Canterbury and the Via Francigena: Promoting Heritage through Cultural Routes

Background and Context

The city of Canterbury has a rich heritage which is facing numerous challenges regarding its preservation and interpretation.  Common to historic cities, certain sites are the recipients of attention and funding (Canterbury Cathedral), while others deteriorate from a lack of resources and become obsolete, due to a severing of the connection between the structure and the local population.

Cultural routes offer an opportunity to make heritage that lies along them both visible and relevant to contemporary populations both in the present and in the foreseeable future.  This project represents a case-study in using a cultural route, the Via Francigena, to inform and engage the public in multiple aspects of local heritage. The Via Francigena, a cultural route designated by the Council of Europe, traces the historic roads connecting Canterbury to Rome.  The project focuses on the UK section of the route, Canterbury to Dover, promoting heritage sites connected to pilgrimage and the industrial heritage of the port town of Dover.

A series of events are organized to focus on engaging public with heritage such as a workshop, a conference and volunteering opportunities. More specifically, the workshop will extend over a half-day period and will be structured to include general presentations, small group discussions, and a comprehensive site visit. The presentations will be based on values and a theoretical model for site management planning that advocates active participation of stakeholders and the assessment of values and significance as central elements of the process. Structured small group discussions where participants can debate and expand on issues emerging from the presentations and the case studies will follow. The workshop will conclude with a discussion of barriers to the application of integrated planning in the region and recommendations for the way forward. Finally, the One-Day Conference on “Cultural Heritage in danger: illicit trafficking, armed conflicts and Cultural Diplomacy” will bring together senior government officials and leading academics from the UK and continental Europe enhancing the intercultural dialogue on contemporary critical issues in a global context. During the conference, fundamental questions of international law relating to military operations will be examined.

Main activities

A series of events organized to focus on engaging public with heritage will include:
1. A public multisensory walk from Shepherdswell to Dover (8 miles) on the Via Francigena, focusing on the historic experience of pilgrimage and highlighting the tangible heritage along the route (6th-7th May, 2017);
2. A reception at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge to present the digital/print content designed by the applicants with participation of interested students from across the University of Kent (5th May, 2017);
3. Volunteering opportunities for Kent students at Canterbury museums;
4. A walk of 87 miles on the Via Francigena from Rome to the ancient Roman port town of Terracina (14-21 May, 2017).
5. A Half-Day Workshop under the title “Value based Management for Heritage Sites” focusing on engaging local populations in heritage (5th May, 2017)
6. A One-Day Conference under the title “Cultural Heritage in danger: illicit trafficking, armed conflicts and Cultural Diplomacy” (9th June, 2017).

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