RE-designing Access to Cultural Heritage for a wider participation in preservation, (re-)use and management of European culture (REACH)


European Commision − Horizon 2020


€ 1,499,981.88

Value to Coventry University

€ 478,607.20

Project team

Neil Forbes, Tim Hammerton, Silvana Colella, Marie-Louise Crawley, Elaine O’Sullivan, Rosa Cisneros.


Coventry University, UK − Neil Forbes (Coordinator)
Promoter S.r.l., IT − Antonella Fresa
Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, DE − Monika Hagedorn-Saupe
Eotvos Lorand Tudomanyegyetem, HU − Gábor Sonkoly
Universidad de Granada, ES − José María Martín Civantos
Univerzita Karlova, CZ − Luďa Klusáková
Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico, IT − Mauro Fazio

Duration of project

1 November 2017−31 December 2020

EU logoREACH logo

Project overview

The first actions of the REACH project were to evaluate the results of prior projects, and from them identify themes, strong practices, transferable elements or noticeable gaps. Ultimately, 128 cases of good practice were recorded, providing a comprehensive list of participatory and resilient cultural heritage (CH) practices. Having considered these projects, the findings informed the development of a conceptual framework and, together with content from the REACH conference in Budapest, a series of participatory models were developed, to be tested by the four participatory pilots (Minority, Institutional, Rural and Small towns' heritage). In parallel, workshops that addressed the underpinning themes of management, (re-)use and preservation of CH, as well as resilient CH, were held to gather perspectives from a broad range of stakeholders, with their results also used to refine the project’s participatory models.

Throughout the project, good practice cases continued to be assessed, some of which were refined to become best practice case studies. Evaluation of activity took place to identify evidence of resilience in CH, comparing theory and practice, and ultimately making a series of recommendations. Given the project’s remit to develop and test participatory models, further evaluation took place that compared the pilots, and ultimately identified a number of common CH related participatory themes, which were again outlined as a series of recommendation for use by other interested parties. The REACH project also highlighted the ways in which the roles that women have played in CH, and society, have often been overlooked.

Details of all strands of its work were shared via the REACH website,, its blog and through multiple social media channels, ensuring that findings and results were disseminated to the network that had continually grown. The website was also populated during this time to include a series of resources, tools and policy papers, as well as REACH good practice cases, to provide a base for CH sector-wide collaboration.

In addition to, the project team took its requirements as a social platform seriously. With the remit to bring together relevant heritage stakeholders from research communities, SMEs, heritage practitioners of all kinds, as well as policy-makers, to participate in a symposium in Brussels and collective video call; the main objective being to establish a coordination structure that would strengthen the voice of the CH community and provide a place to share results and best practices, and also to maintain the work and impact of projects after they have ended.

Project objectives

The REACH project was based on the proposition that cultural heritage (CH) plays an important role in contributing to social integration in Europe, and that a more detailed picture of the range, type and impact of research and participatory research methodologies, would further enhance their potential for social good. The REACH project aimed to establish a social platform as a sustainable space for collaboration by a wide-ranging network, all with a stake in research and practice in the field of culture and CH.

The project was to explore top-down, bottom-up, participatory heritage and governance approaches, underpinned by the concept of resilient CH − the ability to adapt to a disturbance − and also the recognition of female roles within CH, as these have traditionally been overlooked.

Impact statement

In terms of successful participatory approaches, the impact that each of the REACH pilots had on the communities that they have worked with, and the wider CH sector, is evident through changes in attitudes and practice. The Minority heritage pilot has undertaken important social and political work, bringing together stakeholders, not only in Budapest but also in deprived rural areas of Hungary; in so doing, the pilot has reduced social isolation and increased the profile of Roma heritage. New participatory partnerships were brokered, forming a foundation for future collaborations that reach beyond the scope of the project, with the potential for future exchanges, collaborative educational programmes and research projects.

The Institutional heritage pilot took place at a time when museums were actively self-critiquing their role and actively moving away from the image of storehouses of collective ‘Memory’ and ‘History’ to become vibrant meeting-places for intergenerational, cross-cultural dialogue. Pilot museums are now including community expertise – heritage from below – in their collections. It is clear that the interpersonal exchanges between stakeholders, as well as the external critical analysis, has given valuable support to museum practitioners, encouraging new participatory ideas when making new exhibitions, including co-creation, or indeed, co-curation.

Rural heritage pilot activities in Spain, oriented towards the irrigator communities and the traditional irrigation systems, have resulted in an increase of acknowledgment and awareness of their importance from a cultural, environmental, social and agronomic point of view. Changes in attitudes of those responsible involved the pilot in hydrological planning for the new programme (2021−2027). The work in Andalusia has built on creating and sustaining relationships with the various irrigation communities, empowering them through work on several local community agrarian and environmental policies, supporting them through meetings with rural federations, policy makers and lobbying both academics and administrators to ensure that rural areas are given a higher political focus and status.

The Small towns’ heritage pilot evidenced demonstrable impact in the field of CH research and formal education, as its results were built upon by the KREAS project that populated an online database and interactive map of resilient places in Central Europe; this then fed into Higher Education programmes.

The REACH team understood the need to bring CH stakeholders together to create an environment for sharing knowledge and expertise. The successful symposium and sector-wide consultation brought consensus that a research CH cluster was needed, with a Position Paper formally sent to the European Commission. Meetings with significant CH stakeholders, confirmed interest in the development of a coordination structure. The ultimate objective was to support the CH research sector and to generate a unified voice, to demonstrate the importance of CH. This was a significant strand of the REACH project’s work and its initial impact was apparent through the stakeholder statements of commitment. This action would continue after the project ended.


The REACH project:

  • developed a network aggregating a wide range of stakeholders and audiences
  • carried out a consultation and lobbied the European Commission on the importance of establishing a CH research stakeholder cluster
  • delivered a programme of public encounters (workshops, symposia, conferences and meetings with local stakeholders) focusing on participatory approaches to the preservation, (re-)use, and management of CH
  • published an online portal ( and websites) to give access to a repository of resources to be exploited in research activities
  • tested REACH participatory concepts through four pilots (Minority, Institutional, Rural and Small towns’ heritage) that were of diverse natures, working with different types of communities, in different situations and political climates
  • made a series of participatory heritage recommendations
  • made a series of resilient CH recommendations
  • created a database of over a hundred CH good practices
  • published 20 deliverables/reports covering all aspects of the project’s work.

Project partners produced 10 articles and chapters. Two were by Coventry University authors:

Embedding engagement: participatory approaches to cultural heritage 

Author(s): Forbes, Neil; Colella, Silvana
Published in: SCIRES-IT, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2019, Page(s) 69−78, ISSN 2239-4303
Publisher: SCIentific RESearch and Information Technology
DOI: 10.2423/i22394303v9n1p69

Holding the Space: Choreography, Architecture and Urban Heritage 

Author(s): Crawley, Marie-Louise; Cisneros, Rosamaria Kostic
Published in: Dance Articulated, Vol 6: 1, 2020, Page(s) 45−63, ISSN 2464-2258
Publisher: NTNU Open Access Journals
DOI: 10.5324/da.v6i1.3638

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