AU's Centre for Heritage Management : forming the missing link of Heritage Ecosystem

In the growing heritage awareness scenario of Ahmedabad, the Centre for Heritage Management has played a significant role in nourishing cultural forces that cultivate the legacy of the city.

Management in Heritage

April 18th, is celebrated across the world as the ‘World Heritage Day‘. This year the focus of celebration is ‘Celebrating the concept of Sustainable Tourism’. Most of us are aware of the heritage monuments or sites like The Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal of India, Christ the Redeemer of Brazil, the ruins of Machu Pichhu etc. Popular as global tourist attractions, monuments like the Eiffel Tower of Paris, the Statue of Liberty in New York and on the other hand modern engineering marvels like the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the Burj Khalifa of Dubai also garner huge inflow of tourists. On the other hand is India, a treasure chest of heritage monuments and sites – both natural and cultural – each having its own unique place in existence, but not many of these are on the list of a globe-trotting tourist.

The bulk of reasons for this are – ease of access, site management, tourist convenience facilities, people management infrastructure – broadly various aspects that can be clubbed under ‘Management’.

centre for heritage management, Ahmedabad University
Centre for Heritage Management. Image Source : chm.ahduni.edu.in

To build capacities in this aspect, motivated professionals, sensitive to the cause of heritage are needed to be placed in the heritage ecosystem of the country. Established in 2011, Centre for Heritage Management  at Ahmedabad University is an educational initiative to serve this purpose. Through its unique pedagogy that combines Management Insights, Heritage Study and Skills Development it provides academic as well as hands-on experiential learning to the incumbents. The centre also understands the significance of aspects of Government Stake Holding and Policy Making – which are imperative to the creation of a sustainable Heritage ecosystem – and has in place its Research, Consultancy and Outreach programmes to influence them systematically.

Ahmedabad as ‘World Heritage City’

With emerging sky-scraping structures, humongous mall spaces and rapid industrialisation, Ahmedabad indeed shows signs of a mega city today, but on the other hand – with 36 ASI protected sites – Ahmedabad  is also clamouring to be called the first heritage city of India soon, as India’s official entry for the title of UNESCO’s World Heritage City. Ahmedabad has over 600 pols that flaunt Gujarati architecture and numerous Mughal mosques and minarets. These, coupled with Ahmedabad’s unique blend of cultural infrastructure and ancient town planning, amplify its chances of attaining this title.

World Heritage City is a status conferred upon a select number of cities, from across the world that have the presence of Heritage sites as well as a contemporary ecosystem that binds current generation with the cultural and natural heritage. This status leads to humongous international tourism and can boost the local economy by leaps and bounds.

world heritage city ahmedabad, centre for heritage management, Ahmedabad university

Beyond ruins, relics and primitive sites, heritage assets are also in the intangible elements like language and crafts, that need to thrive in each citizen sustainably. The system lacks a professional approach and passionate delegates who can raise the culture industry up to international standards, like in business management and arts. To fill this gap, the Centre for Heritage Management of Ahmedabad University has brought a one-of-a-kind course with modules where aspirants can engage in activities that amplify the sustainability of our culture through management concepts.

The PG Programme at Centre for Heritage Management

To know more about this institute and its activities, we met the Founder-Director of CHM, Debashish Nayak, who shared, “Did you know that there are more than 12,000 heritage buildings in Ahmedabad, out of which around 3000 are already mentioned within the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation website? Did you know that there are more than 400 Indus Valley Civilisation sites that have been excavated within Gujarat? My vision while forming CHM was about more than just magnifying the archaeological value of historical figures. I didn’t want them to just remain as ancient sites that were once part of history. I wanted to build a team that makes these primordial things a part of the layman’s milieu.”

Nayak is a significant reason why Ahmedabad contains a heritage cell within its municipality department today, and also why the city has carried on a Heritage Walk since the past 20 years. He was so happy to share with us that the placement department of the Masters of Management Studies received a call from the Indian President’s office. This are good signs. The cultural parts of the city are maximally handled by government bodies and is handled by incumbents who may not be educated in heritage conservation and management. The alumni of CHM are culturally capable units that have been trained to build a sustainable model where modernism can invent new methods, while uplifting the city’s heritage value. It will be heartening to see young talent working cohesively with Government Departments to enhance the value in Heritage Management. Niharika Shah, a student of the first batch, who also serves as the Director of prestigious Kanoria Gallery of Arts in Ahmedabad has to say this, “Having worked closely with artists, I could see the strong connection between heritage & contemporary arts. I joined the course to explore this connection.”

Quintessentially offbeat topics concerning historical monuments have today become part of the mainstream narrative in every newspaper. People have started accepting heritage as a part of their lives. In this new dynamic of an interconnected world, cultural diversity is being seen from a fresh perspective – of being a source of resilience and development for the native culture.

CHM provides an opportunity to make culture a part of your career now. The Institute will be accepting applications for the second batch of skill development courses in Heritage Management, from April onwards. and the course is suppose to commence from July 24th this year. Their methods of experiential learning, volunteering and thesis are unique. As responsible citizens who want to preserve and value the rich heritage of our composite culture, becoming a part of CHM is certainly one positive step towards it. This also opens up new vistas of career opportunities in the Culture and Heritage sector, which is on rise across the globe.

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