Learning landscapes: Value-based interpretive planning at UNESCO-designated sites

Interpret Europe (IE) is partnering with UNESCO to develop a holistic methodology on ‘enhancing UNESCO-designated sites as learning landscapes’. The initiative aims at supporting regions or local areas hosting one or more UNESCO-designated sites to develop and implement heritage interpretation strategies that can foster inclusive, interdisciplinary, context-sensitive learning and exchange on today’s global challenges.

The methodology will be piloted in Kotor, Montenegro, within the scope of a project managed by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe between the years 2024 and 2026.

Within this framework, IE is offering the opportunity to interested sites and related regions in Europe to benefit from a parallel experimentation of the new methodology in their territories.

The initiative is especially addressed to managing bodies and/or other local government agencies in charge of World Heritage properties, Biosphere Reserves, and UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Find out how do we imagine learning landscapes and what we aim to achieve through this process.

Duration: 2024 – 2026

Participating areas: Territories around UNESCO-designated sites/areas

Aims: To test an innovative conceptual and operational approach to interpretive planning to enhance UNESCO designated sites as learning environments to make heritage more meaningful to people and people more mindful towards our common future.

Goals: To foster non-formal learning around UNESCO-designated sites, by training professionals in value-based heritage interpretation planning. With help of IE experts, local professionals will 1) engage communities in co-creation of interpretive strategies; 2) consequently develop interpretive plans for individual sites and finally; 3) devise plans for personal and non-personal interpretive services.

About the initiative

Interpret Europe started cooperating with UNESCO in 2019, within the second regional workshop for Europe on the role of visitor centres in UNESCO-designated sites, and stepped up the joint efforts with the first and second regional courses on interpretive planning in World Heritage sites (2021; 2022), which introduced a new approach to heritage interpretation in the context of UNESCO- designated sites aligned with UNESCO’s fundamental values and overarching objectives.

The insight and inspiration generated by those actions were further elaborated during Interpret Europe’s annual Conference in 2023, on ‘Creating learning landscapes through heritage interpretation’. In parallel, Interpret Europe progressively reviewed its own training programme in light of this new value-based approach, as well as of UNESCO’s programmes on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED).

Moving on from these experiences, the present initiative is a further step to enhance UNESCO- designated sites as learning landscapes, by developing their capacities to generate and implement heritage interpretation strategies that uphold the values of peace, intercultural dialogue and equitable and sustainable development. The activity also contributes to the implementation of the new UNESCO Framework for Culture and Arts Education (2024) that inter alia advocates more sustained cooperation with cultural and natural heritage sites as formal, non-formal and informal learning environments.

What we intend to achieve

This capacity-building opportunity aims at developing the knowledge and skills of UNESCO designated sites to create and implement heritage interpretation strategies, plans and services for their territories, leveraging UNESCO sites as the core of broader learning landscapes that encourage both locals and tourists to learn from the past for a more sustainable future.

Learning landscapes are intended to attract and inspire visitors to search for deeper and more sustainable heritage experiences. They create meaningful opportunities for local people to get involved and strengthen their stewardship towards local cultural and natural heritage. In addition to reflecting on a person's own values, the knowledge acquired in learning landscapes remains with the people beyond the heritage experience, as part of their life-long learning process.

Value-based interpretive approaches around heritage sites can effectively complement competence-based formal learning. They intensify the often rather superficial and unsustainable encounters of visitors with heritage sites, awakening their desire to delve deeper, based on the following considerations:

  • heritage sites represent inspiring and iconic points of reference making their experience relevant;
  • heritage sites usually allow people to delve into a large store of underlying stories, values and frames;
  • heritage experiences include the potential for revelations encouraging people to deal with new ideas;
  • sites’ informal atmosphere provides space for people from different backgrounds to interact;
  • people are not only encouraged to listen to experts but also to interpret on their own;
  • whole interpretive experiences result in long-lasting memories which can be tapped into much later.

Participating sites will also benefit by uniting different stakeholders around shared and future-oriented visions, including public institutions across different policy sectors (heritage, tourism, education etc.), businesses and civil society actors.

More information

Call for participation, closes on 30 June 2024