Archaeological heritage has made history this year in Catalonia. For the first time ever a Catalan university has included an archaeology undergraduate course unit on this topic in its curriculum. “Gestió de Patrimoni Arqueològic” (“Management of Archaeological Heritage”) is being taught at the University of Barcelona by H@V project member, ICREA Research Professor Margarita Díaz-Andreu, and by Dr Jordi Tresserras. Final year students are learning about the history of the archaeological heritage management, heritage values and issues of identity and, in a second part of the course unit, about legislation, heritage organisations, museums and tourism. Last Friday 21 March students were given a lecture on heritage values in which the difficulties experts encounter in deciding the value of both movable and immovable cultural heritage were spelled out. After an hour of theory, students were divided into four groups and given the task of deciding which item they would save in the event of a disaster and explaining that decision. This practical work was devised by H@V project member Ana Pastor on the basis of her own professional experience working as a conservator in archaeology museums. For the exercise, students had to use the typology of heritage values they had previously learned at the lecture as those normally used by experts working for local, national and international organisations. Two groups had to determine the value of three items of movable heritage housed at the Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia: the Palaeolithic Neanderthal jaw found at Sitges, the Iron Age Iberian patera of Tivissa, and a paperweight representing a peach found a few years ago during restoration work at the Monastery of Sant Cugat. The other two groups had to choose what should be prioritised in a disaster situation: the Born market and its fantastically well preserved post-medieval remains of early modern Barcelona, the Vila de Madrid Roman cemetery or the historical complex around the Plaça del Rei square with its remains dating from Roman Barcino up to medieval Barcelona.
The differences in criteria used by each group to rationalise their choices gave students an insight into the difficulties heritage experts come up against when deciding how to value heritage. This point was further highlighted when the priorities of each group were announced and a clear divergence of opinions was seen. The point having been made, the students moved on to their next lecture having learned about the complexities involved in making decisions about heritage values.
ICREA Research ProfessorICREA-Universitat de Barcelona