How cultural heritage can be open, accessible and create economic development?

How cultural heritage can be open, accessible and create economic development?

We aspire to live in a world where the diversity of cultures, the arts and cultural heritage is crucial to the growth of a sincere open mind to fundamental rights and where open and interactive cultural processes and practices work together to help us navigate the challenges of co-existing with one another and with ourselves.

An introduction to open heritage theory is provided in this article. In contrast to most preceding works that have concentrated on either the theoretical or practical aspects of openness in the heritage field, the article seeks to explain how cultural heritage might be open, accessible and foster economic development[1].

Cultural heritage can be referred to tangible and intangible assets that have been passed down from one generation to the next by a group or civilization.

The “Openness” of Cultural Heritage

There are various circumstances in which the concept of openness may be found, but none is more important for society than the concept of open government. Thus, openness refers to being honest with people and working with them to improve the community (Hamilton and Saunderson, 2017, 17). Although many countries’ legacy institutions and experts are sponsored in significant part by national governments, Open Heritage is a subset of Open Government. Hence, the heritage sector should indeed be held to the same standards of transparency at all levels of government[2]. Open Access, Open Source, and Open Data are other definitions of openness. With the first two, anyone with an internet connection can freely access research and computers[3].

The notion of “Accessibility” in Cultural Heritage

Since everyone encounters a barrier occasionally or permanently, only sporadically are we able to avoid it. Accessibility is a significant issue in both adolescence and old age, as it encourages active ageing and lessens the strain on society to care for the elderly. People with disabilities are excluded from the social environment that is appropriate for healthy people due to the rules of non-disabled people. In the realm of culture and heritage, accessibility refers to a condition in which all people can access any field’s characteristics without discrimination based on sex, age, scientific status, or other factors, allowing everyone to use goods, services, infrastructure, and equipment autonomously, safely, and conveniently[4].

Accessibility is the process of making things for everyone regardless of their circumstances or abilities. It refers to the creation of goods, settings, programs, and services that can be used by as many individuals as possible without specialized design or adaptation. Universal design covers assistive technology, IT systems, operating procedures, educational strategies, and electronic services, while also providing unique entrances to buildings, paths, or devices for people with reduced mobility. Every project is created with the goal of making it easy for everyone to use, even those with limited mobility. The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design experts from North Carolina State University (USA)[5] to create an environment that does not favour any particular social group.

The Operational Programme for EU Structural Funds Investments for 2014–2020 states that the most in need of universal design are children, the elderly, cyclists, people with mobility issues, those with allergies, parents of young children, those who use public transportation, those using walking aids, tourists, nursery schoolteachers, and others. The user-centred and inclusive design principles that form the foundation of design for all are embodied by this strategy, including the design values outlined in the 2004 EIDD Stockholm Declaration. The federation’s catchphrase, “Good design empowers, bad design disables[6]” is included in the proclamation.

Cultural heritage is important for education, research, and personal development. It is also a venue for preservation and display, and a location for the growth of well-being. The past, history, assets, and the connection between health and society are all connected through the study and transmission of a culture aimed at honouring Heritage. Cultural heritage provides an environment that is inclusive and has advantages for our bodies both emotionally and physically.

How does cultural heritage contribute to economic growth?

Cultural heritage is a vital component of Europe’s socio-economic capital and is recognized as a source of knowledge, social well-being, a sense of belonging, and communal cohesiveness. In recent years, politicians have become more aware of the strategic value of cultural heritage to regional cohesion, economic growth, and employment. This is reflected in policy documents, such as the New European Agenda for Culture[7] and the European Heritage Strategy for the 21st Century.[8] The EU cohesion policy, which includes culture and cultural heritage as part of its Smart Specialization Strategy, has demonstrated its increasing strategic importance on the European agenda. The European Commission has undertaken several activities to recognize cultural heritage, such as the European Heritage Days, the European Index of Culture, and the European Capitals of Culture.

However, it is difficult to accurately measure the magnitude of cultural heritage’s impact on the economy and society. To properly understand the contribution that cultural heritage makes to the market and society, a common framework must be established in Europe for the collection of standardized and comparable data on cultural heritage. Cultural heritage impact indicators might be important to make a strong argument for the value of cultural heritage for social and economic progress.[9]

How can cultural heritage and economic development be connected?

