This is my first post to the Willowbank Blog so please join me as I jump into the 21st century. My name is Patrick Brown and I am a second year student at Willowbank and this year’s Cultural Landscape Fellow. I will explain what my role of Cultural Landscape Fellow is in a later post, but today I thought I should strike while the iron is hot.
Last week I had the opportunity of attending the conference Shifting Cities: Urban Heritage in the 21st Century hosted by the Cultural and Heritage Preservation Studies (CHAPS) program at Rutgers University. The purpose of this conference was to look at the global phenomenon of shifting populations and their connection to urban heritage. It is estimated that by the year 2050 70 percent of the world’s people will reside in urban areas. This means another 2.5 billion people will be residing in Urban Areas in the next 35 years. Accommodating this growth will require the equivalent of adding a new City of Toronto every two weeks for the next 35 years. Such growth will not only bring together ever more diverse communities in the urban discourse but will place pressure on the existing built form and the environment. Along with these challenges are those arising from socio economic change, armed conflict and displacement. Such trends raise the question: How will these challenges impact sense of place and urban identity?
The conference brought together a wide range of professionals including heritage professionals and scholars as well as those not typically associated with the fields of heritage and culture. These included those involved in social sciences, healthcare and media. This reflects the paradigm shift in preservation studies from one that focused on preserving the monumental to one where equal importance is given to the cultural practices in the making of place. Reflecting this shift is the adoption of approaches that are culturally mindful, recognizing that culture and heritage do not exist in a vacuum. Therefore any intervention must take into account the contemporary context as well as local perceptions, values and needs.
Over the coming weeks I will be posting summaries and discussion points from the Panel and Roundtable discussions. These discussions included discourses on: urban heritage and inclusive cities, urban cultural identities, memory and competing histories, social services and heritage in armed conflict. These are both exciting and challenging times in the field of cultural heritage. It is my hope that the upcoming blog posts will show that while cultural heritage is frequently under threat in many parts of the world there is also a growing movement towards a more inclusive process that will support people at the local level in preserving their cultural heritage. In doing so the world’s cultural heritage will be preserved in the most meaningful way possible: as living and valued practices that continue to contribute to a rich and vibrant sense of place and meaning. As future professionals in the field these are exciting times here at Willowbank.
Cultural Landscape Fellow
The Willowbank School