Partnership for the wellbeing of Herculaneum and its communities

Parco Archeologico di Ercolano
Published: 08 September 2021
Last edited: 08 September 2021
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Summary

Herculaneum was a Roman town buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. It is now a component of the serial World Heritage property “Archaeological Areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata” and lies in the modern coastal town of Ercolano, one of Italy’s most densely populated areas. This solution looks at how a partnership instigated by a philanthropic foundation became a springboard for change and wider cooperation for the benefit of both the site and its communities. Over time this public-private partnership stimulated reforms within the public heritage system. These include the recent creation of a dedicated authority with greater capacity to build support networks in and around Ercolano’s heritage.

With a greatly improved state of conservation, new areas open to the public and a more vibrant role of the site in the life of the modern town, the management experiment and conservation approaches at this site have encouraged similar approaches elsewhere.

Classifications

Region
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Area-wide development
Buildings and facilities
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Theme
Culture
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Sustainable financing
Urban planning
World Heritage
Challenges
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities

Location

Herculaneum, Naples, Italy

Challenges

Cultural/social: Until the 1980s custodians, conservators, maintenance teams, etc. were usually local people and the site had contributed vibrantly to the wellbeing of the local community. By the end of the 20th c. the site was physically and visually cut off from the local community, who were experiencing extreme social disadvantages and rising crime rates. A series of factors, including demands for open tendering in the public sector, accelerated this divorce.

Environmental: The site was in a severe state of decay at the beginning of the 21st c. with two thirds unsafe for public access. Uncontrolled urban growth and a shift to intensive agriculture in the 20th c. had disconnected the site from other natural and cultural heritage within the landscape.

Economic: The site suffered from discontinuity in financial support. The wider area suffered high levels of poverty and periods of ineffective local government. Unemployment rates are an indicator, in recent times at 70% among young people.

Beneficiaries

The main beneficiaries are the public heritage authority responsible for Herculaneum, local government and the communities living and working around the site. A wider network of interested parties, from scholars to visitors, have also benefitted.

How do the building blocks interact?

The Herculaneum Conservation Project was initially a flexible public-private model to tackle chronic conservation and management issues. It went on to trial approaches that could be adopted by the public partner in the long term. An operative team permanently on site for two decades has meant that solutions have responded to the specific needs of the heritage place and its stakeholders. Collaboration with local and national actors has seen the archaeological site linked back into the historic and natural landscape, and has enabled participation from the local community, associations, international organizations and other non-heritage actors. A greater emphasis on understanding values and linking elements of the heritage place has created the conditions in which Herculaneum can contribute to sustainable development aspirations, as well as gaining much wider public support for its protection.

BB1 is about creating the conditions for change. BB2 and BB3 are about achieving models of conservation and management that could secure the sustainability of the heritage in the long-term. BB4 is about going a step further and working to enable the dynamic role of heritage in society.

Impacts

Social: Heritage-related initiatives have played a key role in building social inclusion and reinforcing local capacities, such as the role of local community actors in urban regeneration near the site. The opening up of the heritage management system has helped (re)build consensus and pride within civil society regarding their World Heritage but also other local heritage assets, with new forms of democratic consensus emerging, the case of the historic Pugliano market.

Economic: The success of the public-private partnership prompted the creation of a dedicated public heritage authority, moving decision making nearer to the problems. This enabled direct control over ticket income and a free reign over new forms of partnership. Changes in mindsets of key actors led to increases in funding and diversification of sources for site management. Activities are also leaving a lasting legacy beyond the site, such as a more qualified workforce, new areas of expertise and entrepreneurship.

Environmental: The decay that led to two thirds of the site being closed has been addressed, a direct consequence of a more comprehensive participatory management approach which included the setting. Abandoned agricultural and urban areas around the site have been reclaimed. Strategic management draws increasingly on interdependencies with the wider natural and cultural landscape.

Contributed by

Francesco Sirano Parco Archeologico di Ercolano

Other contributors

Istituto Packard per i Beni Culturali