Ownership and Ensuring Long-term Conservation

Facebook Live Lecture (2018) “Ownership and Ensuring Long-term Conservation” – Global Collaboration Program

by Ms. Juliana Strogan (strogan.cr@gmail.com)

She works as a Collection Manager and Conservator at the Norwegian Industry Workers Museum Foundation (NIA), one of the institutions managing Rjukan-Notodden World Heritage site in Norway. She is responsible for the musealization of the historical railway collection and has been designing and leading cultural development projects since her arrival. Her projects focus on capacity-building, engagement and (sustainable) development of the local communities. Growing feelings of ownership towards their heritage in different generations allows a continuous line in conservation efforts. She strongly believes that this is the best investment in the conservation of the outstanding universal values of the site and her projects have been presented in several national and international renowned conferences on the theme. She is a Heritage Conservator since 2002 and M.A. in World Heritage and Cultural Projects for Development since 2016. Passionate about the Nature-Culture links and the Sustainable Development Goals, she advocates for them 24/7.



HeritageForAll initiative would like to acknowledge, appreciate and thank Ms. Juliana Strogan for her participation, time, and this fruitful cooperation. Also, we appreciate the support and participation of the Arts and Crafts School (ACRA), the Conservation Department (Ovar Municipality, Portugal)


Hello, Welcome to the first Facebook live lecture of “Heritage for All” initiative. “Heritage for All” is exactly that, to make heritage and knowledge about it accessible to everyone. And social media is indeed the perfect channel for that, don’t you think? First, I want to thank the “Heritage for All” team for this invitation, I’m very flattered, and hope today the doors open for many more after me, to share their knowledge about heritage, its different dimensions, new perspectives and experiences.

I also want to thank Ovar Municipality because I’m visiting Portugal at the moment and we are streaming directly from the Arts and Crafts school in Ovar, where the conservation department of the municipality, known as ACRA, has its lab. Today we are here to speak about OWNERSHIP, the different dimensions of the concept, and as a feeling, how it can be the base to ensure long-term conservation of material and immaterial heritage.

My name is Juliana Strogan and I’m a World Heritage professional. Right now, I’m a Collection Manager and Conservator at NIA, the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum Foundation. Under my responsibility is the collection of Rjukan Railway, the transportation system that once linked Rjukan and its fertilizers to the rest of the world. This historical railway is one of the 4 pillars of “Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site”, inscribed in the World Heritage list in 2015.

This nomination, and consequent inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, was only possible because of ownership. Not the legal form of ownership, but the kind of ownership that comes from before all the laws, and that has accompanied cultural heritage since the first times of mankind.

Ownership as Main Driver to Conservation

• Definition of ownership

So, what is ownership in the first place? “the act, state, or right of possessing something.” This is Oxford Dictionaries’ definition, but most of the others go around the same. However, if we turn into economics, in BusinessDictionary.com ownership is defined as “The ultimate and exclusive right conferred by a lawful claim or title, and subject to certain restrictions to enjoy, occupy, possess, rent, sell, use, give away, or even destroy an item of property.” This is the dimension of the western concept that we most commonly use. We can see already how dangerous for cultural heritage the use of this given powers can be. Because, since Edward B. Tylor’s definition until the ones from today, culture, and consequently cultural heritage, are always concepts linked with societal sharing, meaning that the ownership powers held by one individual (or group or company, whatever) can at the same time be violating the ownership rights of one, or most probably a group of individuals sharing a certain culture and not the same definition of the concept or the same laws. This dichotomy is very well exposed in one of the articles we shared during the last week, where Brian Noble analyses the relationship between First Nations Peoples and Canada State with regard to different ownership concepts. He calls it “Owning as belonging vs. Owning as property”.

• Ownership feelings vs. Legal Ownership (and natural path to)

Now that’s what happens when two different cultures clash over some kind of “property”. But even inside the same group this conflict can arise, when the legal ownership over an asset does not coincide with, let’s call it, the cultural ownership.

So let’s go back to Rjukan to visualize. The Rjukan Railway faced closure in 1991 and it was immediately planned to be dismantled by its legal owner: Hydro Transport. But besides the legal ownership over the transportation system, there were other owners. The ones that had an emotional link to this place. They lived and worked around the line, some were even born there, and had a very strong sense of belonging. Hearing about the destruction of their reality, of their world, was devastating and impossible to accept.

When speaking about Industrial Heritage, it’s important to introduce another concept: the one of ownership culture, something that comes from the business world. Very superficially, Ownership Culture is an organizational business model where all the employees behave as if the company was their own. Ownership feelings are encouraged as a way to promote efficiency in business. And that’s logical: if you feel as the company is yours, you will try to make better deals, you will treat clients better and you will search for more profit – and also, and ultimately – you will fight for the survival of the company (or at least its representation).

