Linking heritage preservation and economic development in Baltic Sea region towns
The Living with Cultural Heritage (LiviHeri) project supported economic development and heritage preservation in historic towns by promoting sustainable tourism. It did so by linking tourist attractions and daily community life in Rauma in Finland, Visby in Sweden, and Kuldīga and Aizpute in Latvia.
" In the LiviHeri model, sustainable tourism connects cultural heritage and people – both locals and visitors – in a manner that enhances equal opportunities to access historic towns. Heritage tourism – and the prosperity it brings – is desirable, but it must take place on such a scale and in such a way as to allow local communities to continue living in town centres permanently. "
LiviHeri organised built heritage restoration workshops in Latvia to enable craftsmen to hone their conservation skills, while residents of the four towns hosted tourists for coffee and overnight stays in their homes.
Public events included Kuldīga’s flying fish festival, which is devoted to ancient methods of catching fish, the river habitat and other activities; an archaeological heritage trail in Rauma and cultural heritage treasure hunts in Rauma and Kuldīga.
Inhabited since the Middle Ages, the towns LiviHeri covered have strong historical links via Baltic trade routes. Rauma and Visby are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Kuldīga is in line to attain that status.
The project was based on public-private partnerships, community activities and social learning methods. It identified opportunities for communities to derive economic benefits from local knowledge, conservation of the natural and cultural environment, and cultural identity. Activities were designed to integrate ecological, economic, cultural and social aspects of sustainable development into local business practices.
There were 1 850 home visits in total, of which nearly 400 were overnight stays. This gave guests a glimpse of daily life in places of global cultural significance. They saw how their accommodation fees contributed to heritage preservation and appreciated the help they got from their hosts. The houses were provided with books containing local cultural information from archive sources, which received positive feedback.
Built heritage restoration workshops brought together professionals from the Baltic region. Restoration projects in the towns sparked interest among visitors and locals alike. A total of 117 people attended these workshops and a storytelling workshop. The events led to a pooling of skills and to researchers, students and volunteers building a cultural heritage databank.
Archaeological excavations in Old Rauma – the town’s historic wooden centre – in the summer of 2016 attracted over 100 visitors. The discoveries were presented in a pop-up museum at the site the following summer.
Heritage treasure hunts showcased some of the less prominent attractions in Old Rauma and Kuldīga, as well as elements of heritage which connect people to the cultural landscape. In Rauma, a guided heritage trail along the banks of the Raumanjoki river marked the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018. Overall, LiviHeri’s public events drew in more than 2 200 people.
Communication activities – including through social media, a blog and publications – supported dissemination of the methods. Key aspects of this were the development of a toolkit for creation of cultural heritage databanks and a crowdsourced experiment in which over 70 photographers took pictures at different points in the towns. The LiviHeri concept was chosen as an example of community involvement in heritage management in the 2017 Organisation of World Heritage Cities Guidebook.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Living with Cultural Heritage” is EUR 593 073, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 467 778 through the “Interreg V-A - Finland-Estonia-Latvia-Sweden (Central Baltic)” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Skilled and socially inclusive region”.