The Centre for Heritage Management at Ahmedabad University organised the first edition of its annual international heritage management conference series, marking the graduation of its first batch of students of Masters of Management Studies – Heritage Management, as well as welcoming a new group of students.
The discourses and practices on ‘heritage’ are significantly broadened in recent decades, leading towards the holistic understanding of heritage idea and the emerging approaches of heritage management, than just the mere documentation and preservation of heritage. We are at a promising juncture where heritage is no longer confined only to history or material or monuments or unique artefacts, but it is equally about livelihoods, sustainability, social development, innovation, and so on. There is furthermore opportunities for cross-disciplinary research and practice tools that may be relevant to making sense of rich and diverse heritage that we have. Yet, there are much more than we have to learn and master, which is possible only through dialogues, discussion, debates, and sharing of lessons from different contexts.
The conference was a good platform for educational institutions on heritage studies and heritage management, organizations working on different heritage sectors, agencies supporting the cause of heritage research and management, heritage related entrepreneurs, academicians and researchers concerned with the field of heritage, students with interest in heritage, individuals working in different capacities in the heritage sector and government departments & urban local bodies dealing with heritage in their frameworks.
All the abstracts received for the conference were blind reviewed by the scientific committee comprising of academicians and practitioners from around the world. Out of around 100 abstracts received, around 55 were selected to be presented in the conference under the following thematic sessions:
The authors presenting at this conference included academicians, researchers, professionals and students from different parts of the country and abroad – USA, UK, Portugal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The graduating students also presented their theses under relevant themes.
The conference started with the welcome address by Professor Neel Kamal Chapagain. Introducing the conference and its context to the delegates, he positioned the conference as a third academic milestone for the Centre, following the launch of the Master's programme in Heritage Management as first, and the launch of the Journal of Heritage Management last year as the second. Mr Debashish Nayak, Director of the Centre wished that the academic programmes also learn from Ahmedabad’s experience of going through the World Heritage nomination.
In his inaugural address, Professor Pankaj Chandra, Vice-Chancellor, Ahmedabad University emphasized that the Centre has been active in achieving these academic milestones and reminded the team to stay on the task. He also highlighted that getting the tag of World Heritage City is an opportunity to build linkages between various aspects of the city and its heritage; and that the graduates of University’s Master in Heritage Management programme can be part of that process.
The keynote speaker Professor Amareswar Galla (Chief Curator, Amaravathi Heritage Town, AP Executive Director, International Institute for Inclusive Museum, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia) advocated for a deep and reflexive heritage education in India and shared the need of more such heritage management programmes looking at the scale of the issue in country. He also endorsed the evidence-based research approach and thus the need for decolonizing of some practices. He applauded the academic programme in Heritage Management and emphasized that there should be more of such interdisciplinary programmes in India. The inaugural function concluded with a vote of thanks by the Conference Coordinator, Mr Vijay Ramchandani, Senior Executive for academic supports and research projects at the Centre, who is also a graduate of the Masters in Heritage Management programme.
Each day ended with a plenary session where the session chairs presented the summary of all the parallel presentations and opened the floor for further discussions. On day two, a special plenary was organized to discuss the UNESCO World Heritage City Nomination of Ahmedabad was discussed. The experts' panel included Professor Amareswar Galla, Rohit Jigyasu, President ICOMOS India, Ashoke Chatterjee, Advisor, Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University, Debashish Nayak, Director, Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University and Mr PKV Nair, Deputy General Manager, Heritage Cell, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The discussion focused on the process of getting the coveted tag, challenges and opportunities for the urban local body, awareness among and participation of citizens of Ahmedabad in truly making it a World Heritage City.
The conference concluding function included the plenary session featuring the highlights of the technical sessions on that day. Then, an overall concluding plenary was held in which the panellists were students (representatives from the incoming batch, running batch and graduating batch of Masters programme students), presenters, audience and Professor Amareswar Galla. The valedictory session followed the plenary, with the valedictory address by Prof. Nalini Thakur, retired Professor, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. Her topic of address was ‘The holistic and integrated model for heritage protection and management realised for imparting of conservation education in the Indian context.’ Professor Thakur shared her academic and professional journey in India leading to the establishment of the first Architectural Conservation Programme and holistic approaches to heritage conservation.
In his closing remarks, Professor Devanath Tirupati, Dean Amrut Mody School of Management, Ahmedabad University thanked the delegates for participating and appreciated such encouragement. He emphasized that the conference should be continued every year and that the outreach needed to be further into many other disciplines and stakeholders. The conference concluded with an appreciation to the CHM staff and students by Professor Neel Kamal Chapagain, the conference chair; who emphasized that the conference could not have been possible without the ownership and active involvement of students of the Master's programme in Heritage Management.
A pre-conference proceeding was available at the time of the conference, which included all the abstracts of presentations. There will be post-conference proceedings in the form of an edited volume which will feature the outcomes of different thematic sessions as well as full papers submitted by the presenters. The theme and dates for the next edition of the conference will be announced sometime in September/October 2017.