European Portal of National Heritage Organisations


The European Exchange Programme promotes an exchange of experience between heritage conservation organisations throughout the European Union and the wider Europe. Participants are from both governmental and non-governmental organisations which share similar objectives on heritage conservation and access. It provides an opportunity for practitioners from these countries to bring their experience to task based projects covering a wide range of themes, both in their own countries and beyond and to exchange experience and expertise with others.
As the countries of Central and Eastern Europe move towards accession to the European Union, they are required to fulfil stringent criteria, such as strengthening their democratic institutions, public administration and civic society in order to facilitate their introduction of the “acquis communitaire”. In addition, they need to meet the requirements of the single market whilst balancing the needs of the environment and their citizens. The European Exchange Programme is one initiative with can assist in the process of accession, by helping Central and Eastern European countries to form reciprocal partnerships with heritage conservation organisations in the European Union Member States with the aim of exchanging expertise and experience based on specific practical tasks.

The European Exchange Programme opened in London with a 2 day Conference, “Heritage Partnerships – Wider Perspectives”. This was organised within the framework of the UK Presidency of the European Union and was part of the culture and arts programme being held to complement the April 1998 ASEM II Summit. The Conference was followed by nine days of “Themed Exchange Programmes ” (13-21 May 1998) where participants worked together with UK heritage conservation practitioners on specific heritage conservation task orientated projects, such as writing a strategic management plan for conserving a historic house or an education plan aimed at raising awareness about environmental problems for an area of open countryside. These tasks also explored many of the issues faced, and skills required, by heritage conservation practitioners across Europe. A concluding Workshop, “European Heritage Partnerships”, gave participants an opportunity to present their findings and recommendations to other exchange participants and to exchange views with several high level representatives of the European Commission and Parliament who were invited to speak on key European policy issues.
Member organisations of the European Network of National Heritage Organisations (ENNHO) which took part in the Exchange Programme and attended the Workshop, took the opportunity to agree how to take the Network forward. ENNHO was set up following the “Conservation and Co-operation in Europe – Heritage Priorities and Partnerships” Conference/Workshop (Brussels, 1996). It is a loose network of national heritage organisations, both governmental and non-governmental which comes together to share expertise and experience and to make joint funding applications. ENNHO’s aims and objectives were presented during the Plenary Session.

38 organisations took part in the European Exchange Programme in May 1998. Participants were practitioners, experts in their field and about mid-way in their career. They included architects, archaeologists, scientists, property managers, curators, wardens and specialists in areas such as education, training, coastal management, historic gardens, upland farm management, heritage retailing and commercial activities. They came from 26 countries throughout Western, Central and Eastern Europe to spend nine days working on specific task-orientated projects at properties around the UK, to contribute their experience and to learn from each other. Each practitioner was matched to a specific project according to their individual skills in order to maximise the benefit to all participants. A requirement of the Programme was that participants were able to disseminate the findings of the Exchange widely in their home countries and beyond.

Supporting Organisations
The European Exchange Programme and the European Heritage Partnerships Workshop were supported by the European Commission, British Council, UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport and ICOMOS UK. The UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Asia-Europe Foundation supported the “Heritage Partnerships – Wider Perspectives” Conference.

Project Themes
Each Exchange focused on a specific task-based project at one or several properties around the UK. Projects were chosen by each property to reflect an aspect of one of the following Exchange Programme themes:

  • management of coastal properties;
  • archaeological and industrial sites;
  • farming and upland landscapes;
  • new uses for old buildings;
  • heritage retailing and commercial activities;
  • education and interpretation;
  • training in rural craft skills;
  • management of historic houses and estates
  • management of historic and gardens.