IHBC 2020 Yearbook

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 29 Edinburgh City Council memorably noted at the recent launch of the new tourism strategy, “nostalgia does not make good policy”. The result is that heritage cities like Edinburgh are constantly being reconfigured, reinterpreted and reimagined by stakeholders, residents and visitors as urban centres, with little regard for their heritage values. Stakeholders need to be reminded that attributing fault or blame with the historic environment (and by association professionals involved in the management and protection of it) is lazy thinking: they should behave better and more constructively in exploring a city’s present and future. The home of the Scottish Enlightenment in particular should continue to be a place for innovative debate on civics and civic space – but in a positive way. This suggests a requirement for further enhancement of the specialist skillset already seen in historic environment. Conservation professionals need to develop and engage further in the fields of communication, mediation, negotiation and facilitation if they are to succeed in navigating protection, management and enhancement of the historic features of a place, particularly where there are competing pressures on the physical and social fabric of a community. The skills of the heritage professional are no longer just about management and administration within a bureaucratic entity and a set of planning processes, but as potential influencers and shapers of thinking who can creatively chart a path for the future legacy of the built environment. Shaping and influencing the outcome may be particularly challenging where a community’s attention is focused in a laser-like way on a single issue against a competing stakeholder’s viewpoint. The key focus for future professional enhancement should be on the soft skills in heritage management, such as being able to explore context, options, adaptions and the interfacing of historic assets with their owners, users and developers. These skills are less about the asset itself and more about the changing relationships all different types of stakeholder groups have with each other, and with the asset itself, in the wider environment. It is a nuanced shift in future relationships and contexts in which historic environment professionals might play a future role, but one which could work positively in city contexts where public authorities may often be on the back foot having to respond to emergent issues. The future shows positive signs for that nuanced repositioning due to global trends and requirements around sustainability and community (re)building. For example, the historic environment can be placed back at the centre of thinking in cities where heritage tourism or regeneration has been seen as a dominant force, and the heritage values of the place have mistakenly been enhanced without reinvesting in the broader civic palette. The durability, sustainability and adaptability of the historic built environment is increasingly being recognised as a provider of solutions or inspiration for innovation in place development, building design and maintenance of thriving communities with a strong sense of place. The tourism industry will continue to evolve and develop experiences using new technologies and product or service offerings which have at their heart the historic environment – in real, physical, durable form. The industry has increasingly recognised that tourism must be a positive force within city communities, and must invest in the community or its host’s infrastructure if it wants to maintain its welcome. The searchedfor authenticity which tourists want to experience will also continue to increase the engagement between tourists and place, beyond mere consumer to a more embedded twoway relationship in a community setting, unlocking enhanced interactions with places and people. There remain challenges in this – not least the power of the individual historic environment professional to engage beyond the bounds of a controlled system. However, the reframing of city democratic processes provides reasons to be positive, as cities around the world strategise over their mid to long term development and as communities assert their views and desires in powerful ways through the resurgence of civic societies (like the Cockburn Association in Edinburgh). These developments demonstrate that the role of the expert and the role which they may play in place-making and place-keeping is being appreciated again. Prof Ian Baxter is a historic environment management professional and academic, Director of Scottish Confucius Institute for Business & Communication at Heriot-Watt University and Professor of Historic Environment Management at University of Suffolk. Typical traffic congestion in Bath in the summer months