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EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2017 for Scottish project SAMPHIRE

5 April 2017

Brussels / The Hague, 5 April 2017 - The European Commission and Europa Nostra revealed today the winners of the 2017 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, Europe's top honour in the heritage field. The 29 laureates from 18 countries are being recognised for their notable achievements in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising.Among this year's winners are two outstanding projects from the United Kingdom: the rehabilitation of  Cromford Mills: Building 17, Derbyshire; and SAMPHIRE: Maritime heritage project in western Scotland. Independent expert juries examined a total of 202 applications, submitted by organisations and individuals from 39 countries across Europe, and chose the winners.

Citizens from around the world can now vote online for the Public Choice Awardand rally support for the winning project(s) from their own or another European country. Voters have the chance to win a trip for two to Finland and be a special guest at the Awards Ceremony that will be held in the historic city of Turku on 15 May. During the ceremony, the seven Grand Prix laureates, each of whom will receive €10,000, and the Public Choice Award winner, chosen from among this year's winning projects, will be announced.

"I congratulate all the winners. Their achievements demonstrate once again how engaged many Europeans are in protecting and safeguarding their cultural heritage. Their projects highlight the significant role of cultural heritage in our lives and our society. Especially today, with Europe facing many big societal challenges, culture is vital in helping us to raise awareness of our common history and values and to foster tolerance, mutual understanding and social inclusion. The European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 will be an ideal opportunity to focus on what binds us together as Europeans - our common history, culture and heritage. The European Commission will continue to support this prize and other heritage projects through our Creative Europe programme," said Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. 

"I warmly congratulate this year's winners and pay tribute to all those who made these exceptional achievements possible, thanks to their formidable talent, passionate commitment and great generosity. They are now among a select group of some 450 remarkable accomplishments awarded by Europa Nostra and the European Commission in the past 15 years. All our winners demonstrate that heritage is a key tool for sustainable economic development, social cohesion and a more inclusive Europe. EU leaders should seize the historic opportunity of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 to recognise the multiple benefits of heritage and its fundamental value in bringing countries, communities and cultures together in Europe and beyond," stated Plácido Domingo, the renowned opera singer and President of Europa Nostra. 

The winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2017 will be celebrated during a high-profile event co-hosted by EU Commissioner Navracsics and Maestro Plácido Domingo commencing in the late afternoon on 15 May at St. Michael's Church in Turku. The European Heritage Awards Ceremony will assemble some 1,200 people, including heritage professionals, volunteers and supporters from all over Europe as well as top-level representatives from EU institutions, the host country and other Member States.

The winners will also present their exemplary heritage accomplishments during the Excellence Fair on 14 May at the Sigyn Hall of the Turku Music Conservatory, and participate in various events at the European Heritage Congress in Turku (11-15 May). Organised by Europa Nostra, the Congress will provide an inspiring platform for networking and debating the latest European developments related to heritage with a special focus on the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Applications for the 2018 edition of the Awards can be submitted from 15 May to 1 October 2017 through the dedicated  website


SAMPHIRE: Maritime heritage project in western Scotland

In exploring beneath the waves of Scotland's West coast, the team behind SAMPHIRE - Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research & Education has added a rich new layer to the fabric of Scotland's history. The holistic approach of this project was impressive and left no stone unturned in investigating new approaches to safeguarding our shared underwater heritage.

The project is the result of a collaboration of researchers from Scotland, Spain and Australia which sought to investigate how community engagement in West Scottish coastal communities could increase our understanding of archaeological sites off the Scottish coast.  Its unique approach has fostered dialogue between professional maritime archaeologists and local community members including divers, fishermen, historians and others with knowledge of the seafloor in their area.

SAMPHIRE's well considered methodology is repeated on an annual basis. The team dedicatedly researches, raises awareness and distributes their findings both online and on the ground in local communities through focus groups and print materials. They achieve this through contact with museums, community halls, dive clubs and harbour offices.

"A major part of this project's success was the community's choice of their own 'local champion', giving ownership of the heritage to these local communities. The project gave these participants the skills and confidence to participate in a major archaeological project which may otherwise have been viewed as being in the inaccessible domain of specialists", stated the jury.

In the period since the project began three years ago, over 100 new sites have been revealed and recorded thanks to their mammoth efforts. This exceptional figure is telling of the effectiveness of SAMPHIRE's approach and makes a strong case for engaging communities as a means to accurately identify, record and protect archaeological sites, maritime or otherwise. "We appreciated this project's commitment to engaging and learning from local communities and the way in which they have shown that working together can lead to great discoveries", added the jury.

"This project was not just a survey but also contributed to identity building in these West Scottish communities and encouraged the participants to act as stewards of their heritage. It has had a far reaching and long lasting effect in inspiring consciousness of heritage sites and, impressively, informing fishing practices where known drowned heritage assets are located. SAMPHIRE's methodology has a great degree of transferability and is an excellent model for similar sites throughout Europe", emphasised the jury.