Buildings archaeologists from MOLA record the interior of the Regent's Crescent ice house (c) MOLA

Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital

Dr Sadie Watson & Dr Emma Dwyer
16.11.2021

We’re excited to be part of a team leading important research that will help guide decisions on culture and heritage. This is responding to a call from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on how to best assess the value of culture and heritage assets, with the Culture and Heritage Capital Framework, published January 2021.

The DCMS are developing a consistent approach, using data, research and guidance to help organisations better include the value of culture and heritage in decision making. This is similar to existing frameworks used by DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) for natural assets such as landscapes and rivers, as well as how other services such as criminal justice or transport are assessed to ensure public money is being well spent.

This approach goes past the standard measures of value such as GDP and job creation to look at the value of culture and heritage to the public. DCMS launched the programme in January 2021 with the publication of their Culture and Heritage Capital Framework and are now looking to assess some of the key methodological questions.

How does this involve archaeology?

To produce the necessary guidance to help the sector there are many interesting but difficult questions to consider. DCMS are therefore asking the research team to identify the main gaps in current research and information, assess what questions should be put forward for future research, and recommend how the questions can be taken forward and answered.

The main challenge for us as archaeologists is to define what culture and heritage assets are, and then to determine the various values and benefits that flow from these assets. For example, what values can we place on an historic monument such as a prehistoric stone circle? Is its main value around building knowledge or is it more valuable as a place to visit and experience? And equally what happens to its value if it is ploughed or excavated during development? The multidisciplinary nature of this project allows heritage science to be brought together with economics to understand how we value these assets within a culture and heritage capital framework

We must also then look at these values from all angles, asking questions such as:

  • How does the value of an asset change over time?
  • How does the condition of an asset affect its value?
  • Does the value of an asset relate very specifically to a particular audience or interest group?
  • Should we include digital assets, such as online archives or LIDAR data?
  • How should we define the relationship between natural capital and culture and heritage capital?

What is MOLA doing?

Dr Emma Dwyer and Dr Sadie Watson are taking joint Co-Investigator roles, with specific research expertise and input provided by Dr Lara Gonzalez Carretero and Dr Rebecca Reynolds who will be Research Associates. Emma will lead the MOLA team, with Lara considering the heritage science aspect of the project and thinking about how decay and loss might impact value. Meanwhile, Rebecca will identify datasets that can contribute to better understanding heritage value associated with digital assets. Sadie’s UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship on public benefit from archaeology will also inform, and benefit from, the Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital project.

About the Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital research team

Co-funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the 6-month scoping study brings together a cross-disciplinary team of economists, heritage science and archaeology researchers. The team is led by a humanities and design scholar Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Senior Research Fellow at UAL Social Design Institute; working with a research team from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) including Dr Sadie Watson and Dr Emma Dwyer, as well as Prof Diane Coyle, Cambridge University, Prof Patrizia Riganti, University of Glasgow and Dr Ricky Lawton, the consultancy Symetrica-Jacobs.

The Team will work with the international Advisory Group comprising world-leading experts across the disciplines and sectors most pertinent to the scoping study and including cultural and environmental economics. Partners who have officially confirmed their support include: National Trust, Derby Museums, BBC, Creative Scotland, Creative England and the Creative Industries Federation, British Library, Crafts Council, BFI and Nesta’s Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and International Scientific Committee on the Economics of Conservation (ISCEC). More information on the project can be found in the Culture and Heritage Capital Portal.

  • Research

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