And this is exactly why we are speaking about this concept right now: because in the case of company towns, like Pullman (USA), Brexton (UK) or Rjukan in Norway, where I work, the ownership culture comes from the very beginning, it’s almost intrinsic to the local community. It can be better or worse worked by the company owning the town, but it will surely be present, as the success of the company is directly related to the quality of life of the workers and their families.

So yes, destroying a part of their now cultural heritage was not an option. Even because more than just feelings were at stake: Rjukan railway, with its electrified line and the railway ferries, used state-of-the-art materials and technology from the beginning of the 20th century, and the community even almost 100 years after was still aware of its value. The most active individuals organized and in negotiation with the legal owner, Norsk Hydro, the Rjukan Railway Foundation was created in 1996 and the legal ownership of the railway was transferred to them. Here we see the path from feelings of ownership or cultural ownership, to legal ownership, and consequent conservation of the cultural heritage.

Just to finish this story, in 2012 the Rjukan Railway Foundation was merged with the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum Foundation and in 2015 “Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage site” was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list, with the Rjukan Railway as one of the four supporting pillars of the nomination.

We analysed the case of Rjukan Railway, part of a very new world heritage site under a western community ownership, but we have many more examples from different cultures, as the Uluru rock in Australia, for example, which was handed back to its cultural owners, the indigenous peoples of the region, in 1985.

Rebuilding the Emotional Rapport to the Local Heritage.

• Losing connection to your heritage. How it happens?

• Solutions: how to reconnect.

Generation after generation, the connections to heritage can start to be weaker, results of globalization or the search for a better quality of life. If the links to the heritage are not continuously worked, the younger generations will not value their heritage as their predecessors and when it comes the time for decision making in matters that concern this heritage, they can and most probably will, choose the alternative to heritage, in the name of economic benefits or development.

And here lies one of the main issues in conservation of cultural heritage: DEVELOPMENT.

So should we stop development in the areas where cultural heritage is to conserve? NO! It was tried before…it didn’t work. Why? Because there’s a natural feature in humanity called evolution. Evolution is another name for development, and both are just another name for problem solving and the search for a better quality of life. Is it fair to prevent one group or community to search for a better quality of life in the name of some kind of heritage? to choose between one or the other? First it is not fair, second it doesn’t work! It’s like in some cases of urban planning, when the fancy architects change the walking paths in a square. People just ignore them and will continue to walk the organic paths they have always walked because they work better! Just the same, people will continue to walk to the future even if something is trying to prevent it. And then precariousness, and conflict comes. But placing culture and cultural heritage in the heart of development strategies is proven to lead to success. Sustainable development like this will not just ensure that the community thrives but will also be one step forward into intergenerational equity, meaning this that we will be providing next generations the fairness to have access and enjoy their cultural heritage while having also a god quality of life. Sounds good, isn’t it?

“Sustainable tourism, cultural and creative industries, and heritage-based urban revitalization are powerful economic subsectors that generate green employment, stimulate local development, and foster creativity.” UNESCO Office in Brasilia page. (www.unesco.org/new/en/brasilia/culture/culture-and-development/culture-in-sustainable-development/)

So, who are the decision-makers of tomorrow? The young generations of today! And how to reconnect to heritage? Education, right. We all know the answer for that, but is it education alone capable of anchoring cultural heritage in the inner selves of young individuals so deep that they in the future will never make decisions against their heritage? I don’t think so. But if we put positive experience, and most of all, emotion, together with knowledge, we will sure create feelings of ownership towards cultural heritage.

Let’s see this from another field’s point of view: Neuroeconomics

Neuroeconomics is an interdisciplinary field that studies how man takes economic decisions (today all decisions at the level of policy making or local management are, in one way or the other, economicist).


• Social factors

• Cognitive factors

• Emotional factors

• Biological neurofactors

The only factor here that we can’t work is on biology. The other 3 are actually very easy to combine with cultural heritage and work on.

First, cultural heritage is a meeting point among individuals. Culture is, as we said before, something that we share, so it’s all about creating relationships.

Second, education and capacity-building can structure a solid knowledge of what concerns certain heritage.

Third, focus in experiences and dynamics around cultural heritage can result in emotional memories that are way more anchored in our selves.

I think it’s already very clear that we are extrapolating the concept of cultural ownership.

And as to our main goal of conservation, imagine how hard is to destroy or harm something that you share with others, that you know a lot about and that gives you many good memories. Very hard, isn’t it?

So, following this line of thought, we have been implementing in Norway some projects that have been showing some very good results, and I also want you to hear about one initiative going on in Portugal, that I’m absolutely in love with, that carry’s in its form all we spoke about, even if it wasn’t design under these specific theories. As you will see, it’s intuitive, and they certainly know what they are doing:

Study Cases & Best Practices

• Jernbaneminner/Vi er RjB

• Ovar – Maio do Azulejo

Futher Reading:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: