The Research on the Values of Heritage project sought to bridge economic and cultural approaches to valuing heritage. The components of the project included:
- values and benefits of heritage conservation
- economics and heritage conservation
- assessing the values of heritage
- case studies
Material heritage traditionally has been valued and conserved because of its cultural attributes—the beauty, artistry, stories, or other collective meaning associated with a place, building, or object. Economic values and motivations are, however, important factors in the conservation of heritage as well. In contemporary society, economic considerations often take center stage, strongly influencing how heritage is valued and how conservation decisions are made.
Conservation professionals and decision-makers increasingly must confront economic realities or argue on the basis of economic considerations—or both. But the value of heritage cannot be measured simply in terms of price. Economics and policy decisions are usually thought to be outside the domain of conservation discourse and practice.
The Research on the Values of Heritage project aimed to fill a gap in the conservation field's body of knowledge and to advance our ability to work constructively with economic ideas, tools, and forces. This project built on the substantial body of work in cultural economics (which draws heavily from ecological economics), as well as the conservation field's growing awareness of the importance of values, markets, and other social forces in our work—and the need for an integrated approach to conservation. This project furthered this integration through a multidisciplinary program of research, discussion, application, and dissemination.
The objectives of the project included the following:
- strengthening the ability of the conservation field to understand and engage the economic and other social forces that shape the ways we value heritage and conservation decisions—forces that are ever more important in the globalization of society;
- establishing a cross-disciplinary discussion about the roles that economics plays in heritage conservation;
- contributing original ideas to this discussion and keeping it focused on solving issues directly relevant to the effectiveness of heritage conservation in contemporary societies; this builds on research and practice in many separate fields (economics, cultural studies, art history, environmental conservation, and others); and,
- creating an approach to assessing the whole range of heritage values—including economic values—as part of the GCI's contributions to planning methods for all types of conservation efforts.