After 15 years of recovery Bosnia and Herzegovina is still suffering from the damages inflicted in the war. The process of political and economic recovery of B&H is still uncomplete and in a number of sectors it succeeded only partially. B&H is among the poorest states in Europe, with slow economic growth (GDP is around 5.000/capita, unemployment rate above 40%; CIA World Factbook); its development is additionally aggravated due to the present economic crisis and unresolved constitutional issues. One of the sectors which is still highly underdeveloped are public services which, due to a number of reasons (complicated administrative structure, highly dispersed decision making, lack of adequately trained personnel, poor or inexistent infrastructure, lack of funds etc.), fails to satisfy their tasks; public heritage service being one of them.
Among public sectors which
suffered the most from the war and slow recovery is cultural heritage
protection and management. Not only that much of cultural heritage was
deliberately destroyed, great deal of it is still facing threats due to poorly
controlled spatial development and restructuration (see the 17 April 2007 Press
Release of the B&H National Commission to Preserve National Monuments). The
situation calls for a series of structural improvements in a number of fields
(legal, organizational, conceptual, infrastructural). Among the most pressing
problems is the lack of adequately trained local professionals -experts. BIHERIT
is particularly addressing this
In B&H, prior to 2006, with the exception of architecture, there was no adequate university curricula in archaeology, art history, and other disciplines related to cultural heritage (e.g. ethnology, museology, conservation studies...). In former Yugoslavia (until 1991) all the B&H graduates from the above mentioned disciplines graduated outside the country (mostly at the universities in Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia). After 1991, due to the war and very slow recovery, high costs of studying abroad almost completely blocked the influx of new graduates in these disciplines. Together with the retirement and/or migration of a number of older generation professionals the level of competency of public services in archaeological heritage heavily degraded. Comparisons show that B&H regarding its territory and population size and a number of registered sites and cultural monuments should have at least 200 experts in archaeology, art history, and other heritage sciences in public sector only, in order to maintain the sustainable level of competent public service, education and research. Such a situation in B&H raised great concerns also among the European scholars. In 2006 the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) issued a series of statements urging for help to B&H colleagues who worked in highly challenging conditions, and also launched some initiatives (grants, visits to conferences,...).
In 2006 the first curricula in archaeology and art history were established at the University of Mostar, but the infrastructural and economic conditions allowed only very modest implementation of the program. Two years later (2008), curriculum in archaeology and was also introduced at the University of Sarajevo. Both, Sarajevo and Mostar archaeological curricula (as well as other curricula in heritage related dispiplines) suffered the most from almost complete lack of local teachers and other experts. Indeed, It was only due to the assistance of the teaching staff from the neighbouring countries (Zagreb, Zadar, Ljubljana, Koper) which made the modest implementation of these curricula possible. In Banja Luka, archaeology was limited to a subject in the history curricum, as a very broad topic. Also here, the involvement of the teaching staff from Belgrade made this subject possible in the first place.The major goal of the project is to lay foundations for sustainable teaching of archaeology, art history, and other heritage related studies. The first two priorities are: a) training of local teachers who would be able to take over the modernized curricula, and b) improving the infrastructural basis for these curricula. This improvement would require two urgent measures: a) acquiring the necessary literature for studying (very poor state in the university libraries as a consequence of long inexistent curricula in archaeology, art history...), and b) acquiring the basic equipment for teaching skills in field and laboratory techniques (none of the universities in B&H has it). It should be noted that actual European practices require at least 300 ECTS for jobs like expert conservators, museum curators, university staff..., and none of the existing programs at the universities in B&H can adequately satisfy these requirements. Securing the stable influx of the locally trained experts is crucial for securing the sustainability of the whole system of cultural heritage public services.