Building bridges for Europe (BBE), an emerging Erasmus+ project and the topic of intangible cultural heritage
2018 was declared European Year of Cultural Heritage. No wonder! In the times of crises our personal and even more collective or social identities are shattered and adult education about cultural heritage contributes to their reconstruction. Knowing this, the planned BBE Conference in Ulm, Germany, will be devoted to the topic of cultural heritage in adult education, particularly within the DANET, Danube Networkers’ projects.
In order to be able to develop projects, practices, educational programmes adult educators need to have some knowledge of cultural heritage theories as to make a distinction between the concept of material or tangible heritage that has been known for some 150 years and immaterial or intangible heritage which is a rather new category and a rather new concept in Slovenia. It least it was new when in 2005 at Slovenian Third Age our first project titled “Cultural mediating in Slovenian museums” was devised targeting the both education and intentional transmission of immaterial culture of our students on museum audiences. Moreover, Slovenian Third Age University was established to bring culture back to education which 34 years ago was exclusively work oriented due to unwise decision of Yugoslav decision makers. We were firmly convinced that older people are interpreters of culture and kmew C. G. Jung called their later life “cultural afternoon”. So, culture and older people’s education have been a pleonasm in our eyes. No separation was possible.
What makes heritage?
So, cultural heritage is not just anything. It becomes heritage on condition people and institutions attribute cultural and social values to them, on condition it embodies their memories, but not all memories, but those to which they attach value. Not only institutions, but each of us and our communities should stand up to advocate for what we treasure, for what our memories are. Preservation of significant places, communities, items which can be material or immaterial (tangible or intangible), which can be poetry, customs, food, music, dances, built, natural or mixed environment, is our right and duty. Moreover, cultural heritage may provide tremendous inspiration, joy, aesthetic chills, since it preserves our memories. Today, due to wars, economic exploitation, etc. heritage is under a lot of pressure, so it needs to be better recognised, protected and preserved by institutions, civil society organisations, preservationists, experts, as well as decision makers..
While the idea of heritage is still drawing heavily from the history of Western European architectural and archeological conservation and preservation debates where heritage is mostly defined as material (tangible), monumental, grand, of good aesthetic… immaterial or intangible heritage breaks from these currently dominating western perceptions. Actually, intangible cultural heritage is a body of knowledge, it is a political and cultural process of remembering/ forgetting and communicating.
Intangible cultural heritage is not easy to define precisely because it is intangible and constantly evolving, because it is less concentrated on the products than it is focused on processes. To illustrate this point, knowledge acquired is less important than how it is acquired. Cultural spaces like a town square where traditionally artists have been performing is cultural heritage because of oral traditions that have been concentrating there. Intangible heritage is mostly about “oral history of humanity”, it is “living culture” which lives within cultural communities.
Dr. Dušana Findeisen is a teacher of English and French language and literature and andragogue. On her own or jointly with her colleagues she introduced a fair number of innovations in theory and practice in the field of adult education: socio-cultural animation and education for local development, older adult education, Slovenian Third Age University, Summer School for Adult Educators. She contributed to the development of study circles in Slovenia, she co-funded the journal Andragogic Perspectives and is on its editorial board. For five years she was an Age Platform Europe expert in the field of employment and education of older people, and an external expert of the European Commission in this field. So far she has coordinated and delivered about twenty transnational projects. She is currently the Head of the Institute for Research and Development of Education at Slovenian Third Age University. She is vice-president of DANET, Danube Networkers for Europe. She publsihed 5 monographs and several hundred articles.