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Useful information and definitions

To use any content from this section, please credit:

Ari Volanakis, (2023) Curating organisational knowledge in cultural heritage management | UCL, AV Cultural Heritage. Available at: 

Key operational framework used in the study

Four common objectives in cultural heritage organisations

aligned with the four pillars of sustainability,

and their operations arranged in four common operational drums

(segments of pillars)

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Organisations with common objectives and operations:


Arts and crafts; Archives; Archaeological sites; Aquariums or Zoos; Castles or Palaces; Countryside, National Parks or Botanic Gardens; Galleries; Historic Houses or other historic buildings; Libraries; Museums; Theatres; Music or other performance; Theme or Adventure parks; and any other Cultural Heritage sites.

Cultural Education 




Tours/ talks/ other activities   

Online events 

Display interpretation   

Online interpretation   

Presentation standards   

Formal learning   

Informal education   

Educational outreach   


Social media and website   

Public relations   

Brand standards 


Social participation 

Staff and volunteer recruitment   

Staff and volunteer performance   

Staff and volunteer training 

Staff and volunteer succession planning  

Staff and volunteer welfare and feedback 

Internal and external stakeholders engagement  

Governance management  

User/ visitor feedback 

Supporter groups development  

Volunteering development   

Community engagement 

Community participation in operations 

Economic Development 

Economic impact assessment   

Project management 

Financial administration and reporting   

Budget management 

Onsite and digital transactions   

Onsite and digital donations   



Hires and hospitality   

Online ticketing   

Onsite ticketing   

Grant funding  


Small and large Donations 

Service/ partnership agreement 


Risk assessments   

Health and safety   

Fire safety 

Reputational risk 

Environmental Preservation 

Environmental sustainability 

Historic Environment management   

Annual and quinquennial building maintenance   

Collections standards documentation 

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Cultural heritage by subject of operations

Cultural heritage does not exist in a vacum, but within the natural heritage

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Some useful definitions

Organisational sustainability

This study defines organisational sustainability as the continued ability of an organisation to achieve its cultural, social, economic, and environmental objectives, by ensuring its people have the practical knowledge and technological tools to perform their jobs and to provide quality service.

Cultural heritage management

Cultural heritage management is a relatively new discipline still being moulded, concerned with the significance, policy, and intergenerational curation of tangible and intangible heritage assets, and of the cultural values enriching them (Howard, 2003; Messenger and Smith, 2010; Smith, 2010; Taylor and Verdini, 2021).

This research sees cultural heritage existing not in a vacuum but within its natural (including urban) environment, and having common sustainable development objectives (education, participation, development, and preservation) and operations with natural heritage.

Culture is termed both as a) the ‘implied cultivation and a sense of growth’ with its suggestion of ‘a degree of sophistication and refinement’ (Pounds, 1994, p. 1) and b) the organisational [corporate] culture (Schein, 1985, pp. 1–9). UNESCO defines culture as an ‘organized sector…of human  intellectual and  artistic creativity and comprising individuals, organizations and institutions responsible for their transmission and renewal…commonly regarded as the “cultural sector”, a demarcated policy domain, concerned mainly with heritage and creativity’ (UNESCO CDIS manual, 2014, p. 10). 

Heritage encompasses everything that surrounds us, in a nostalgic recitation of function and beauty (Lowenthal, 1985; Smith, 2010; Throsby, 2010a, p. 106). It takes a time-affected physical form, built and natural, embellished with an intangible body of cultural traditions (UNESCO ICH, 2020). Its significance varies upon our understanding of our environment and of our past, is influenced by the levels of available information, the viewpoint of the communicator and the human needs (Belk and Wallendorf, 1994; Black, 2005). ‘It records and expresses the long processes of historic development, forming the essence of diverse national, regional, indigenous and local identities and is an integral part of modern life. It is a social dynamic reference point and positive instrument for growth and change. The particular heritage and collective memory of each locality or community is irreplaceable and an important foundation for development, both now and into the future” International Cultural Tourism Charter, ICOMOS, 2002’ (Historic England terms, 2022).

Cultural Heritage
   The cultural heritage definition relates to the cultural values  that are embedded in heritage assets. Cultural heritage is the incubator for inspiring participation and mutual appreciation of our inherited world, and of custodian attitudes towards it (Schein, 1985, pp. 1–9; Belk and Wallendorf, 1994; Pounds, 1994, p. 1; Black, 2005; Verwayen, 2010, p. 23; Historic England terms, 2022).  


Curation involves the participatory practices of creating, collecting, storing, conserving, and communicating about, heritage assets and cultural values (Fouseki, 2010; George, 2015). 

On knowledge
Knowledge in Western philosophy (see (Chen, 2022) for other cultures) can be viewed from the ontological realist stance as ‘justified true belief’ aligned with Plato’s teaching, or from a constructivist view of knowledge being variably formed from the different observers’ interpretations (Kimble, 2013). This study follows the pragmatist (James, 1907; Dewey, 1930) synthesised stance of ‘meaning-in-context’ (Bublitz and Norrick, 2011, p. 4) in which knowledge is actionable (Nonaka, 1994; Kelly and Cordeiro, 2020) as social knowledge organised for application in practical everyday life (Neuman, 2014). 
   In constructivist and positivist theories the meaning of, and indeed whether knowledge can be defined, differ significantly. Both provide however a similar relation between data, information and knowledge (Boisot, 1998; Davenport and Prusak, 1998); data becomes information once communicated, and information becomes knowledge once it is understood: 'data is a set of discrete, objective facts about events…information is a message, usually in the form of a document or an audible or visible communication’ (Davenport and Prusak, 1998, pp. 2–4). Knowledge is ‘the understanding of…a subject…by experience or study’ (Cambridge Dictionary, 2022a). In practice theory, such understanding of knowledge is shaped significantly by experience, as a social, collective process (Hislop, Bosua and Helms, 2018). 


My 'top reads'

Aristotle (2002) Nicomachean ethics. Translated by C.J. Rowe and S. Broadie. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Bergin, T. (2018) An introduction to data analysis: quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. London: SAGE Publications.

Cooperrider, D.L., Whitney, D. and Stavros, J.M. (2008) Appreciative inquiry handbook: for leaders of change. 2. ed. Brunswick, Ohio: Crown Custom Publ.

Hislop, D., Bosua, R. and Helms, R. (2018) Knowledge Management in Organizations: A critical introduction. 4th edition. Oxford New York, NY: OUP Oxford.

James, W. (1907) Pragmatism: a new name for some old ways of thinking. London: Longmans Green.

Nonaka, I. and Toyama, R. (2003) ‘The knowledge-creating theory revisited: knowledge creation as a synthesizing process’, Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 1(1), p. 2.

Oers, R. van (2015) ‘Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainability’, in Perceptions of Sustainability in Heritage Studies. De Gruyter, pp. 189–202. Available at:

Rosenstein, C. (2018) Understanding cultural policy. New York, NY: Routledge.

Simon, N. (2010) The participatory museum. Santa Cruz, California: Museum 2.0.

Smith, L. (2010) Uses of heritage. Repr. London: Routledge.

Star, S.L. (1989) ‘The Structure of Ill-Structured Solutions: Boundary Objects and Heterogeneous Distributed Problem Solving’, in Distributed Artificial Intelligence. Elsevier, pp. 37–54. Available at:

Strati, A. (2000) Theory and method in organization studies: paradigms and choices. 1st UK ed. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE.

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