Kicking off HERILAND: Towards a new generation of cultural heritage managers

HERILAND is a so-called ITN or International Training Network. Its major aim is to create a new generation of cultural heritage managers. Gert-Jan Burgers, professor of Heritage Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and project coordinator, explains: ‘In fact, it is all about the creation, the planning of our future living environment, using the past. The past is everywhere; people usually anchor their past and their habits especially in the living environment. Part of this is valued so high as to be preserved as heritage for future generations. Think of castles or churches, but also of entire historic city centres like that of Rome, of rural landscapes like the Dutch polders, or even of large scale industries like the German Ruhrgebiet. Our HERILAND project trains students to investigate why and how heritage landscapes have been created and still are being created.’

Creating and planning our future living environment, using the past

Gert-Jan Burgers is very much looking forward to this project. ‘It is a very important project. We have a major contribution to make to present-day society. While until recently cultural heritage was preserved in relative isolation, our project directly relates it to the most pressing societal issues of today, from migration to climate change, and from democratization to digitalization; all of these have a strong influence on heritage. On the other hand, central to HERILAND is also to establish what heritage can offer to solve these problems. These are very exciting issues.’

But exciting issues are not the only reason for his enthousiasm. ‘Heriland unites researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Newcastle University, Göteborgs University, Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, Jerusalem, and Technische Universiteit Delft. We are working together with about 30 other researchers, among which 15 fresh PhD students. They are brilliant, all in their own field, and they are all individually looking forward to work collectively. Together we are creating something new. It is a fantastic endeavour to be able to do this in a collective way.’

‘Our mission is to create socially, economically and environmentally sustainable landscapes, fostering social inclusiveness’

HERILAND is an ambitious project. ‘Our mission is to create socially, economically and environmentally sustainable landscapes, fostering social inclusiveness’, says Burgers. ‘To achieve this mission, we have set up the HERILAND College for Heritage Planning. This is a unique, international graduate school, educating students with the highest, new European training standards. We do so with a solid consortium of almost 30 key public and private players in this field. The College will teach our PhD’s how to investigate and use heritage approaches and skills, and to achieve innovation through practice-based research.’

Officially, HERILAND started on the first of April, 2019, with a successful kick-off meeting in Delft, The Netherlands. Burgers: ‘Right now, we are in the process of recruiting 15 PhD researchers. We have already managed to select the right candidates for 13 positions. They all will start on the first of October. On November, 5, here in Amsterdam, we will celebrate this fact with a public kick-off meeting.’ 


HERILAND is a pan-European research and training network on cultural heritage in relation to Spatial Planning and Design. Its major aim is to empower a new generation of cultural heritage managers. HERILAND is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 81813883.



Ellen Woudstra,
July 2019


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