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  • Writer's pictureThe Future is Heritage

Interview with the authors of 'Heritage for Young Professionals: Call to Joint Action'

Following the European Year of Youth a group of young heritage professionals felt inspired to write Heritage for Young Professionals - A call to joint action, published in March by the Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg. This document highlights some difficult aspects young people face while working and/or volunteering in the heritage sector. Based on the challenges, the authors propose five calls for action in this field. The Future is Heritage-team interviewed the authors.

Would you like to read the publication? Heritage for Young Professionals is available online in the library of the Brandenburgische Technische Universität. Click on the button below.

Heritage for Young Professionals - A call to joint action highlights five challenges in the following areas relating to the European heritage sector: Heritage as a profession, unemployment and lack of financial security,volunteering, representation, and mobility. For each of these challenges, the authors propose a call for action. Among the authors of the document, we find several participants of the Future is Heritage Summit 2022. Following-up on the publication in March, we asked the authors for a few words. Meetali Gupta, a research assistant in the Graduiertenkolleg of faculty 6, Brandenburgische Technische Universität. Jana Žarković, Curatorial Assistant at MWNF (Museum With No Frontiers) and Multimedia Coordinator at YIHR (Youth Initiative for Human Rights) Serbia. Vibhuti Yadav, MA Student at Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus. Inês de Carvalho Costa, Ph.D. Candidate of Heritage Studies at FLUP, Integrated Researcher at CITCEM, FCT Fellow (Portugal), and co-founder of the HeritaGeeks.

Why did the authors feel inspired to write Heritage for Young Professionals?

Meetali: ‘Most authors of the publication are young professionals in the field of heritage struggling to establish themselves. Having an academic background in aspects related to heritage, most of us have been actively volunteering for multiple heritage organisations for quite some time. Some of us are still in academia because of lack of paid opportunities in the field. We have also been attending heritage related conferences held in different parts of Europe by various NGOs and other institutions. Despite coming from different countries within Europe, all of us were able to relate to each other on one common aspect: ‘we all are struggling in the field and are uneased by the same things.’ As passionate individuals hoping to make a change in the existing working conditions of young heritage professionals, we decided to voice our opinion through this publication. It was this will and hope to improve the situation that inspired us to come forward for this effort.’ – Meetali Gupta

Jana: ‘It was because the problems were quite apparent, sort of an elephant in the room. When you get a chance to meet other young professionals from across the globe you start to see a pattern, in which young professionals within the creative and cultural sectors are all prone to burnout, stress and disappointment, even before acquiring a stable and secure job. With that in mind, the sentiment of competition further diminishes the will for cooperation and negotiations, creating an even more toxic environment among young professionals in the heritage field, all in the hopes of providing themselves with the fundamental conditions of living.’ - Jana Žarković

Vibhuti: ‘The problems mentioned above are making the heritage sector extremely unsustainable. We also feel the need to address the current narrative and consider that the young professionals in our field are no longer people who are merely volunteering in the heritage sector due to their interest and work in a separate sector for their income.’ - Vibhuti Yadav

What do you as a group of young heritage professionals hope to achieve with this call for joint action?

Meetali: ‘As emerging professionals, we understand the struggles and challenges that the field faces but more than that we are better equipped to share the struggles of young emerging professionals like ourselves. We have tried to highlight some issues which we understand can be solved when acknowledged. The main aim of this effort is thus, first and foremost to raise awareness about the struggles of young heritage professionals and to be heard. We hope established organisations and entities would support us and try to make some changes in their methods of working and decision making by including young voices. We aspire to make the sector sustainable for the generations to come, and for the future of the heritage profession.’ - Meetali Gupta

Jana: ‘The goal is to primarily raise awareness of the issues which young professionals are faced with, along with suggestions on how these problems could be approached and, hopefully, resolved. The issues addressed in the joint call for action are the fundamental problems the sector is facing in regard to young professionals struggling within the heritage field. From my perspective, this call for action was created to ensure other young heritage professionals around the world that they are not alone, their voices matter and that, when joined together, we can raise our points and call on organisations and institutions to hear us, acknowledge us and include us in decision making processes which not only define our own futures, but the future of the sector itself.’ - Jana Žarković.

If you could say one thing to all young professionals working in the heritage sector, what would that be?

Meetali: ‘If you are struggling in the field, let me assure you, you are not alone. It is the failure of all those established professionals around you who fail to acknowledge that we are struggling, who fail to understand that being inclusive involves including us not only as volunteers or unpaid interns but as paid professionals who are treated and respected equally in the working environment.’ - Meetali Gupta

Jana: ‘My advice would be: Don’t give up, but do not settle for any opportunity just because it sounds like there is a possibility of getting hired. Do not allow yourself to get exploited under the presumption that it will pay off (one day). Volunteer how and when you feel comfortable, and enjoy the time you put into volunteering or any other extra-curricular work instead of overworking yourself in hopes of employment.’ Jana Žarković.

Inês: ‘The challenges you are facing are shared by many young professionals across the world, and even by some “established” ones. That being said, you can resort to existing networks for support. To contribute to a more self-respectful sector, you can raise awareness about these struggles and guide your future work under the principles of Human Rights. If you want an ethical sector, you can acknowledge what are your needs and boundaries, and search for opportunities accordingly. Is it worth it to do a poorly paid internship if you will have to live in precarious conditions? Is it fair for someone to ask you to volunteer to get a job if you don’t have financial stability? Do you want to represent an entity who talks about heritage democratisation and yet doesn’t pay you enough for you to have basic standards of living? In the end, you are the one who establishes what’s acceptable or not, and how you want to be treated.’ – Inês de Carvalho Costa

Vibhuti: ‘Make good connections. Connections which understand and support you in making the sector sustainable. Learn from them and most importantly, be supportive of those willing to give your struggles a voice. It is also your responsibility as an emerging (young) professional to ensure your sector is somewhere the younger generation envisions a future, which doesn’t propagate the older ideology where going in the heritage sector meant only struggle and unpaid work.’ - Vibhuti Yadav

Read more

The publication was written by Inês Costa, Jana Žarković, Meetali Gupta, Niyanta Shetye, Prarthana Narendra Hosadurga and Vibhuti Yadav, and was published in March by the Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg. Curious about the publication? You can read the entire document online.


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