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The complexity of becoming: collaborative planning and cultural heritage

Are Thorkildsen (Vestfold University College, Horten, Norway)
Marianne Ekman (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 28 October 2013



The purpose of this paper is to examine a pilot in a national R&D programme in Norway (2007-2010) to join the ongoing discussion on the different meanings and uses of planning tools and approaches in cultural heritage across various disciplines. The study aimed to reveal how patterns of collaborative planning processes unfold in a complex cultural heritage setting, the key challenges, dilemmas and tensions in the different phases of the process and implications for future research and policy.


Longitudinal explorative dialogic action research was undertaken to investigate and capture the evolution of knowledge-creating processes. The qualitative data collection methods included 25 semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews, participatory observation and text and document analysis.


Experiential R&D activities can bridge and transcend the context-specific tensions that separate the involved actors and their activities. Furthermore, a pro-active cultural heritage authority is required at the national level to maintain supportive links to the local level, and it is necessary to manage and prevent potential opportunistic action from negatively affecting cultural heritage sites and processes.

Research limitations/implications

The single case study approach makes generalising beyond the current study difficult. However, the findings raise relevant issues for further research on the management of cultural heritage policy from a sustainable development perspective.


This paper identifies the need to study the evolving processes of linking cultural heritage, sustainable development and collaborative planning, as well as the dynamic relationship between the national, regional and local levels of heritage management.



Thorkildsen, A. and Ekman, M. (2013), "The complexity of becoming: collaborative planning and cultural heritage", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 148-162.



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