Interpret Europe: Engaging with Diversity

Jen Novotny

Sarajevo selfie

As Diverse Heritage Project Officer at the Scottish Civic Trust, I recently attended Interpret Europe’s annual conference on the theme of engaging with diversity. The conference took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, from 31 May – 3 June 2019.

People attended the conference from all over the world. I had lunch with Slovenians, coffee with Croatians, and went shopping for souvenirs with Australians and Austrians; I joined a workshop with natural history specialists from Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey; I had dinner with Hungarians, and hiked through the forest with new friends from England and Sweden.

View of Sarajevo from Mt Trebević cable car


Shopping along Kazandžije (Coppersmith) Street in Sarajevo’s Baščaršija

Shopping along Kazandžije (Coppersmith) Street in Sarajevo’s Baščaršija (old bazaar)

Sharing Stories

I presented a paper on the Sharing Stories project, which SCT co-led as part of European Heritage Days in 2018, including three different case studies of the ways in which SCT has been working with members of the community to increase the participation of under-represented groups in Doors Open Days. A full report can be read here. It was wonderful to be able to share our work with and get feedback from an audience of heritage professionals coming from so many different organisations and institutions. It is nice to know that the work we are doing in Scotland is not just meaningful to our own local communities, but of interest to people throughout the rest of the UK and Europe.

Svrzo’s House a Muslim family home

Study visits included the Desspic’s House, an Orthodox Christian family home, and the Svrzo’s House, a Muslim family home

Diverse Heritage

Devastating siege of Sarajevo in 1992-5

After the devastating siege of Sarajevo in 1992-5, impact craters from shells were not paved over – they were filled in with red resin to mark where 5 or more people died. These ‘Sarajevo roses’ are visible throughout the city and are a sobering reminder of how perilous everyday life was for Sarajevans at the time.

Sarajevo is an inspirational location to discuss diversity – its mix of traditions, religions, and ethnicities giving it a past that is both cosmopolitan and multicultural, as well as leading to traumatic conflict.

Many of the people I spoke to were – like myself – transnational; many of us now live and work in a different country than the one we were born in, bringing together many different backgrounds and experiences of cultural heritage.

Remnants of 1984 Olympic bobsleigh and luge track on Mt Trebević

Remnants of 1984 Olympic bobsleigh and luge track on Mt Trebević. The site was used as artillery positions in the 1992-5 siege of Sarajevo. The site is covered in colourful graffiti and used as a (dry) practice track, as well as by mountain bikers and walkers.

Exploring Sarajevo’s complex cultural heritage with such a lovely group of colleagues was an amazing experience. It made me think about how we talk about, define, and interpret diversity in Scotland and how we can work with other communities around the world to ensure that our shared cultural heritage is meaningful to all of us.

Dr Jen Novotny, Project Officer, Diverse Heritage