2.5 Cross border resources: an enabling role for researchers and citizens alike

Despite the clear problems created by attempts to use the past to represent contemporary unity in Europe, there are considerable advantages to research, heritage management and archaeology in cross-border networking. As Ermisher (2004) suggested, the strength of projects such as ARENA comes not from any political symbolism but from individuals working across European boundaries and the resources that they can create to help foster cross-border thinking.

The original project design of the ARENA project reflected the potential of making data accessible across national boundaries:

'Access to data, even those which are published, is often difficult or inconvenient at best, although public interest in our shared European cultural heritage continues to grow. A tourist travelling in Europe will witness its history as scattered collections of archives and artefacts, based upon modern nation states. ARENA will provide links between these archives, showing the network of travel, trade, migration, war, and exchange of ideas and technologies in historic and prehistoric times.' (ARENA bid document 2000).

These ideas of the benefit of cross-border data sharing can be traced back to a conference paper given by Henrik Jarl Hansen in 1992, but they have developed as the ARENA project has been undertaken (see section 3 below).

Heritage and archaeological projects have at different times been supported by various European funding streams. There are a number of key advantages from cross-border or trans-national working and networking that lie at the core of the European Common Research Area. At the ARENA conference session, held at the European Association of Archaeologists' meeting in Lyon (Sept 2004), Gerhard Ermisher commented that:

'The European cultural heritage is a common commodity which faces common challenges. In many European countries money is more and more difficult to find to preserve and manage the cultural heritage. On the other hand the big European institutions like the EU or the Council of Europe take an ever-increasing interest in the European cultural heritage – which on the other hand is guarded jealously as a national prerogative, lack of money or not.' (Ermisher 2004).

There are a number of funding schemes for cultural heritage available at the EU, such as Culture 2000, Framework programmes, Interreg or Leader+. There is a legal basis for European co-operation in the field of cultural heritage, treaties and conventions of the EU and the Council of Europe address issues such as spatial planning, cultural heritage and other related matters such as agricultural land use.

Ermisher posed the questions: 'Are these European initiatives sensible? Has cultural heritage to be managed on a European scale, should we undertake research work into conservation, preservation and management of the cultural heritage on a European level?' (Ermisher 2004).

For Ermisher, the answers to these questions were positive, and he drew upon actual work experience in European cultural heritage, in particular the Pathways to Cultural Landscapes project. This demonstrated why co-operation with colleagues from different cultural and scientific traditions is so valuable for the researcher as well as the manager of cultural heritage, and why the questions asked are not related to national borders but to common problems throughout Europe (Ermisher 2004).

Ermisher found that the specific challenges faced by partners in a project such as Pathways to Cultural Landscapes may be very different. Destruction of cultural heritage may be due to neglect in one country or region but may result from over-exploitation in another region. Nonetheless the effects are the same and some of the solutions may also be similar. The European dimension of our cultural heritage begs for a shared responsibility and intensive co-operation and exchange of experience and expertise (Ermisher 2004).


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s)
University of York legal statements | Terms and Conditions | File last updated: Tue Sep 27 2005