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Calling all culture buffs

Are historical monuments an object of your fascination? Is Indian history and cultural heritage your favourite subject? Well then a career in Heritage Management could be a perfect match for you! But did you know that heritage also includes natural heritage such as national parks and urban lakes AND oral storytelling traditions and folk culture? Let us fill you in…

India, with over a thousand years of cultural heritage and history, is a country dotted with historical monuments. Each community has traditions and customs handed down through generations. And the number of our heritage sites is growing every day! So when urban development and natural disasters threaten these sites, who do we call? The Heritage Managers!

That’s right, heritage managers are the superheroes of all things cultural – historical monuments, national parks, manuscripts and writings, folksongs and folklore, oral traditions and anything else that you can think of! As a student of heritage management “you learn a bit of everything – history, art and architecture. Even science, civics and tourism subjects are taught. Natural heritage such as national parks and sites are explored. So it is not restricted to any one discipline,” says Vaishali Chandra. She is pursuing a Master’s in Heritage Management at the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management (DIHRM). Cultural heritage is not restricted to restoring monuments and statues alone, it extends to researching and preserving intangible aspects of heritage, such as traditional skills, cultures and languages. Oral traditions,  natural features and environment are also considered part of a society’s heritage.

And how do heritage managers save the day?

They are the professionals who identify, interpret, maintain, and preserve significant cultural sites and intangible heritage assets. Usually, heritage managers are called upon when evils of urban development, large-scale agriculture, mining activity, looting, erosion or unsustainable visitor numbers, threaten particular heritage. This is when the subject receives the most attention. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has an annually updated ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’. Currently, there are 44 sites across the world, which are in danger from development. These include historical remains, natural parks, rainforests, monuments and even more ‘modern’ buildings
such as ports.

Where did it come from?

Heritage management can be traced back to the ‘salvage archaeology’ drive in Europe and North America, after the Second World War. It was called so because the salvage archaeologists were under constant pressure to save heritage sites from construction projects brought on by the war. It was nearly unheard of that construction was stopped to protect a monument, so they salvaged what they could, as fast as they could.

In more recent decades, laws have been passed for the protection of cultural sites, especially those on public lands. National and international laws recognise the right to culture and a non-polluted environment as a human right.

Where do I study it?

“In India, the National Museum offers a heritage management course.  They look for Science graduates specifically,” informs Vaishali, “DIHRM offers 2 years Master’s programme in Conservation, Preservation and Heritage Management and Archaeological Heritage Management. Then there is The Centre for Heritage Management (CHM) at Ahmedabad University, and another institute in Bangalore.”

What skills will I learn?

Apart from a strong grasp on history, heritage managers are also required to dabble in literature and archaeology. But reasoning and communicating with government and the public, is one of the most important roles of the heritage manager. So, some skill regarding legislation and public relations is going to take you a long way.  

Where can I work as a heritage manager?
 
With government agencies that work to preserve and protect cultural heritage such as the Archaeological Survey of India, Lalit Kala AKademi. With government funded projects looking at specific aspects such as manuscripts, languages and so on. With private or non-profit trusts such as Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.

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Calling all culture buffs