Smart Heritage: is your city really smart?

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Smart Heritage is the phrase coined for including heritage in the Smart City policies. Currently, Smart City policy and strategy focus primarily on using information technologies and reducing environmental impact. While there are around 120 indicators for Smart Cities, none integrate heritage policy. (If you are unaware of what are Smart Cities, have a look here.)

Standardising heritage policy is difficult due to the multiple aspects included in its definition (tangible, intangible, documentary). Therefore, the heritage experts involved are multidisciplinary, making it increasingly difficult to narrow down the subject under one policy.

Consequently, in most Smart Cities, city planners strategise according to set indicators and the cultural sector is independent of their work.

The nature of heritage management, or rather the contemporary approach, introduces plenty of initiatives common to Smart City policy. Namely, local heritage management or participatory heritage already creates connections and share responsibilities with the locals. Additionally, a heritage site has an educational function for the locals, by museum workshops, instruction in conservation and heritage management and providing a source of historical information. Furthermore,  financial sustainability derives from working collectively with the community, both for the cultural heritage and local economics. Local contributions in kind make a heritage site’s financial needs sustainable in the long-term. In turn, the site’s needs increase skill capacity and education to cover needed positions from the local pool, tourism and create financial opportunities.

Beyond sharing the same principles of financial and educational sustainability with the Smart City policy, heritage management shares, as well, adoption of new technologies. Heritage related entities actively use social and digital information to offer education. Notably, Smart Heritage uses technology to provide long-distance accessibility, education, invite the contribution of data and participation to users/visitors. Particularly, heritage education applies technology to develop leisure and ludic activities to involve the public. Noteworthy example serve games, cultural heritage games and applications are multiple such as Virtual Songlines, inSIGHT, Minecraft and more, as ludic educational tools. Visiting exhibitions through digital technologies is commonplace for many museums such as Smartify, MAV, and The Met Unframed.

Heritage links more to the Smart City strategy through the active connection with the past and identity it contains. Care for cultural heritage enriches the quality of life of a community, as such it ought to be an integral part of Smart City initiative.

In Avila, Spain, the Smart Heritage project progresses, under the Interreg Sudoe initiative. The project involves an open data tool by local sensors and collects and store data. Moreover, a software application for tourists offering information and open-source smart management software helping other cities to follow. The work of SHCity [unfortunate acronym (sic)] will be a benchmark of heritage integration to Smart City policy.

How it works

Local sensors collect data and analyse risk from heritage sites such as energy consumption and visitor flow then this information converts into indicators accessible with two software tools. Following managers receive wealth management advice from a self-diagnostic web tool. Alongside, a mobile application offers residents and tourists alike routes devised based on events, schedules and occupancy indicators.

The aims of the project will result in:

“- The development of a comprehensive management system for the heritage city of Ávila

– The creation of SHCity Tourist and SHCity manager applications

– The production of a system for the automation of decision processes, based on the relationship between preventive conservation, flows, energy consumption and safety.

– The design of protocols with cloud storage and open-source access.

– The creation of a monitoring system that acts as a base platform for decision-making in matters of wealth management.

– The creation of a modular and scalable system with four blocks of action being this, energy efficiency, safety, use management and preventive conservation.”

Integrating heritage into Smart City policy should not be optional, as conceptually and as demonstrated at Avila is key to sustainability. Access to cultural heritage means cohesive identity and education for the community. The idea that heritage assets are in a still exhibition space and therefore are not part of Smart City initiatives is antiquated. Smart Heritage is a wellspring form economic, social and educational sustainability for cities. Local Approach believes that  Smart Heritage can be the beginning of changing city policy, instead of following other sectors’ lead.

Smart Heritage City, the smart thing to do.

I want to learn more:

Smart Heritage Policy by Bojan Radej, Jelka Pirkovič, Pierre Paquet

Smart Cultural Heritage in Digital Cities by Konstantina Siountri, Dimitrios D. Vergados

Book- Toward Smart Heritage: Cultural Challenges in Digital Built Heritage by Stefano Brusaporci 

The ‘smart’ heritage mediation 

Intach -Smart Heritage think-tank

Smart Heritage City

Smart Heritage City (SHCITY) 

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