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Craft Laboratory: modeling of practice-led research, sharing and capacity building to sustain heritage crafts

Conference contribution
Authors Gunnar Almevik
Published in Association of Critical Heritage Studies Second biannual Conference, Canberra, 2-4th December 2014 Session Crafting Athenticity
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords traditional craftsmanship, intangible cultural heritage, authenticity, heritage enactivism, people based conservation, capacity building, sharing
Subject categories Learning, Other Humanities, Cultural Studies


In 2011 Sweden ratified the UNESCO’s Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. The decision is part of a political cultural agenda to better attend to initiatives from non-governmental organisations, promoting the creative economy and involve the civil society in cultural heritage protection and management. However, this emergence of a new heritage discourse coincides with a general neoliberal practice to laissez-faire matters of heritage and disassembling of the professional sphere, leaving the local communities and communities of interest with little but encouraging words. An important question in this context is, by what design can public allocation of recourses and involvement of expertise support fragile communities and still withholding a bottoms-up perspective in their ways of doing? This paper presents and reflects upon an attempt to manage intangible heritage protection from a bottoms-up perspective. The case is the Craft Laboratory, intended as a tool to elicit the intangible heritage of craftsmanship in the creation of cultural spaces and protection and management of historic monuments and sites. The laboratory was established in 2010 by University of Gothenburg in co-operation with both governmental and non-governmental heritage organisations, craft enterprises and trade organisations. The operational agenda is developed in continuing dialogue-seminars with stakeholders in craft communities. The call from the many times isolated craftspersons and fragile communities are congregation, sharing of experiences and support to develop new skills. The voices are radically contradicting the traditional notion of the ‘guild spirit’ within craft production. The Craft Laboratory has in cooperation with the communities of interest developed methods for capacity building, sharing and skill development. Examples of activities are enterprise networks, practice sharing in workshops and ‘open-restorations’, formats for master-classes, consensus seminars on good practices, film records and craft protocols for documentation, and practice-based craft research scholarship. The modelling of the Craft Laboratory is presented in theoretical light of heritage enactivism, people or community based-conservation and how to negotiate authenticity and find eligible ways of expanding traditional processes to make them sustainable in contemporary society. The examples of actions are problematized in regard of how to protect, transmit and share the embodied practices in heritage crafts.

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