As Diverse Heritage Project Officer at the Scottish Civic Trust, I recently attended Interpret Europe’s annual conference on the theme of engaging with diversity. The conference took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, from 31 May – 3 June 2019.
People attended the conference from all over the world. I had lunch with Slovenians, coffee with Croatians, and went shopping for souvenirs with Australians and Austrians; I joined a workshop with natural history specialists from Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey; I had dinner with Hungarians, and hiked through the forest with new friends from England and Sweden.
I presented a paper on the Sharing Stories project, which SCT co-led as part of European Heritage Days in 2018, including three different case studies of the ways in which SCT has been working with members of the community to increase the participation of under-represented groups in Doors Open Days. A full report can be read here. It was wonderful to be able to share our work with and get feedback from an audience of heritage professionals coming from so many different organisations and institutions. It is nice to know that the work we are doing in Scotland is not just meaningful to our own local communities, but of interest to people throughout the rest of the UK and Europe.
Sarajevo is an inspirational location to discuss diversity – its mix of traditions, religions, and ethnicities giving it a past that is both cosmopolitan and multicultural, as well as leading to traumatic conflict.
Many of the people I spoke to were – like myself – transnational; many of us now live and work in a different country than the one we were born in, bringing together many different backgrounds and experiences of cultural heritage.
Exploring Sarajevo’s complex cultural heritage with such a lovely group of colleagues was an amazing experience. It made me think about how we talk about, define, and interpret diversity in Scotland and how we can work with other communities around the world to ensure that our shared cultural heritage is meaningful to all of us.
Dr Jen Novotny, Project Officer, Diverse Heritage