Cultural heritage is valued economically since it is a resource that people may use to purchase products and services (Throsby, 1999). Market-traded goods and services produce economic value streams that are reflected in employment, value-added, and other economic indicators.

Cultural heritage is a strategic resource not only for a sustainable Europe, but also for a sustainable world, and its social dimension is acknowledged. Although some researchers contend that legal and policy frameworks on participatory governance of cultural heritage in Europe could be and are already being implemented by adopting a strategy in which local public and community actors activate forms of multi-auctorial governance around cultural heritage[10], the EU Commission’s and the Council of the European Union’s findings on participatory governance of cultural heritage have identified it as an ineffective strategy. The Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro Convention) emphasizes the importance of involving everyone in society in the process of defining and managing cultural heritage. One of the goals of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Values is to promote a people-centred approach to cultural assets and to ensure that everyone has access to heritage as a fundamental human right. Cultural heritage organizations should work to be inclusive and accessible to all, with accessibility being a prerequisite for participation. Missions should be aware of the barriers standing in the way of visitors’ involvement and complete enjoyment of their exhibits, and work to eliminate them to ensure equal access to all.

It is becoming more and more important to investigate the options for gathering information and supporting evidence regarding the economic impact of cultural assets. The use of statistics data intended for other uses is widespread, but as one cultural heritage scholar put it: “This is heroic, but should not be promoted beyond a certain point, and that point has been reached”[11].


In all the nations and cities of Europe, both locals and tourists place great importance on culture. The foundation of their identity and image is their cultural history. In Europe, 40% of all tourist activities are cultural in nature. To achieve equitable and sustainable development, cultural heritage is essential, and it may revitalize cities and entire regions. With the help of a variety of instruments, the European Union (EU) collaborates with cities and regions to support culture financially, increase public awareness of the potential of culture and cultural assets, and develop integrated plans.


C. Iaione, E. De Nictolis, & M. E. Santagati. Participatory Governance of Culture and Cultural Heritage: Policy, Legal, Economic Insights From Italy, Volume 4 – 2022.

Council of Europe (2005): The Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society Faro Convention

Council of Europe (2009): Heritage and beyond

European Commission (2014): Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage in Europe. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

Expert Group on Cultural Heritage (2015): Getting cultural heritage to work for Europe, Report of the Horizon 2020 Expert Group on Cultural Heritage

Giorgia Marchionni. How to Make Cultural Heritage Accessible. Posted on 4th February 2021.

Margherita Sani, NEMO Network of European Museum Organisations, Istituto Beni Culturali Regione Emilia Romagna, Italy.

Muscarà, M., & Sani, C. (2019). Accessibility to Cultural Heritage, some project outcomes. Education Sciences & Society – Open Access, 10(1).

The council of the European Union (2014): Council conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage (2014/C 463/01)

[1] Henriette Roued-Cunliffe, Open Heritage Data: An introduction to research, publishing and programming. Copenhagen, 30 October 2019.

[2] See Hamilton and Saunderson (2017) for an overview of open licensing as it relates to heritage.

[3] See note 1 Supra.

[4] See the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 6 November 2009, p. 7–8, Article 9 – Accessibility.

[5] Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, 1997.

[6] The EIDD Stockholm Declaration©, 2004.

[7] European Commission. 2018. A New European Agenda for Culture.

[8] Council of Europe. 2017. European Heritage Strategy for the 21st Century.

[9] Monaco, P. 2019. Exploring the Links between Culture and Development: New Challenges for Cultural Indicators in the European Union. In Cultural Heritage in the European Union. A Critical Inquiry into Law and Policy. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill–Nijhoff.

[10] C. Iaione, E. De Nictolis, & M. E. Santagati. Participatory Governance of Culture and Cultural Heritage: Policy, Legal, Economic Insights From Italy, Volume 4 – 2022.

[11] Cicerchia, A. 2019. “Evidence-based Policy Making for Cultural Heritage. SCIRES Volume 9, Issue 1.