Making money from our rich monuments

Cyprus is not alone in investing next to nothing in cultural heritage conservation. It is paradoxical that countries with the longest ancient histories – with probably the richest and most impressive archaeological and other monuments – pursue ' development ' policies and budget allocations which put culture way down the list of priorities.

It is said that monuments are not a ' productive sector '. Historical monuments and ruins from our past are invaluable, cannot be replaced, relocated, removed or reconstructed. Still, very little money is invested in heritage conservation. A recent Report by the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) confirms this apparent anomaly.

A recent World Bank Report on the financial neglect of monuments and heritage in general, coined the term ' client crisis ' to draw attention to the same issue. When money is not channeled to monuments, likewise monuments do not generate any money.
Heritage and Economy

Money and monuments have a complex and elusive relationship which becomes far more awkward by the approach and practices pursued by public authorities at various levels, which, in their sincere pursuit of high science and scholarly knowledge, divorce monuments from the hard realities of public policy and market economics.

Proactively, economists have developed a keen interest in heritage and culture that goes beyond the traditional attachment to value as an outcome of quantity focusing equally on the money value of quality. More than this, economists have succeeded in developing methods of capturing money flows created by conservation investment to support financial policies for sustainable heritage conservation.

Two principles

The early economic studies of important heritage projects undertaken mainly by the World Bank (City of Split, Croatia, Fez Medina,

Morocco, Petra in Jordan, Bulgarian Christian Monasteries, etc.) have produced impressive results strengthening the methodologies for the valuation and monetisation of benefits of heritage conservation helping to justify significant increases in conservation investment as a result.

These and many other later studies have established two important principles that underpin much of the contributions economists make in heritage conservation.

First, the historical and scientific value of monuments is too abstract to capture the attention of public policy makers as an economic priority. Second, to mobilise funds for conservation, economists propose a social approach to value based on the tangible benefits of conservation accruing to real people as citizens, residents, visitors, consumers, producers or scholars. Value can only exist in a social context.

Many heritage specialists of various backgrounds, however, continue to question whether historical monuments and cultural areas can be said to have a ' market ', or even if they are meant to have a ' market '.

Economists are quick to clarify that what they mean by ' market ' is all of us who derive satisfaction from conservation, similar to the satisfaction we enjoy when consuming something we value and spend money; who enjoy the pleasure of the sight and knowledge of the history of a monument; who are enriched by the experience of a visit to a monument.

This is essentially what economists call the ' services ' of a monument. It is true that monuments are of various types, with different potential relationships with the market. A castle is different from a museum in this sense. What they have in common, which is of particular interest, is their powerful role in urban regeneration, employment growth and municipal finance.

A particular brand of economic studies applied to the field of heritage, collectively known as impact studies, specifically popular with decision-makers responsible for budget expenditure allocations, measure with considerable success the income and employment benefits of heritage conservation investment.

The recent studies reported by David Throsby of the Old Bazaar of Skopje and the Old Town of Tbilisi in Georgia illustrate well how impact studiers can be used to generate solid evidence for the diverse regeneration impacts arising from investment in heritage areas.

Job creation

Let us take a look at the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Until recently it was talked about mainly in connection with the impressive architecture of Frank Gehry. An economist at the University of Bilbao, Beatriz Plaza, reported that the museum paid for itself in nine years — a world record.

When it opened, tourism increased immediately. The number of hotel stays rose by about 62,000 a month producing an additional 740,000 hotel stays a year.

The museum has generated about 1,000 jobs and support 4,500 more in occupations such as translation, library services, and handicrafts. It has increased the demand for knowledge of foreign languages, tourism packaging, advertising, marketing, film production and business management.

As we speak, there are serious studies under way for the development of Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, a 12,000sq.m museum with 4,000sq.m of exhibition space.

Scenarios have been worked out for the expected number of visitors, the consequent revenues and the part of the operating costs they will cover. It is estimated that visitors will be about 500,000 yearly likely to generate about €6.5 million from museum operations.

The expected economic impact of Guggenheim Helsinki in terms of spending in the City of Helsinki will be significant likely to increase by €4.0 million yearly while visitors to Finland extending their stay as a result of the new museum will generate an additional €2.9 million annually.

Monuments and money is becoming a new linkage in the economics of heritage and this synergy promises to be an even more important agent of city regeneration with far reaching impacts on urban as well as cultural development.

At home now, the development of the New Archaeological Museum in Nicosia, much needed for both economic and cultural reasons, is being abortively debated in the corridors of various departments for years without any real willingness to involve the private sector and its interests in the development process. Without money there will be no museum and, for the same reason, without a design that makes financial sense money will not be forthcoming, leaving Nicosia and our cultural education and competitive strength with yet another minus.

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