Urban Cultural Heritage and Creative Practice

Urban Cultural Heritage & Creative Practice (UCHCP) is an international collaborative of academics, heritage professionals, and creative practitioners that seek to reframe understandings of urban cultural heritage. The UCHCP collaborative proposes that heritage is a relational process where places and communities are continually remade and sustained through creative action. Exploring cultural heritage in the urban locales of Cape Town, South Africa; Dublin, Ireland; Hong Kong SAR, China; Istanbul, Turkey; Providence, Rhode Island; and York, England, the UCHCP collaborative works to enable cultural heritage to respond to and act as mediation of diverse, permeable, and changing urban communities. Testing and critiquing models for connecting creative practice and cultural heritage work within urban scenarios, the UCHCP collaborative seeks to establish shared vocabularies, tool kits and best practices for trans-disciplinary research and creative work on the constitution of urban heritages. 

 The common conception of cultural heritage today assumes an unchanging present and past: heritage roots stable societies. But cultural heritage, UCHCP argues, especially in urban areas, is neither static nor stable. Enmeshed in transnational processes of social change, mobility and cultural diversification, cultural heritage in urban areas is dissonant, shifting and multiple. While the fabric and quality of urban cultural life is ever-changing and elusive, vestiges of older fabric survive in neglected spaces – back lanes, disused lots – where survival is incidental rather than an intentional result of heritage policy. These residues are, however, important touchstones for local community memory, affect and identity. They are stray references to disappeared but still-recalled moments from once-familiar landscapes. Unnoticed as excavation digs past and development rises above, they present unique opportunities for the production of contemporary urban cultural heritage, allowing a deeper understanding of what cities have been and how they are creatively used today.

 University partners Brown University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Koç University (Istanbul), University of Cape Town, University College Dublin, and University of York are participating in a field projects hosted annually by each partner in rotation. 

 Previous events and projects include:

  • 2011 UCHCP Colloquia Series hosted at Brown University
  • The Providence Postcard Project by artist-in-residence Betsey Biggs (2011-2012)
  • The 2012 UCHCP Winter Symposium at Brown University
  • Smellscapes of Eminönü, Istanbul summer field project hosted by Koc University (2012)

The goals of the UCHCP collaborative are to:

  • Establish a new intellectual and critical context, theoretical rationale and practical methods for connecting heritage, creative practice, and the contemporary arts,
  • Create a sustainable international partnership of academics and local cultural institutions,
  • Hold annual summer fieldwork projects in each of the partners’ cities at a scenario of their selection,

The next UCHCP project will be in Hong Kong in Summer 2013.

In 2015 we hope to begin a project designed to connect Providence’s past as a locus of invention and entrepreneurship to its future as a “Creative Capital” of art- and science-based innovation. The project, a series of pop-up installations and programs, brings museums and humanists together with artists, makers, industrial firms and technology labs to consider the city’s history of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship; to help the public understand the nature of technological and artistic change; and to encourage a nuanced discussion about the city’s future. We want to connect old and new, encouraging the city to build on its past and move beyond it. How can Providence use its roots in creativity, craftsmanship, and innovation to create a prosperous and equitable future? We hope to help guide Providence through the tricky terrain of creative economic development and suggest models for museums of technology and art across the country.

More information can be found at: http://urbanheritages.wordpress.com. 

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