Inspiring rural heritage: sustainable practices to protect and conserve upland landscapes and memories

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Archaeology


Europe's upland landscapes are a rich and complex heritage, born of the interaction of nature and culture over millennia. Local communities can play an active and essential role in conserving and protecting this heritage, benefitting wider society. However, current conservation measures and land-use decisions consistently fail to consider the historic dimension of upland landscapes and underestimate the contribution of local practitioners in sustaining their environment through active use. IRIS is a response to these concerns, and to the threats to upland landscapes from depopulation, abandonment, the loss of traditional skills and land use change driven by the climate emergency and economic trends.

IRIS aims to advance the socially and environmentally sustainable conservation, protection and use of upland landscapes. The project will research and develop a 'living heritage' approach to conservation, promoting the 'protection through use' of upland environments and adjacent rural areas. Through intensive and participatory research in five countries (Spain, France, Italy, Montenegro, the UK) and wider European research and knowledge exchange, IRIS will:

* Demonstrate how knowledge of historical processes and land use practices supports the conservation and sustainable development of upland landscapes;
* Define a 'living heritage' approach to conservation and best practices through which local stakeholders can embed in their cultural values, local expertise and traditions;
* Support collaboration among local institutions and communities and realise effective and diverse participation in the conservation, protection, sustainable development and use of upland landscapes;
* Provide local and European policy makers with new tools that will enable them to: (a) take into account the historical dimension of rural places, and; (b) implement a 'living heritage' approach to decision-making;
* Create a new research framework that advances knowledge of upland cultural heritage and its wider social and environmental values and benefits;
* Communicate and disseminate the research results at local, European and wider international levels.

Key words: living rural heritage, uplands, agro-forestry-pastoral practices, cultural memory, participation


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Description Durham University/GEODE UMR5602 (CNRS and UTJ2), Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès (GEODE) IRIS collaboration 
Organisation University of Toulouse
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution DU/Inherit provide a complementary UK case study and will manage tasks which involve GEODE UMR5602 (CNRS and UTJ2), Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès (GEODE).
Collaborator Contribution GEODE UMR5602 (CNRS and UTJ2), Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès (GEODE) provide the French case study for the IRIS project and manage tasks.
Impact Too early in the project
Start Year 2020
Description Durham University/Genoa University IRIS collaboration 
Organisation University of Genoa
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Durham/Inherit part of the IRIS project is defined by the ERC application and includes management of some tasks and the development of a UK case study in the Cheviots on the Scottish-English border.
Collaborator Contribution UoGenoa is one of the JPICH partners for the IRIS project
Impact Too early in the project
Start Year 2020
Description Durham University/Granada University IRIS collaboration 
Organisation University of Granada
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Durham University/Inherit will manage elements of the IRIS project undertaken by Granada University and provide a complementary case study
Collaborator Contribution Granada University will undertake a Spanish case study as part of the IRIS project
Impact Too early in the project
Start Year 2020
Description Durham University/INHERIT (York Archaeological Trust) IRIS collaboration 
Organisation York Archaeological Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Briefly, we will all contribute time and effort to the IRIS project. However, the project is in a very early stage at present.
Collaborator Contribution The project is at an early stage at present
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020