Getty releases publication on consensus building and conflict resolution in heritage planning

Getty_pub_consensusBack in 2009, the Getty held a conference on “Consensus Building, Negotiation, and Conflict Resolution for Heritage Place Management.” Although perhaps a bit tardy, the eponymous proceedings have finally been published (edited by David Myers, Stacie Nicole Smith, and Gail Ostergren) and I would recommend this publication as an obligatory read for practitioners in the field as well as students.

Those reading this publication expecting some kind of epiphany or novel solution to consensus building and conflict resolution in heritage conservation will be a bit disappointed, however, as most of of the general approaches are fundamental and well-known to urban and regional planning practice, but usefully applied in the context of cultural heritage. I did find it surprising that the integration of critical heritage studies literature is rather light in the published papers. Some of the only examples are Laurajane Smith’s Uses of Heritage (2006), referenced in the introduction and one case study, and Rodney Harrison’s Heritage: Critical Approaches (2013), referenced in the introduction. In both cases, the references are fleeting, broad characterizations of the works in relation to the meanings of heritage being contested and controlled by the dominant culture, but without any specific concepts contextualized within the case studies. Indeed, what would seem to be a concept fundamental to generating conflicts between conventional and civil experts is not mentioned at all, which is Smith’s (2006) “Authorized Heritage Discourse.”

But the last chapter alone is worth downloading this publication because it makes a compelling argument that heritage practitioners need to become educated in consensus building, dispute resolution, and negotiation techniques. This is not a new idea. Some CRM professionals, such as Thomas King, have long been advocating for this fundamental skill set in all heritage practitioners. Currently, I am not aware of a single CRM, historic preservation, or heritage conservation degree program in the English-speaking world that requires students to take a course in dispute resolution or stakeholder negotiation techniques, although this is certainly available as an elective in many institutions of higher education. (Please contact me if I am wrong and I will be happy to give credit to the program or programs.) Hopefully, Consensus Building, Negotiation, and Conflict Resolution for Heritage Place Management will help catalyze this needed change in how practitioners are educated.

Works cited
Smith, L. (2006). Uses of heritage. London and New York: Routledge.
Harrison, R. (2013). Heritage: Critical approaches. New York: Routledge.

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