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The heritage field in Belgium, as elsewhere in Europe, relies to a considerable extent on the commitment of many heritage organisations. In 2005, three organisations that bring together or support many of these heritage associations in Flanders (Dutch speaking part of Belgium) joined forces to consider the roles, responsibilities, needs and opportunities of heritage organisations in the European context. This resulted in a research project and a survey, subsidised by the Flemish Government, covering, amongst other things, the impact of European regulations on the operation of Flemish heritage organisations and both the added value and the bottlenecks of European cooperation and exchange.
This study revealed that the information on heritage organisations and non-governmental organisations in Europe is very fragmented, while their diversity, when viewed from the broader concept of heritage, is greater than ever. In the past, there have been several attempts at drawing up an inventory, but these projects were not always carried out or completed. Moreover, these older projects focused exclusively on immovable heritage. Mapping out the field on this large scale is a pioneering venture, for which we wish to take the initiative from the bottom up. Our aim is to develop this unique inventory of heritage organisations in Europe in such a way as to involve the main actors in the European heritage field in helping to bring this enterprise to a successful and workable conclusion.
The ‘Inventory of Heritage Organisations in Europe’ (IHOE) wants to produce a handy overview that should facilitate contacts, encourage the exchange of information and experience, enable organisations to link up with similar organisations elsewhere, find project partners, etc. It will become a new tool for an active civil society for heritage care in Europe. The IHOE project aims at presenting an overview of all NGOs in Europe that are engaged in heritage in the broad sense of the word, ranging in scope from the supra-local to the whole of Europe. Heritage organisations that meet these criteria are asked to register themselves by using a registration form on the website www.heritage-organisations.eu.