A link between cultural heritage management and classical business strategies should be forged, and the university is the perfect place to begin this cultural transformation. If we are to think of cultural heritage management as a practice, one aspect that sets it apart from traditional business methods is a focus on ethics and human rights. There is a lot of prestige associated with business schools housed in universities (some more prestigious than others), but the programs tend to have a lackluster focus on ethics and human values. Similarities between business and cultural heritage management do indeed exist, and these similarities could be fostered in a way that is beneficial to both schools of thought.
For example, sustainability is a major concern when working with cultural heritage assets or sites, and not just in terms of the environment. Cultural heritage sites and assets are not meant to make a profit, but they can have better luck if they are self-sustaining. Budgets for the arts and humanities tend to be tight, so this is a key aspect to the overall success of a project. This topic can be tricky when comparing a cultural heritage site to a profit-centered site because the possible revenue streams and stakeholders differ, particularly as cultural heritage assets tend to be grant-funded. However, cultural heritage managers could stand to learn from business practices of crowd-funding and other alternative forms of fundraising to sustain and protect the cultural heritage projects.
Grassroots campaigns can be extremely effective in fostering support for a cultural heritage based project. Culture is created and legitimated through society and, if the recent debates regarding heritage and monuments are any indication, people tend to hold onto items they perceive as having history or meaning. Once an item/asset/monument/thing falls under the purview of cultural heritage, it can be hard to remove it from this rigid category. While the dogmatism of this should be questioned, popular, grassroots support can be key to implementing or creating a cultural heritage site or project. This support can be monetary – like through fundraising previously mentioned – but also requires the intangible support of legitimating the project as a marker of cultural heritage.
Ethical use and preservation of cultural heritage sites and assets is central to cultural heritage management training, and this concept should be extended into business school. Part of this includes preserving cultural heritage for future generations – one aspect of sustainability. Since cultural heritage sites and assets can be tangible, intangible, physical, or digital, each site requires a sustainability plan that is different from the next. However, these practices should be baked into business practices as well. Instead of only thinking about the end of the upcoming fiscal quarter and investors more immediate returns, traditional businesses could adapt a longer term plan that is sustainable and ethical. Perhaps in this way there could be a cohesion instead of tension between traditional business methods and cultural heritage management.
We spend considerable time in CHI working with digital tools and on tangible projects, but this year we are also spending time discussing what it means to manage digital heritage projects/products. Creating digital projects is only one part of the grand scheme. We must also consider best practices when it comes to managing cultural heritage projects and assets, which includes digital projects. As it stands, universities separate business management practices from cultural heritage management, which is especially problematic for business schools like MSU Broad where Hospitality and Tourism Management programs are an inherent part of the program. Hospitality and tourism management are too closely aligned with cultural heritage management to not have a stronger, university-led, connection forged between the two.