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The E-RIHS project: A New Research Infrastructure in the European Heritage Science

Heritage is a key component of the European identity. The study and preservation of cultural and natural heritage is a global challenge for science and the European society at large. The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) is a pan-European project aiming to support research on heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management. The project will provide state-of-the-art tools and services to interdisciplinary research communities working to advance knowledge about heritage and to devise innovative strategies for its preservation. E-RIHS connects researchers in the humanities and natural sciences and fosters a trans-disciplinary culture of exchange and cooperation. E-RIHS pursues the integration of European world-class facilities to create a cohesive entity playing a connecting role in the global community of heritage science.

A European Infrastructure for Heritage Science

E-RIHS, launched March 2016 in Amsterdam, has been accepted into the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure 2016 Roadmap (ESFRI), with the goal of spurring social and cultural innovation. Currently 16 European countries participating to E-RIHS as founding members, 5 more countries alongside with ICCROM are identified as observers and a great number of research institutions are engaged in the network. The  process of the project until its fully functionality will last 10 years passing through 3 phases:

2017-2020: Preparatory phase

2020-2022: Transition/Construction phase

2022-2027: Implementation phase

    2027:     E-RIHS ERIC fully functional

The project stems from the need to create new synergies between the academy, research centers and cultural institutions, promoting innovation in a field of study and activity characterized by such critical issues as excessive fragmentation of the interventions, duplication of efforts and isolation of small research groups. E-RIHS will address both cultural and natural heritage – collections, buildings, archaeological sites, digital and intangible heritage – and will devise open knowledge systems to facilitate global collaboration.  Using its tools, research communities will have access to distributed infrastructures in a coordinated and streamlined way, in order to advance their heritage science research through an integrated approach.

Promoting access, development of new methods and training

E-RIHS will provide access to a wide range of cutting-edge scientific infrastructures, methodologies, data and tools from the various European platforms.  It will also provide training in the use of these tools, a platform for public engagement, and access to repositories for standardized data storage, analysis and interpretation. E-RIHS will enable the community to advance heritage science and global access to the distributed infrastructures in a coordinated and streamlined way.

To promote heritage preservation and management E-RIHS will create a network of national hubs distributed across Europe. The idea is to offer the scientific community the broadest access to data and resources in the field in order to foster high-level research and support innovation.

Setting the foundations

The first step for this ambitious project is the success of the Preparatory Phase, during which the legal and administrative foundations of the infrastructure will be placed, along with its strategic planning for scientific development, academic and professional training, sustainability, communication and dissemination and overall operational mode. The preparatory phase will end at 2020, after which time integrated research services will gradually become accessible under the E-RIHS brand. The successful functionality of E-RIHS will establish the EU as a global reference point for culture, thus preserving and increasing further the visibility of Europe’s cultural heritage.