The Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS) started in 2008 as an educational program of the Balkan Heritage Foundation. It consists of practice-oriented courses in the fields of archaeology and heritage preservation taught in English. Currently, the courses take place in Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of North Macedonia, and Montenegro. They are oriented towards 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. The field school projects were 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), Ludwig Maximilian University (Germany), Max Plank Institute (Germany) and the Department of Classics, Queen’s University (Canada). Since 2008, the Balkan Heritage Foundation has conducted a 116 field schools (ranging from 2 to 8 weeks in duration) attended by approximately 2000 students, ages 16 to 79, from nearly 70 countries.
The concept for the BHFS is based on a symbiosis between educational projects (i.e. field schools or courses) and ongoing heritage projects (archaeological or art historical 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 a 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 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” (or better yet – 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.
In 2018 the Balkan Heritage Field School received a Special Mentions of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards for “the project’s extensive contribution to education in archaeology and conservation through multinational collaboration”.
After a two year pause due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic the Balkan Heritage Field School program will resume in 2022.