World Heritage Communication- a Herculean Task for Kassel
Twenty years ago the association „Bürger für das Welterbe“ was founded to support the efforts to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Status. ICOMOS, which accompanied us during the nomination process , recommended that we should focus on a unique feature: Kassel`s landmark – the Hercules monument- and the historical water features, which have now worked for more than 300 years without any pumps, and attract thousands of visitors to the biggest mountain park- the Bergpark – in Europe twice a week between May and October.
And this recommendation proved to be successful! On 23rd June 2013 our inscription on the World Heritage List was announced. The city`s community celebrated this milestone with a big event. It was the best present the city could receive for its 1,100th anniversary in 2013.
This „birthday present“however, implied us to be responsible for supporting this cultural heritage with all our might. Therefore the further work of our association concentrated on the question of what it means to have World Heritage status.
Preparing the nomination, the involvement of the city`s civil society was a key criterion. The „Round Table of Cultural Organisations“ represents more than 40 associations and organisations that play a decisive role in our city`s voluntary cultural activities. In 2012 the members oft he Round Table each presented one World Heritage site as a roll-up presentation in the town hall`s foyer as part of the „World heritage oft he month“ project. Kassel`s twin town of Florence was presented by the German-Italian society, Tel Aviv was presented by the German- Israeli society, just to name a few. Each of the exhibitions was opened by the Mayor of Kassel. The exhibition series grew within a year and , thanks to the many members of the public who passed through the town hall, it was possible to reach a wider audience and achieve a broad-based commitment to a successful nomination.
The „Bürger für das Welterbe“association puts a high value on being present at local events; cooperates with other clubs and associations in the neighbourhood, schools and daycare centres and maintains a good relationship with national partners.
Kassel`s international importance is predominantly defined by the three „global brands“: the life and works oft he Brothers Grimm (their „Children`s and Household Tales“are inscribed on the Memory of the World Register), the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe and documenta, the world`s most important exhibition of contemporary art. We aim at connecting all three global brands. Events like „World Heritage meets documenta“ and „World Heritage meets the Grimms“are being launched to link the three brands that characterize Kassel as a city of culture.
Reading and presentations form the main part of the annual programme. Communication work also entails offering special locations with a corresponding atmosphere.The feel-good factor plays an important role here, and events paired with quality food go down well.
Guided tours and excursions are very popular. In the large Bergpark there are a lot of remote locations and park architectures.
One of the architectural masterpieces is the Pagoda, part of the village of Mulang, which was created in the 18th century out of a contemporary passion for China. Our association has become the sponsor for this building and is engaged in preserving and restoring the Pagoda`s Buddha.
Youth work plays an important role in our communication work. After all, today`s children will be handed over the responsibility to keep and preserve our cultural property .Projects like the competition “Stand up for your heritage“, „Cultural Talents of the year“ or „With Hercules to Olympus“are especially aimed at young people from minority ethnic backgrounds, refugees and children from educationally disadvantaged families.
However this magnificent World Heritage has a downside and there is a long list to do:
Park rules and regulations constantly need attention. With a range of activities, the association aims at making people sensitive to behave properly in a World Heritage site.
Accessibility is also a permanent issue. Continuous cooperation with the city`s advisory council for people with disabilities is essential for addressing this ongoing topic.
Trafficis is another challenge. Since the site`s inscription on the World Heritage list, visitor numbers have increased, as well as the number of cars.
With regard to its communication mandate, the „Bürger für das Welterbe“ association has set itself the longterm goal of making the city`s community understand and internalise the fact that „its“ World heritage is an essential pillar in the cultural development of Kassel.