Collaborative and experiential learning has been at the core of academic philosophy of the Masters programme in Heritage Management at Ahmedabad University. Since the beginning, one of the core integrated heritage learning module takes place in a community context and some of the practicum and theses works so far have also been connected to this. Drawing upon the past three years of experience of running the Masters programme, the Centre for Heritage Management has conceptualized a ‘Heritage Learning Lab’ (HLL) effective from the academic year 2018-19.
HLL is conceptualized as a process of collaborative learning – in partnership with a specific community (represented through a local organization) and contributing in the specific context to integrate heritage with community development. In practice, each HLL site may have different needs and modalities but essentially all of them will contribute in learning of our students while the students contribute back to the heritage related planning and development in the community/context. In between the two goals, there may be a range of activities and initiatives that the local partner and the centre/university may organize with each other’s support.
The first pilot of HLL has begun in Kutch – through a partnership with Setu Abhiyan. As a part of HLL in Kutch, we are engaged in helping a few village councils to document their heritage resources and find ways of integrating the heritage resources into their development plans. At the moment, some graduates are also engaged in this process. The very idea of HLL and the potential partnership with Setu actually began a few years back with the first practicum pursued by then student Ms. Leora Pezarkar in some of the villages in Kutch. Her practicum works, combined with guidance from our visiting faculty Ms. Sushma Iyengar and Setu Abhiyan, we are able to formally establish the HLL initiative.
A workshop on key concepts and documentation skills for preparing bio-cultural register was conducted at Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University from 27 to 31 October 2018. 20 participants from four village panchayats in Kutch, along with staff from Setu participated in the workshop. The aim of the workshop was to enable and facilitate the village representatives and Setu staff to be able to identify and document their bio-cultural heritage. The workshop focused on concepts of nature-culture relationship, cultural and community identity and heritage along with documentation skills and techniques.
Figure 1: Khimji Bhai, workshop participant, talking about the cultural relationship with village ponds and different soils.
The workshop was jointly organised by Ahmedabad University, Centre for Heritage Management and Setu– an organisation working on local governance in Kutch. The workshop was a part of a pilot initiative under the Heritage Learning Lab (HLL) at Ahmedabad University as well as the Setu Learning Lab (SLL).
Figure 2: Mr Vijay Ramchandani and participants discussing the concepts of heritage during the workshop.
HLL is conceptualised as a way of collaborative learning with communities, through which the faculty and students from Ahmedabad University will engage in research and learning of community heritage while also contributing back to the community in identifying, documenting and managing their diverse heritage resources. The lab has begun from this academic year, and the collaboration with Setu is its first pilot initiative. There is a plan to initiate two more such heritage learning labs across rural and urban communities nearby Ahmedabad within this academic year.
Vijay Ramchandani and Leora Pezarkar, both graduates of the Masters in Heritage Management from Ahmedabad University and representing HLL and SLL respectively, were the key facilitators for the workshop. The workshop was conducted mostly in Gujarati.
Second HLL to be announced soon
The second HLL site to be announced is the city of Ahmedabad, in collaboration with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. This is partly already in existence since Ahmedabad is always our home base and various academic projects have already taken up various heritage issues in Ahmedabad. With a formal announcement of HLL in Ahmedabad, we hope to formally give back to the city proposals from our learning experience.