Cultural Heritage Preservation and Economic Impact: Understanding the Traditional Art Market 

Erasmus University Rotterdam - Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship - Study the business of art

Caoimbhe Molly Crowe 


Topic: cultural heritage, digitalization, sustainability, COVID, 

Title: Cultural Heritage Preservation and Economic Impact: Understanding the Traditional Art Market 

Cultural Heritage: Tangible and Intangible Assets

To begin with the question of what cultural heritage is we must understand that this is a broad term for tangible heritage such as archeological findings, buildings, and educational platforms such as museums and archives that display works of art. On the other hand, we aim to preserve intangibles that shape and form a community such as inheritances and traditions that come with knowledge and skillsets passed down to a younger generation as well as the natural heritage that shapes our landscapes and delivers natural resources. 

The Role of Organizations and Policies in Preserving National Identity

The main role why we require organizations such as UNESCO, committees, and governmental policies is for managing, creating, and preserving a sense of national identity that encourages respect for other cultures in order to help cultural diversity. The aim is to foster an understanding of the past and teach these aesthetics and inherited outstanding values to humanity to a younger generation around the world.

Economic Value of Cultural Heritage: Tourism and Local Communities

In an economic sense, we understand cultural heritage to be a public and experience good that in some cases displays a high fixed cost and relatively low marginal cost in preservation and education. This can be supported by fees, subsidies, donations, and governmental policies that create regulations for a cultural market. A well-preserved heritage site can be an attraction for an international audience that requires a given infrastructure for travel and hospitality. Tourism and local visitors to a place create welfare for a community and location. Travel stakeholders and educational institutions can create a spillover in the economy and encourage a creative industry to grow. 

“Cultural tourism is a type of tourism activity in which the visitor's essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/ products in a tourism destination.” (Richards (2018) 

Digital Technology: Opportunities and Challenges for Preservation

In our digital world, the role of social media in rural areas has an impact on visibility as more rural sites are being promoted, resulting in the involvement of a local community. As well as demonstrate a negative effect on the disregard of socio-cultural value to the host community and landscape.

Governmental policies and regulations are necessary in order to preserve what otherwise would be lost. In some cases, we learn that popular attractions not only create a livelihood for a community but over-tourism due to the capacity of a space that results in implacable damage to a location. Regulations by its nature, dual systems such as advertisement and education, price policies, availability hours, or even hard forces; fences, and security are needed to regulate a substantial audience in order to stop destruction to a location. 

With high demand, locations require staff in a cultural sector that, in my opinion, shares the responsibility to act long-term sustainable towards the well-being of the space for a well-rounded education of the guests in order to manage an optimal use of environmental resources, and respect to the socio-cultural authenticity of the host community. 

It is clear, digital information, and technology create broader awareness and audience of a space. Broad in the sense that we need to keep in mind a digital divide between the usability and accessibility of digital information platforms. Digital technology creates methods to archive cultural goods that are threatened by neglect, pollution, climate change, or war. 

Case Study: Tuvalu's Plan to Build a Digital Nation

The case of, Tuvalu, a group of nine islands and 12,000 people halfway between Australia and Hawaii, has long been a cause celebre for the risks of climate change and rising sea levels. Tuvalu has said it plans to build a digital version of itself, replicating islands and landmarks and preserving its history and culture, as rising sea levels threaten to submerge the tiny Pacific island nation. The hope this creation of a digital nation would allow Tuvalu to continue to function as a state even if it becomes completely submerged. (Reuters, 2022) 

Cultural Organizations and COVID-19: Challenges and Opportunities

I wanted to add this case to illustrate the possibilities technology can have for the future preservation of a landscape and community. I learned that museums and art markets have well-adapted the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a virtual presence by moving into the online space. These circumstances enabled the development of new revenue streams and improved the institution's financial sustainability as well giving the opportunity to engage with its audience as well as to learn about its customer behavior. This development also illustrated an unequal divide for cultural organizations as that small businesses were not always able to compete and relocate their investments into digital production. 

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Brundtland, Commission, 1987)

Ludwig Forum Aachen: From Umbrella Factory to Contemporary Art Anchor

Following this concept, I look into the Ludwig Forum Aachen. The building was designed by the Aachen architect Josef Bachmann in 1928 and initially housed the largest umbrella factory in Europe, the Emil Brauer umbrella factory. After a period of vacancy, It led to the founding of the Neue Galerie – Ludwig Collection, headed by Wolfgang Becker. The program of the New Gallery and the later Ludwig Forum for International Art was directly linked to the often bold steps in the development of the Ludwig Collection. This collection led to Aachen developing into an anchor point for contemporary art in the late 80s and up until today drives an international audience into the small town of Aachen. 


Reuters, (2022, November 15) Sinking island Tuvalu turns to metaverse as rising seas threaten existence, TRT World,

Richards (2018, September) Cultural tourism: A review of recent research and trends. In Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management. (Vol. 36, pp. 12-21)