Europe is more than a geographical entity. As a cultural region, it has a long and rich historical heritage. The material remains of that heritage, whose origins stretch back over many thousands of years, are everywhere in evidence and at risk: prehistoric tombs and earthworks, the architectural ruins of the classical civilisations, the religious and secular architecture of the Middle Ages, and the industrial monuments of recent centuries. This heritage transcends modern political boundaries and serves to emphasise the cultural homogeneity of Europe over the centuries.

Archaeology, which concentrates on the material remains of the past, makes a fundamental contribution to the understanding of earlier European societies, especially in those periods from which no written records exist. Its specialised methodologies and techniques make it possible to extract information from the material remains which throws light on the ways which men and women in the past, of all races, classes and creeds, lived and triumphed over their environment, at continental, national, regional and local level. It makes a major contribution to the conservation, restoration and rehabilitation of the architectural heritage.

Moreover, our actual goals of recreating a sustainable economy and society, that has its core in the protection and restoration of historical landscapes and ecosystems, depends crucially upon the availability of data of the past societies. The investigation on the extent of the human “footprint” on the ecosystem as well as the climate history research depends crucially on data provided by archaeologists and stored in museums all over Europe.

Europe’s past gives insight on how to cope and profit from economic and cultural diversity, as well as to the origins and development of economic growth and the progress of technology. It has become clear that heritage today brings together many disciplines (think of industrial archaeology or paleoclimatology for example) and great many institutions like local governments, informal groups and NGOs, universities and museums.

The interests of Europeans in the way of life of their ancestors is demonstrated by the creation over the last two centuries of many independent associations, in every country of Europe, dedicated to the exploration and understanding of the material remains of the past and using the evolving techniques of archaeology, and to the safeguarding of those remains for generations yet to be born. A more recent phenomenon has been the involvement of children and young people in this work, often in associations with international youth exchange programmes.

Recognising the essential unity of the European archaeological and architectural heritage and its vital role in creating an awareness of a common cultural unity among the people of Europe, especially the young, it was proposed that a European Forum of Heritage Associations should be established, to work in close collaboration with the Commissions of the European Community, the Council of Europe, and other European organisations in the achievement of common objectives.

The Forum would carry out its work in accordance with the recommendations of the 1969 Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, the draft ICOMOS/ICAHM Charter for the Archaeological Heritage, the report on the Conservation of the Architectural and Archaeological Heritage of the Community approved by the European Parliament on 28 October 1988, and relevant Unesco Conventions and Recommendations.

The Forum was founded with a ceremony held in the Sala dell'Ercole of the Campidoglio Museum in Rome on 18 April 1990, with fifteen founder members from nine European countries. Dr Henry Cleere (Director of the Council for British Archaeology) was elected President for the first year. The Secretary-General was Eleanora von Guggenberg (Gruppi Archeologici d'Italia, Italy) and the Treasurer-General was Tony Waegeman (Jeugd en Kultureel Erfgoed - Vlaanderen, Belgium). They constituted the provisional Executive Committee which was charged with the drafting of the statutes for ramification at the first General Assembly, held in Rome at Easter 1991 and with fundraising from European bodies such as the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

Starting from 1992, each year the General Assembly was hosted by a different forum member: 1992 in Alden Biesen (Flemish Belgium) – 1993 in York (UK) – 1994 in Amersfoort (Netherlands) – 1995 in Montélimar (France) – 1996 in Bruxelles (Belgium, hosted by the Wallonian member) – 1998 in Caprarola (Italy, hosted by Accademia Farnese) – 1999 in Helsinki (Finland) – 2000 Paris (France, hosted by Rempart) – 2001 in Prague (CZ) – 2002 in Treviglio (Italy, hosted by G.A. del Veneto) – 2003 in Tarquinia (Italy, hosted by Cira) – 2004 in Plodviv (Bulgaria) – 2005 in Tomar (Portugal) – 2006 in Hasselt (Flemish Belgium) – 2007 in Moissac (France, hosted by Ensamble) – 2008 in Tolfa (Italy, hosted by G.A. d’Italia).

FORUM was recognized by the European Parliament in the report of the Committee on Culture dated December 1993, which declare (page 16) “Community initiatives ….carry out a policy geared to the following objectives: …… point 8 - support for the European Forum of Heritage Associations”.

MISSION

The EUROPEAN FORUM of HERITAGE ASSOCIATIONS was constituted on 18 April 1990 in Rome as a platform for the European volunteer movement in the field of cultural heritage. Its primary aim was to heighten public awareness about the cultural heritage of Europe through the creation of a network for the non-professional world, in particular in the field of archaeology.

This purpose is still the core value of FORUM programmes: it does so by organising international exchange programmes for individual members, especially the young, that provide opportunities to actively participate in the research, protection and promotion of the cultural heritage of Europe.

Over the years, FORUM has also directed its efforts to the formulation of common policies to encourage joint public actions and projects amongst its members, as well as creating an information network on European cultural heritage for the voluntary sector, involving local institutions and civil society.

FORUM membership is open to all independent, non-profit making associations that are active in the fields of survey, protection, study, promotion and enhancement of the cultural heritage in Europe.

FORUM membership is available also to academic bodies and other local public institutions as civic museums and foundations.

HISTORY