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Portal into a Timeless World

Good Practices

Good Practices in Preservation, Promotion and Utilisation of Folk Culture Heritage

Editors

  • © Assoc. Prof. PhDr. Alexandra Bitušíková, PhD., Univerzita Mateja Bela in Banská Bystrica
  • © PhDr. Katarína Koštialová, PhD., Univerzita Mateja Bela in Banská Bystrica
  • © Daniel Luther, PhD., Ústav etnológie SAV, Bratislava & Univerzita Mateja Bela in Banská Bystrica

Texts prepared by

  • © Etnologický ústav Akademie věd ČR, Praha, Czech Republic, 2013
  • © Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Náprajzi Intézet, Budapest, Hungaria, 2013
  • © Inštitút sociálnych a kultúrnych štúdií FHV, Univerzita Mateja Bela v Banskej Bystrici, Slovakia, 2013
  • © Inštitut za slovensko narodopisje Znanstvenoraziskovalnego centra Slovenske akademije znanosti in umjetnosti, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2013

The toolkit of of good practices is one of the outcomes of the project ETNOFOLK that involved project partners from four countries of Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia). The objective was to collect examples of good practices in preservation, promotion and utilisation of folk culture heritage. This was done in a form of textual descriptions and visual, mainly photographic documentation. The rationale behind the task was based on the assumption that folk culture heritage in the studied countries is rich, diverse and popular, and it is utilised by different actors at numerous occassions, however, not always in line with local tradition. The toolkit is intented to serve as a resource of inspiration and direction for decision-makers and other stakeholders and individuals that play a role or are interested in safeguarding and utilising folk culture heritage.

 

Background

Folk culture heritage comprises tangible and intangible aspects of culture that include a broad spectrum of traditional knowledge, skills and beliefs reflected in diverse cultural manifestations. It contains cultural and universal human values fixed to a certain community or society that are transmitted from generation to generation. Folk culture heritage is dynamic and each generation may enrich it with new, innovative aspects and adapt it to changing needs, norms and values. Folk culture heritage enhances the sense of identity and belonging, and thus, it is an important factor of sustainable local and regional development and capacity building. Processes of globalisation put folk culture heritage at risk. It is crucial to take action to reduce the risk of losing it and to educate and guide decision-makers, stakeholders and the general public about the ways how to preserve, promote and utilise it in a sustainable way.

Methodology

All project partners followed the same methodology developed by the task leader, Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. The key task was to identify and collect good practices in preservation, promotion and utilisation of folk culture heritage on the basis of looking at strengths and weaknesses of each parctice. The task leader defined criteria for identifying good practices that were discussed with all partners and modified. These criteria are as followed:

  • Ethnographic criterion: the studied phenomena should be characteristic for the locality/ region. These can be either living phenomena (with a long tradition) or dead phenomena that have reappeared in a new form as a part of local tradition;
  • Cultural-historic criterion: the studied phenomenon should follow historic aspects of culture (1. traditional phenomena having existed for several generations, 2. newly introduced phenomena based on tradition which became an impulse for a new tradition such as for instance a culinary festival based on traditional dish preparation);
  • Environmental criterion: the studied phenomenon should be in harmony with the characteristic environmental features (including historic structure of settlements and the countryside) and not cause any destruction to the locality and its environment;
  • Aesthetic criterion: the studied phenomenon should follow aesthetic criteria of the local society and the period when it was established/ created;
  • Ethical criterion: good practices have to respect human rights, animal rights, dignity and morals;
  • Psychological criterion: the studied phenomenon should be a strong part of local, regional or national identity.

In addition, the typology of cultural events and phenomena to be studied was developed. Five main types of cultural events and phenomena were followed and collected in each country:

  1. Renewal and revitalisation of material objects
  2. Events and presentations of intangible cultural heritage
  3. Culinary culture (events based on local culinary or farming traditions)
  4. Events and presentations focused on traditional crafts and occupations
  5. Events and presentations focused on traditional rituals and ceremonies (calendar or family rituals).

Each partner collected and documented 15 practices that covered all five categories. The attention was paid to events and phenomena that have been initiated and organised by civic, local or regional actors, not by large national institutions. The practices have been organised into five separate files according to the typology of events and phenomena.

Lessons learned, conclusion and recommendations

Examples of good practices and methodology were discussed among the partners and invited stakeholders at national workshops in each country and at a common workshop that took place on the 8th of October 2013 at Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. Presentations of selected practices were followed by live discussions about strong and weak aspects of each practice. In total, 60 practices were selected, described and documented in photographs. Out of this number, 14 practices represented the 1st category (renewal and revitalisation of material objects), 8 practices were from the 2nd category (intangible heritage), 13 practices from the 3rd category (culinary culture), 13 practices from the 4th category (events focused on crafts and occupations) and 12 practices from the 5th category (rituals).

From the workshops that aimed at validating the selection of good practices and the methodology, several key messages can be defined:

  1. When taking into account practices utilising folk culture heritage, no norm can prescribe what is good or bad. It is not possible to clearly identify purely good or purely bad practices. Each practice contains a number of good and bad aspects. If strong and postitive aspects prevail, then the practice can be considered a good practice with a potential to become better if bad aspects are limited.
  2. A commercial character of most practices (side activities such as markets with stands selling commercial goods that have no relation to the event or too many cultural programmes of diverse genres) leads to a danger that the key message of the folk culture heritage oriented event or phenomenon will be minimised, lost and unrecognisable by the general public. However, although commercial aspects can be considered weak and negative aspects of each practice, it is understandable that without them it would be impossible to organise any event if there are no (or limited) support and funding opportunities from the side of local, regional and state institutions or private donors.
  3. Folk culture heritage is „like football“: everyone understands it, but in reality there are only a few people that have a deep knowledge and understanding of it. Formal and informal education at all levels is the key to prepare the people that play a role in applying knowledge on folk culture heriatge in everyday practice in line with the UNESCO recommendations as well as with the particular social reality.
  4. In order to manage preservation, promotion and utilisation of folk culture heritage, it is strongly recommended to create local and regional partnerships between decision-makers, professionals, stakeholders and individuals. Only these partnerships have a chance to tackle local challenges.
  5. Promotion of folk culture heritage events and phenomena is underestimated. It is often done mainly at the local level and only promotes the activity itself without stressing the importance of the cultural value of the activity. It is crucial to improve the promotion of each folk culture heritage activity and to emphasise the fact that even a small local practice based on traditional culture contributes to national and universal values of world culture heritage.

Preservation, promotion and utilisation of folk culture heritage is vital to sustaining sense of identity and cohesion of each local community. The present life of local communities is influenced and threatened by numerous processes of globalisation. As a result, an increasing number of communities strengthen their efforts to safeguard and revitalise their local traditions. In order to preserve rich cultural diversity of the Central European region, it is crucial to develop and implement strategies, gathering input from and involving various stakeholders.

The project ETNOFOLK aimed at contributing to this important task. On the basis of the examples of good practices and discussions with various stakeholders, the project partners have developed a strategy with recommendations, addressing various groups of stakeholders, to ensure that folk culture traditions are preserved and passed to further generations as a source of identity, pride, creativity and innovation.