For the love of history, art and culture

Legacy A Heritage Management student conducts a Heritage Walk.Photo credit: Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University

India has a rich cultural legacy that includes a diverse range of monuments and buildings, community spaces, arts and crafts, folklore, cuisines, textiles and ways of life. Our heritage does not end here. It also includes the intangible oral traditions, performing arts, religious and cultural festivals, traditional crafts, and indigenous knowledge systems.

Connecting with communities

The term ‘heritage’, as a universal concept, was popularised in the 19th century, but similar ideas appreciating indigenous resources have existed in all societies. In India, the vernacular terms such as parampara, dharohar, virasat, varso, eitijyo, paitrikam etc., translate to ‘heritage’.

Similarly, heritage management is not a new idea and our societies have been undertaking it through the ages. In fact, heritage management courses have now entered the realm of higher education in the country. In architecture, archaeology and cultural studies, including the museum studies, heritage conservation has been known and practised. However, in India, the practice of heritage conservation and management needs to connect to communities. The study of heritage, in its widest sense, is to be pursued in terms of its continuation, adaptation, and more importantly, its relationship with and relevance to associated communities and their livelihoods.

To preserve the heritage assets of a nation in a way that ensures the connection and inter-dependency among heritage assets and people, the practice of heritage management is evolving into a rich, interdisciplinary field in which conservation science meets management knowledge. Heritage preservation, management and conservation contribute to the sustainability of heritage resources, which will also help meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

A course in Heritage Management integrates tangible and intangible heritage, as well as natural and cultural heritage. It emphasises on value-based management of heritage that integrates economic and financial sustainability, administrative and governance systems, and inculcates a sense of social responsibility.

Career paths

Students of heritage management shape their career path as they navigate through various aspects engaging with heritage. In addition to a focus on traditional areas such as architecture, students can veer towards working in mainstream industries, at specialised legal firms, independent consultancies and conservation and heritage management firms.

Their jobs are as eclectic as the programme, with typical roles including advisory positions in the areas of tourism and hospitality, community development, education and public outreach, art and architecture, documentation and conservation, world heritage management as well as academics and social work. Starting out with project consultation, one can grow into senior positions that are often deeply rewarding as one can command a premium for niche skills while offering work that is meaningful and that they are passionate about. Those with an entrepreneurial bent of mind even look at establishing their own firms and are influential in triggering community initiatives on integrating heritage with local development plans.

With a degree in Heritage Management, one can be part of Unesco centres, research institutions, crafts-based community development initiatives, conservation and restoration consultants, and as creative entrepreneurs.

Looking at the future

Unesco has recognised the growing emergence of heritage management programmes across the world including identifying and documenting a particular heritage, consulting and connecting with stakeholders (including communities who may own it), assessing and analysing the challenges, taking preservation and conservation measures, and creating a socio-economic framework for the maintenance and upkeep of the heritage. 

Interestingly, there are no disciplinary and age barriers for pursuing Heritage Management course if one is passionate about any aspect of heritage, and has an open mind towards the broader ideas of heritage and its sensitive management.

For those who love history, art and culture, Heritage Management is today emerging as a rewarding option to tread the path less taken.

(The writer is Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University)

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