BALKAN HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF) is a Bulgarian public, non-profit, non-governmental organization. It was established in 2008 in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, by three Bulgarian archaeologists: Ivan Vasilev, Nayden Prahov and Angela Pencheva who are the organization’s directors. Its head office is situated in Sofia, Bulgaria. Balkan Heritage Foundation’s mission is to support the study, protection, conservation, management and promotion of the cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible) of Southeastern Europe.
The Foundation has conducted and supported archaeological and heritage conservation projects as well as educational courses, public lectures, exhibitions, advocacy campaigns and publications. BHF collaborates with universities, museums, research institutes, municipalities, media, business companies and other organizations from the region and beyond.
We seek to:
• Support the research, protection and conservation of the cultural heritage of Southeastern Europe
• Enhance the utilization and management of cultural heritage as a source for local and regional sustainable development
• Facilitate global “access”, both direct and virtual, to Balkan cultural heritage especially for international scholars, students, donors and tourists
• Foster online publications in English of capital fundamental writings and summaries concerning Balkan archaeology, art, history and culture – especially those which concern civilizations, cultures, sites and artefacts that are globally less known
• Raise the level of global cooperation and exchange of ideas, know-how, expertise and resources concerning Balkan heritage
• Build and develop links among major Balkan heritage stakeholders.
BALKAN HERITAGE FIELD SCHOOL
Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS) started in 2008 as an educational program of practice-oriented courses in the fields of archaeology and historic preservation taught in English. Currently the courses take place in Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. They are targeted to both academic and non-academic audiences (mostly volunteers and individuals with a need for specialized pre- and early career training). All courses are affiliated with ongoing research and conservation projects conducted by BHFS partner heritage institutions and have been accredited by prominent universities: New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria), Connecticut College (USA, through Institute for Field Research), University of California Los Angeles Extension (USA, through Institute for Field Research) and the Department of Classics, Queen’s University (Canada). Since 2008, BHF has conducted about 100 field schools (with durations ranging from 2 to 8 weeks) attended by approximately 1500 students, ages 16 to 79, from 59 countries.
The concept of BHFS is based on a symbiosis between educational projects (i.e. field schools or courses) and ongoing heritage projects (research and conservation). Normally, specialists in the research and conservation projects are instructors and supervisors in the field schools and, the participants in the field schools are in fact volunteers in the heritage projects. Thus BHFS becomes platform for solidarity in benefit of cultural heritage. Based on this, our students, heritage specialists, partnering institutions and local communities are able to interact, collaborate with and benefit from each other. As a result, BHFS participants receive a quality practice-based education and a unique intercultural experience; the heritage specialists and their projects receive funding, volunteers and organizational support; and, local communities generate income for providing their products and services to BHFS and have “their” (actually our) heritage promoted and supported. Each field school project combines elements of academic and non-formal education: lectures and instructions, field and lab work (excavations, field surveys, workshops) and field trips that enable students to gain valuable hands-on experience. For more information, please see the BHFS website.
OUR HERITAGE PROGRAM
Within this program, Balkan Heritage Foundation has been supporting research and conservation projects related to cultural heritage in Southeastern Europe in various ways:
- financially, through involvement of external specialists and experts (both paid and on a volunteer basis),
- through the volunteer labor and outreach of Balkan Heritage Field School participants,
- in-kind, primarily through use of BHF equipment and software,
- through the promotion and presentation of the cultural heritage of Southeastern Europe, via media campaigns, presentations at international conferences, forums and seminars and,
- through publications, directly published by BHF or resulting from BHF supported projects.
This program includes different volunteer activities, actions and projects supporting cultural heritage including volunteer work camps, campaigns for maintenance of the cultural heritage and volunteer exchanges. Besides workcamps and campaigns organized in Bulgaria and Republic of Macedonia, BHF has hosted numerous short-term and long-term volunteers (both professionals and non-professionals in the field of cultural heritage) in its office and programs, and has developed numerous exchange projects for volunteering professionals from Southeastern Europe.
CULTURAL HERITAGE ADVOCACY PROGRAM
Balkan Heritage Foundation organizes campaigns to raise public awareness of local heritage issues. It has been involved in the development of regional strategies for the utilization and management of cultural heritage and development of cultural tourism for municipalities (Stara Zagora, Svilengrad, Septemvri) in cooperation with local museums, government and non-government organizations and stakeholders. As a follow-up to the ‘Fresco-Hunting’ Expedition field school for documentation of medieval churches in western Bulgaria, some of churches have been repaired and are now being maintained by the local communities (Balsha, Kalotina, Zimevitsa).
Representatives of the Balkan Heritage Foundation are members of outstanding organizations for cultural heritage: International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM), Bi-National Commission for the Preservation of Bulgaria’s Cultural Heritage (Bulgarian – USA), Consultative Council for Cultural Heritage and Cultural Tourism to the Municipality of Stara Zagora (Bulgaria) and Commission for Cultural Tourism to the Municipality of Septemvri (Bulgaria).