Decision making around the important job of conserving, preserving, and managing cultural heritage sites is a challenging endeavor due, in no small part, to the broad range of stakeholders that are often involved: governmental authorities, public and private sector actors, scientists and historians, ethnic or cultural groups, citizen neighbors, visitors, and many others. To further complicate the process, these stakeholders may hold very different interests, values, and priorities, and may exist in a context of overlapping management mandates and responsibilities. In this complex environment, heritage practitioners need solid skills and practical, proven strategies for negotiation, consensus building, and conflict resolution to ultimately reach lasting agreements.
Through their long-standing work around the values and significance of cultural places, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has seen firsthand that it is necessary for heritage practitioners to engage a wide range of stakeholders to ensure a shared under¬standing of value of place and produce better conservation out¬comes. However, consensus building and conflict resolution skills have not typically been included in educational and training programs for heritage conservation and management, and little if any written guidance has been published on this topic to date.
In an effort to begin to fill this unmet need GCI launched the Heritage Values, Stakeholders and Consensus Building project in 2009, utilizing the expertise of CBI to help in producing a case study and teaching materials on stakeholder engagement in heritage place management.
In 2011, GCI and CBI Senior Associate Stacie Nicole Smith – in partnership with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan – co-authored A Didactic Case Study of Jarash Archaeological Site, Jordan: Stakeholders and Heritage Values in Site Management. The case study is based on the archaeological site of Jarash, Jordan. It is designed to help heritage professionals recognize the importance of stakeholders and their values to effective site management, and teaches skills for identifying stakeholders, eliciting their values and interests, and integrating these into management decision making.
The first volume of the two-part Case Study focuses on Jarash’s history, archeology, configuration, and management context, and offers four activities for engaging stakeholders in order to better understand the site’s value and to guide decisions on current, critical management issues. The second volume contains teaching guides, worksheets, and sample answers, to assist instructors in implementing the activities.
CBI worked with the GCI and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to create the Case Study, participating in brainstorming sessions, developing an interview protocol, and leading individual and group interviews with forty-two stakeholders – ranging from the Director-General of the Department of Antiquities to scientists and academics from international archaeological missions, to the vendors selling handicrafts from stalls on the site.
The range of stakeholder interviews and concerns allowed CBI and GCI to get an in-depth look into the complex management context of the Jarash archaeological site, including:
- The economic development challenges faced by the populous modern city of Jarash, located just beyond the walls of the heritage site, yet generally cut off from its tourism benefits.
- Tensions between ensuring an exciting and fulfilling visitor experience while conforming to international principles calling for minimal physical intervention to safeguard historical authenticity.
- Questions about which historical eras and cultures to showcase in a site that was populated by numerous civilizations over thousands of years.
This project represents the first step in a broader effort by the Getty Conservation Institute and CBI to bring the tools of consensus building to the sustainable conservation and preservation of cultural resources – and powerfully demonstrates the potential for more durable outcomes through application of consensus building techniques in the field of cultural heritage management.
For more information, contact Stacie Nicole Smith, Senior Associate.
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