The European Commission selected the NEARCH project, with 15 other European projects, to represent the “good practices” related to the management and valorisation of cultural heritage, during the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
As such, NEARCH will be present in the brochure promoting this annual celebration published and distributed by the Commission.
In the words of Michel Magnier (Director for Culture and Creativity of the European Commission), the European Year of Cultural Heritage «is a celebration aiming to showcase Europe’s heritage as a rich and diverse mosaic of cultural and creative expression. The Year will pay tribute to museums, monuments, artworks, historic cities, literature, music, audio-visual works, and natural, built, and archaeological sites of interest. In doing so, it will also recognise the intangible elements of cultural heritage, including the knowledge, practices, and traditions of European people».
The NEARCH project is bringing archaeology into the 21st century through achieving a better understanding of people’s relationship with heritage and the past. The project’s aim is to study the various dimensions of public participation in archaeology today and to propose new ways of working and cooperating in a profession strongly concerned by the current economic crisis.
Archaeology is not just about digging up the past. It provides the context to our current lives and informs sectors ranging from land planning and construction through to heritage management.
This relevance however has sometimes been hidden because of archaeology’s perceived remoteness. The NEARCH project sought to address this by putting citizens at the centre.
The project launched a poll asking 5000 people across nine countries about their relationship with heritage and what they knew about archaeology.
The findings of the poll, which took over two years to complete, are a mine of information for decision makers and archaeologists. They have been disseminated on social networks and recently published in digital and print format.
The NEARCH project also launched a Europe-wide competition called «Archaeology and Me», asking people to provide artistic interpretations of their relationship with heritage. Around 500 works of art were submitted, and underlined that for many people, heritage is something to be enjoyed. An exhibition of selected works was held in Rome.
Among several other activities, in 2016 the project curated an exhibition entitled «Matérialité de l’Invisible» at the CENTQUATRE in Paris. In parallel, in 2017, a sister exhibition was displayed at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht.
The NEARCH project successfully took stock of public perceptions of heritage, inspired people to examine what heritage means to them and underlined how citizen involvement must be part of archaeology’s future.