritage plays a crucial role in education. The challenging need to look back on the past in order to understand the present is shared by generations and is universal. Cultural education taking place in and outside educational institutions, as well as in all types of cultural and heritage organisations, helps to inspire us and open our eyes to new horizons.
Cultural education interprets heritage by implementing innovative pedagogies essential for developing key competences for lifelong learning. The educational potential of digital cultural heritage (digitised cultural heritage collections, digital resources, etc.) facilitates the effective integration of engaging content and in-depth learning for students, visitors to museums/ cultural institutions or people within the field of cultural education.
The European Commission, in collaboration with the Council of Europe, UNESCO and other partners, has implemented long-term European initiatives, including working with schools and research on innovative solutions for the use of buildings classified as historical. UNESCO is constantly updating its lists of cultural heritage assets of outstanding importance, which require protection as part of the heritage of all humanity.
Heritage Interpretation takes on this objective as well, teaching us to recognise the richness of culture the ways of taking responsibility for the protection, maintenance and transfer of heritage to future generations.
Heritage seen as a resource for building more democratic societies and for improving the living environment and quality of life, and the realisation that heritage is important in terms of the values it represents and of the meanings that communities attach to it, are addressed through the Faro Convention (2005). Heritage and Beyond, an Extensive Collection of Studies Based on the Faro Convention, published by the Council of Europe in 2009, can be found here.