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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday February 10, 2022

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Jetske Berger

Jetske Berger

Editor-in-chief , European Heritage Tribune

portrait of Sorina Neacsu

Sorina Neacsu

Executive Director and Vice-President & EHYA Programme coordinator at ESACH , Heritage for the Future Cultural Association

portrait of Manon Richard

Manon Richard

EU Project Officer , Europa Nostra

Supporting new professionals: the European Heritage Youth Ambassadors Programme

As 2022 celebrates European Year of Youth, we are highlighting resources, networks and organisations within the cultural heritage sector which support students and new professionals. Today, Jetske Berger (European Heritage Tribune) Manon Richard (Europa Nostra) and Sorina Neacsu (ESACH), tell us about the European Heritage Youth Ambassadors Programme and how you can get involved. 

The ambassadors lined up for a photo
The Ambassadors participating in the European Cultural Heritage Summit in Venice
September 2021
Europa Nostra

Thank you for speaking to us today! What can you tell us about the European Heritage Youth Ambassadors Programme? 

Thank you for opening this conversation! The European Heritage Youth Ambassadors Programme was launched one year ago and is a joint initiative of Europa Nostra, the European Students’ Association for Cultural Heritage (ESACH) and the European Heritage Tribune (EHT). It is a growing network of students and emerging professionals with a passion for our shared cultural heritage. Coming from all over Europe and beyond, they raise their voices and share their stories and experiences through various platforms and activities. 

The Ambassadors act as a bridge between the youth heritage movement, heritage organisations across Europe and European institutions. This provides them with networking and capacity-building opportunities, involves them in the policy-making process, and reinforces a mutually beneficial dialogue with established experts. 11 Youth Ambassadors opened the programme in 2021 and we are looking forward to launching the second cycle this February during an online ceremony. Listen to some of the Youth Ambassadors’ testimonials.

What did the Ambassadors get up to in 2021? 

2021 was a very active year for the Youth Ambassadors. Their role encompassed engagement on multiple levels, including representing the voice of young people within Europa Nostra’s activities, being reporters for the European Heritage Tribune in their own countries, and engaging in ESACH’s projects. Follow the hashtag #HeritageAmbassadors to discover their experiences on social media. 

Other highlights in 2021 included the ESACH Madrid Meeting focusing on the New European Bauhaus, as well as the awareness-raising campaigns on Europe Day and the International Day for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). This work culminated with the group’s participation in Europa Nostra’s European Cultural Heritage Summit in Venice in September 2021. The Youth Ambassadors contributed to the three panel discussions of the European Heritage Policy Agora as well as to the European Heritage Awards Ceremony. Read their look back on 2021 on the European Heritage Tribune. 

Collage/ Miro board screenshot 'Cultural heritage and the New European Bauhaus: perspectives from the European Heritage Youth Ambassadors and you' with boards showing ideas for beautiful, sustainable and together
Collage/ Miro board screenshot created at the ESACH Madrid Meeting
Shari Bone
June 2021
Collage/ Miro board screenshot 'Cultural heritage and the New European Bauhaus: perspectives from the European Heritage Youth Ambassadors and you' with boards showing ideas for beautiful, sustainable and together

And what are their plans for the coming year?

With the growing network, 2022 will allow at least as much engagement, ideas-sharing, creativity, and boost in heritage awareness-raising, which is especially exciting in the frame of the European Year of Youth. For this, we are planning plenty of (online) events and initiatives to further mobilise, build capacity and advocate for youth. We will share the programme soon! 

What role does digital technology, practices or engagement play in this work?

The digital approach is now an integral part of our daily lives, and so of heritage related practices too. Heritage documentation, interpretation, and dissemination are also considered crucial tasks that rely heavily on digital approaches. The Youth Ambassadors shaped their interaction primarily via digital exchange. Their transmission of knowledge and dialogue was carried out online, during the monthly online meetings that we organise as well as via social media and platforms. While in-person meetings are more memorable, we believe the digital means of communication has numerous benefits, including increased reach, and higher interactivity and inclusivity. 

What advice would you give someone just beginning their career in the cultural heritage sector? 

Stay connected! It is essential to meet your peers and open long-lasting dialogues to exchange experiences and best practices. We see an increasing number of networks opening for youth to have a say in policy and future shaping. It could also prove extremely useful to take up a mentor, either someone at the university or within a cultural heritage organisation.

Another suggestion would be to explore different experiences to help you decide which career path within the cultural heritage sector would be the most suitable. There is the collective 'in theory' (what we learn) vs '­in practice' (what we actually do) gap that can be overcome by joining volunteering projects and/or internships. Some volunteering programmes offer mobility opportunities across Europe such as the European Heritage Volunteers and the European Solidarity Corps.   

What opportunities can they take advantage of - and what challenges do they face? 

Heritage professionals in their early career should take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. The digital transition fostered inclusion and has made it easier to attend all sorts of online training, workshops, webinars, and conferences (see some examples). Not only do these events facilitate networking and build capacity, but they can also provide a better overview of the heritage landscape at all levels of governance.  

That said, it can be challenging for young professionals and students to find out about existing heritage organisations, opportunities and main actors. Our organisations are trying to bridge this gap as much as possible, and we encourage you to join Europa Nostra and ESACH, and subscribe to the European Heritage Tribune Newsletter to find out about new opportunities. Also, most of the young professionals we meet these days are still studying. Combining courses, assignments, and other work is challenging, but not impossible with a time management plan in place. 

What advice would you give to a cultural heritage institution or organisation that would like to involve and support students and new professionals in their work? 

To mainstream a youth dimension into their activities! Young people are not only the future, they are the present and are active agents in the heritage field. It is vital to maintain an open dialogue with students and new professionals, by providing them a platform to voice their concerns and ideas for the future and enhance a fruitful intergenerational dialogue. As heritage organisations, it is our duty to ensure that the young generation is well equipped to face challenges affecting cultural heritage, and at the same time, to listen to their new ideas and perspectives. 

How can a student or new professional get involved in the programme? 

We would like to invite them to engage with the Youth Ambassadors' work – especially on Instagram (Europa Nostra, ESACH, EHT) – to help increase the reach and visibility of the group’s awareness-raising and advocacy. Or reach out to the Ambassadors and, if they are based in the same country, have a (virtual) coffee to chat about cultural heritage. Hopefully, this would encourage them to apply, in the future, for the 2023 programme!